Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos proposed that the state oil company, Ecopetrol, pay dividends to private investors this year and delay payment to the government until 2013, a move that would help stem gains in the country’s currency.
“We ask Ecopetrol to pay a good dividend to small shareholders in a one-time payment,” Santos wrote on his Twitter account Tuesday night. “It can pay the government next year.”
Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry has included at least 8.4 trillion pesos ($4.72 billion) of Ecopetrol dividends in his plan to finance this year’s budget, raising questions about how he would fill the financing gap.
Ecopetrol, which holds its shareholder meeting on March 22, has proposed paying shareholders 12.3 trillion pesos in three installments this year. The government owns about 88 percent of the oil company.
Echeverry said last month that the government would keep $1 billion in Ecopetrol dividends overseas in a bid to prevent the peso strengthening further. The currency has gained 8.5 percent so far this year.
Ecopetrol said last week its 2011 net income rose 85 percent to 15.44 trillion pesos compared with 2010, pushed up by more output and exports. Fourth-quarter net income rose 64 percent to 4.44 trillion pesos.