Colombia’s government is speeding up plans to sell a 10% stake in state-owned oil company Ecopetrol SA (EC, ECOPETROL.BO) because it needs the revenue to pay for reconstruction of highways, roads and bridges damaged by months of torrential rains, a top official said in La Republica newspaper Tuesday.
Mines and Energy Minister Carlos Rodado told the newspaper in an interview that the lashing rains, which caused massive flooding, killed hundreds of people and severely damaged infrastructure throughout the country, created a tragedy that requires immediate action.
“It’s an emergency that needs a solution right now. It can’t wait,” Rodado said, adding that reconstruction “is a justification for the sale of 10% of Ecopetrol.”
The minister didn’t say when the Ecopetrol stake sale might take place, but said it would occur prior to any new issue of shares in the company.
In late December President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree approving the sale of the 10% stake Ecopetrol to provide more government funding to deal with the rains. Recovery and reconstruction from the rains could cost Colombia some $5.2 billion, Santos said recently.
The government currently controls 90% of Ecopetrol after previously selling a 10% stake to the public a few years back. It plans to sell a further 10% to finance the company’s expansion projects, perhaps sometime this year, which would leave the government with 70% of the firm.
Rodado also told the newspaper there are no “short-term” plans to sell shares in two other state-controlled firms, electric companies Isagen and ISA.