Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Ecopetrol Says Rebel Attacks Falling in Run-Up to Peace Talks

Ecopetrol SA (ECOPETL), Colombia’s largest oil company, said it’s already reaping the rewards of the first talks in a decade between the government and Marxist rebels scheduled for next month.

“This month we had only three attacks, which is nothing compared to the historical numbers,” Chief Financial Officer Adriana Echeverri said today in an interview in London. “They are dropping.”

Ecopetrol said raids have dropped since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the government agreed to meet for talks in Oslo in an attempt to end Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict. The rebels had previously stepped up attacks on energy infrastructure this year to deprive the government of oil revenue.

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The Bogota-based company, which has lost about 3,000 barrels of oil a day of production this month because of guerrilla attacks on pipelines and fields, forecast a full-year output loss of about 9,000 barrels a day. Ecopetrol expects to pump 780,000 barrels of oil and gas a day this year, Chief Executive Officer Javier Gutierrez said.

The market value of Colombia’s state-owned producer has risen more than fourfold since 2008 and more than 276,000 retail investors in Colombia rely on dividend payments that account for 70 percent of earnings, Echeverri said. The government invited a non-executive director from Ecopetrol to join the peace talks with FARC, she said.

“Our stakeholders, common people, individual shareholders” at general meetings “push so hard to have that 70 percent,” Echeverri said. “The company has lots of potential.” Ecopetrol will maintain the dividend “as long as it is feasible in terms of the finance.”

The company plans to invest $80 billion in projects through 2020 to increase production to 1.3 million barrels of oil equivalent a day. It expects to fund 9 percent of the expansion in equity and 16 percent in debt with the rest from cash flow. The company doesn’t have any immediate plans to sell shares or bonds, the CFO said.

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Ecopetrol plans to participate in the exploration licensing tender to be held by the government next month, Gutierrez said. More than 80 companies are interested in bidding for more than 110 permits, of which about 30 will be for unconventional resources.

The explorer expects to pump 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day, mostly gas, from so-called unconventional fields in 2020, the CEO said. First production is expected in 2016.

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