(Recasts with judicial authority suspending sale, quote)
BOGOTA, March 28 A top Colombian judicial
authority ordered the government to suspend the sale of its
majority stake in power generator Isagen on Friday,
after a pressure group called for a review of the transaction it
says is detrimental to the country.
The Andean nation's government is seeking to raise 5
trillion pesos ($2.5 billion) in the sale of its 57.6 percent
stake in Isagen, which operates six electricity generators, to
invest the cash in badly-needed infrastructure improvements.
But the Council of State, the top judicial authority
overseeing government actions, accepted a petition against the
sale alleging that the way it is being carried out violates the
constitution and will be of little or no benefit to Colombians.
It has now ordered the sale's suspension while it looks into
the complaints, it said in an e-mailed statement that did not
state how long the process was likely to take.
The petition was brought by Enrique Alfredo Daza, a member
of the Tax Justice Network, a lobby group for the efficient use
of government resources.
Daza told Reuters he questioned the reasoning behind the
sale of a profitable company for infrastructure investments,
arguing the proceeds could be found elsewhere and that the asset
should be left in public hands to continue generating value for
"This is one of the biggest energy companies in the country
in terms of income and energy is strategic sector in the
country. They have to explain to the country why they are
selling the company," he said.
The Council of State can decide either to accept or reject
the complaints once they have completed their own judicial
analysis, which will determine whether or not the sale can go
Though Daza argued the proposal to sell Isagen needed the
prior approval of Congress and should have been included in the
government's development plan, the Finance Ministry said on
Friday only minister-level approval was required, which it said
The government said this week it received seven offers from
local and international companies to buy its stake in Isagen,
the nation's third-biggest electricity generator, which produces
power in Antioquia, Santander, Caldas and Tolima provinces.
The government received two offers from U.S.-based Duke
Energy, and one each from China Haudian Corporation,
Generco, Spain's Gas Natural, Brazil's Companhia
Energetica de Minas Gerais, Cemig and Empresa de
Energia de Bogota.
Isagen has 2,212 megawatts of mostly-hydroelectric installed
capacity. Its shares traded on Bogota's stock exchange were
trading 0.62 percent lower by 1845 GMT on Friday at 3,200 pesos.
(Reporting by Helen Murphy, Nelson Bocanegra, Peter Murphy and
Carlos Vargas; Editing by Alden Bentley)