Colombia presidential candidate Zuluaga would scrap Isagen sale

BOGOTA Mon May 26, 2014 12:44pm EDT

BOGOTA May 26 (Reuters) - Colombia's right-wing presidential candidate, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who will compete against incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos in a run-off election on June 15, would scrap the government's planned sale of power utility Isagen if elected, Zuluaga said on Monday.

Colombia's government is seeking to raise 5 trillion pesos ($2.5 billion) from its 57.6 percent stake in Isagen, which operates six electricity generators, and would invest the cash in badly needed infrastructure improvements.

But Zuluaga, finance minister in the previous government, said he did not believe the sale made economic sense.

"I think that the sale of Isagen would be a mistake for the country because if there's one thing Colombia needs, it's competitive energy," he told a local radio station.

Zuluaga won the most votes in the first round of the presidential election on Sunday, leading Santos by 3.6 percentage points. Both candidates are seen as business-friendly.

The government has received interest from U.S.-based Duke Energy Corp ; China Haudian Corp, a state-owned power generation firm; Generco; Spain's Gas Natural SDG SA ; Brazil's Companhia Energetica de Minas Gerais Cemig ; and Empresa de Energia de Bogota.

The sale of Isagen was suspended for several weeks after the Tax Justice Network, a lobbying group, obtained a court injunction against the sale, arguing the divestment would be detrimental to public finances and taxpayers.

The injunction was lifted last week after the Council of State, the senior judicial body overseeing the government's work, accepted arguments from the finance and energy ministries that the group's claims were unfounded. (Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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