March 10, 2009 / 12:54 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-Maurel & Prom to sell Colombian assets, shares rise

* To sell Colombian oil production assets for $748 mln

* To use proceeds for internal investment/acquisitions

* Shares up almost 8 percent (Adds details from Ecopetrol, last 2 paragraphs)

PARIS, March 10 (Reuters) - Maurel et Prom (MAUP.PA) said on Tuesday it would sell its oil production assets in Colombia to state oil firm Ecopetrol for $748 million, driving its shares up almost 8 percent.

Maurel & Prom said in a statement it would sell Hocol Colombia to Ecopetrol in a deal that would allow the French firm to put back on track some projects that had been delayed.

“The asset sale will allow us to fund internal investment and eventually to become more active in the market,” Chairman Jean-Francois Henin said during a news conference.

The deal would also help the firm in seeking out potential acquisitions of targets whose value had been battered due to the financial crisis.

Shares in Maurel & Prom surged 7.7 percent by 1235 GMT after it announced the sale, outperforming a 1.7 percent rise in the CAC 40 index .FCHI.

    Analysts said the selling price was higher than expected.

    “It was sold at a good price, and the market was pleasantly surprised. This removes concerns over financing risks for 2009,” said Emma Ritter, analyst at Exane BNP Paribas.

    In February, Maurel & Prom said it was in talks to sell production assets in Colombia but did not identify the potential buyers.

    For Ecopetrol ECO.CN(EC.N) it is the latest purchase in its program to build production and exploration as it aims to increase output to 1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2015.

    Hocol produced nearly 15,000 bpd last year and expects to increase to 22,000 by 2009. Ecopetrol produced 447,000 bpd last year, with reserves close to 985 million barrels in 2008. (Reporting by Sophie Taylor in Paris and Javier Mozzo in Bogota, editing by Will Waterman and Walter Bagley)

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