April 24, 2020 / 2:46 PM / a month ago

Ecopetrol to issue up to $2 billion in bonds, warns first-quarter results will be hit by COVID-19

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s majority state-owned oil company Ecopetrol will issue up to $2 billion in bonds, the company said on Friday, and warned its first-quarter results will be hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: A storage tank is seen at Ecopetrol's Castilla oil rig platform, in Castilla La Nueva, Colombia June 26, 2018. Picture taken June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

Ecopetrol (ECO.CN) expects its first-quarter consolidated net income to fall by 52% to 65% before impairments, compared with the year-earlier period, it said in a statement.

It also forecast that its consolidated gross profit and consolidated operating income will be lower by between 32% to 36% and 43% to 47% respectively.

The company’s first-quarter performance took a hit from a fall in oil prices, as well as higher operating costs, the depreciation of the Colombian peso against the U.S. dollar and volatility in capital markets affecting the valuation of its financial portfolio, Ecopetrol said.

Global oil prices have dropped sharply on a combination of lower demand amid the spread of the coronavirus and a surge in supply. On Monday the price of a barrel of benchmark U.S. oil plunged below $0 a barrel for the first time in history.

Ecopetrol expects to book a first-quarter pretax impairment on its non-current assets in a range of 1.15 trillion to 1.25 trillion pesos ($286 million - $310.9 million), due to the expected decrease in cash flow in the face of the oil price environment, it said.

“At this time, we cannot forecast the duration of the effects of COVID-19 on our business or when international prices for crude oil and refined products will stabilize,” the company said.

“Our future business results will be affected by the extent and duration of these conditions and the effectiveness of responsive actions that we and others take,” it added.

Ecopetrol - which cut its planned investment for 2020 by $1.2 billion amid the outbreak of the coronavirus - said it will continue to monitor market developments and could make further reductions to its investment plan.

The company may also cut its 2020 production target, which is currently in a range of 745,000 and 760,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Ecopetrol did not say when it would issue the bonds.

The company is due to report its results for the first quarter of 2020 on May 6.

Reporting by Oliver Griffin and Nelson Bocanegra; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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