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Colombia's Ecopetrol could issue shares to finance ISA stake purchase - CEO

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s majority state-owned energy company Ecopetrol could issue up to $2.5 billion in shares to help finance its potential purchase of a majority stake in electricity and infrastructure conglomerate ISA, chief executive Felipe Bayon said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: CEO of EcoPetrol Felipe Bayon conducts an interview in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Ecopetrol made a non-binding offer to buy the government’s 51.4% stake in Interconexin Electrica S.A. E.S.P (ISA) at the end of January.

Though the 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, Bayon said in a Reuters interview.

“Such a placing could give us, we estimate, $2 billion to $2.5 billion,” Bayon said.

Estimating the value of the majority stake at between $3.5 billion and $4 billion, Bayon said the deal could be financed by raising $2 billion or $2.5 billion and paying the rest with debt.

Finding banks to offer credit would be easy, Bayon said.

“If I needed to ask banks for money to buy ISA, they would lend it to me today,” he said. “No problem.”

On Tuesday 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.

The company plans to invest in renewable energy, but oil and gas remain a large part of its future, Bayon said.

“We’re looking at 20, 30 or more years of producing hydrocarbons,” he said. “Possibly much more gas than oil.”

Hydrocarbons make up some 55% of Colombia’s energy matrix but could decline to 45% or 50% by 2050, he said.

The company is developing a pilot project for oil and gas fracking near Puerto Wilches in Santander province. Environmentalists have called for the project to be suspended after threats against anti-fracking activists.

“We emphatically reject those threats,” Bayon said, calling for an investigation. “We have said this is an exercise where everyone has to have an opinion.”

Reporting by Oliver Griffin and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Julia Symmes Cobb and Grant McCool

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