Colombian Govt. to Privatize Ecogas in 2H04

Colombia's government plans to sign an agreement this month with Spain's Santander Central Hispano bank and its Colombian unit, Santander Investment, to manage the privatization of natural gas transport company Ecogas, a spokesperson for the national planning department's energy and mines division told BNamericas.

Santander was awarded the contract at the end of January and is currently negotiating the terms of the contract with the national planning department (DNP). The bank will study the structure of the sale during the next 5-6 months and will launch an international tender from July-August once the energy and mines ministry approves the structure, the spokesperson said.

The government decided to privatize Ecogas in early 2003 because the upstream and downstream areas of the gas business are already in private hands, the spokesperson said. Colombia's other major gas transporter Promigas, which serves the Atlantic coast, is private.

The Ecogas sale will wrap up the government's exit from the natural gas business in the country. The idea is to sell a majority stake in the company, the spokesperson said. The price will depend on the market and how well the tender is structured and received. Ecogas was created in 1997 to administrate the gas transport infrastructure of state oil company Ecopetrol.

The company has over 3,600km of pipelines and supplies 17 distributors (representing 32% of company income), seven industrial clients (2%), eight power generation plants (17%), four traders (48%) and three vehicular natural gas (VNG) suppliers (1%).

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