Ecopetrol's purchase of ISA shares could provide income stability: regulator

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(Reuters) - A plan by Colombia’s state-controlled Ecopetrol to buy $3.5 billion to $4 billion in shares of electricity transmission giant ISA could provide the oil company income stability amid crude price volatility, Armando Zamora, the head of the country’s oil regulator, said on Monday.

The transaction is an example of how oil companies are trying to reorient their portfolios toward the energy transition as the global fossil fuel industry reels from the coronavirus pandemic, which destroyed fuel demand and caused the loss of thousands of jobs.

Ecopetrol could issue up to $2.5 billion in shares to help finance the purchase of 51.4% of shares in Interconexion Electrica S.A. E.S.P (ISA), Ecopetrol Chief Executive Felipe Bayon said last month, in a transaction pending final approval from the Colombian government. “It makes a lot of sense to engage in a transition by balancing a business which is related to energy but provides more stability in the income,” Zamora said at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek.

Though the Colombian state owns 88.49% of Ecopetrol, the company could reduce that stake to 80% by issuing shares to help it finance an eventual ISA deal. Resorting to banks to obtain credit could also be a possibility, Bayon said.

“It has to do also with the government balancing the books given the very difficult fiscal conditions we are living,” Zamora added about the intended purchase.

Ecopetrol reported a 2020 full-year net profit decline of 87.3% year-on-year and pledged to make organic investments of up to $15 billion through 2023. Hydrocarbons make up some 55% of Colombia’s energy matrix.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Oliver Griffin, Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy