Ecopetrol Lifts Earnings 19.5% in 2003

Colombia's state oil company Ecopetrol increased its earnings 19.5% to 1.58bn pesos (US$590mn) in 2003 compared to 1.33bn pesos in 2002, the company said in a statement.

The improvement was mainly due to high oil prices and lower costs, partly offset by lower production, which fell 6% to 541,000 barrels a day (b/d) in 2003 compared to the year before, local newspapers quoted company president Isaac Yanovich as saying during a press conference.

The company's total sales increased 17% to 11.5bn pesos in 2003, of which domestic sales accounted for 59% and exports the remainder. Domestic sales rose 23% in 2003 due to higher demand for diesel, lower liquid fuel subsidies and a 20.5% drop in fuel theft.

Exports were driven by high international prices and increased sales of refined products, such as gasolines. The Barrancabermeja and Cartagena refineries registered a record average processing capacity of 299,000b/d in 2003.

Operating and administration costs fell by 170bn pesos and 50bn pesos respectively compared to 2002. The latter was due to the laying off of 800 workers in 2003, which lowered salary costs.

Ecopetrol contributed 5.7bn pesos to government coffers in 2003 including royalties and taxes, representing 19% of the government's total revenues.

The company plans to increase its investment in exploration to US$117mn in 2004 compared to US$45mn last year, Yanovich said.

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