Executives at Ecuador's state oil companies resign ahead of merger

FILE PHOTO: Foto de archivo del logo de Petroamazonas en un centro de almacenamiento de la compañía en Tiputini, Ecuador. Oct 19, 2017. REUTERS/Daniel Tapia

QUITO (Reuters) - The chief executives of Ecuador’s two state-owned oil companies resigned over the weekend ahead of a planned merger of the two firms, the country’s energy ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The government has said the merger of Petroecuador, which controls the country’s oil refineries, and Petroamazonas, which focuses on crude output in the country’s Amazon region, will be completed before the end of the year.

The ministry said Petroecuador chief executive Ricardo Merino and Petroamazonas chief executive Juan Carlos Bermeo will remain in their posts until the boards named temporary replacements. It added that it would take steps to ensure operational continuity.

Merino became Petroecuador’s chief in September after former executive Pablo Flores resigned.

In his resignation letter, Merino suggested the company conduct an “objective and technical” analysis of a deal with two Chinese development banks for Ecuador to obtain a loan in exchange for crude shipments to ensure the country was producing enough crude to comply with committed exports.

Bermeo, in a late Sunday statement, did not provide details of the reasoning behind his resignation, but touted the steps Petroamazonas had taken to restore crude output following the bursting of two pipelines in April.

Neither Merino, Bermeo nor the ministry said the looming merger was a factor in the resignations.

Ecuador currently produces some 512,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, mostly by Petroamazonas.

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Aurora Ellis