Gas Natural ESP Plans US$24mn Bond Issue June

Colombian natural gas distributor Gas Natural ESP plans to issue two series of bonds on the local market in June this year for 50-60bn pesos (US$16.9mn-23.7mn), a source from the company's finance department told BNamericas. One series will be for five years and the other for seven; interest rates for both are still to be decided, the source said. The funds will be used to extend distribution networks in the company's concession area in capital city Bogota, connecting 100,000 new clients, to refinance debts and to extend its vehicular natural gas (VNG) sales network, the source said. Gas Natural ESP currently owns 10 VNG stations, while third-party investors operate a further four. The company plans to increase its own stations in 2003 by four, and will consider expressions of interest for three or four franchises. There are presently some 1,700 vehicles using VNG in Bogota and this could rise by up to 1,200 this year, the source said. Gas Natural will make 100% financing available to vehicle owners for the conversion of their vehicles to VNG, the source added. VNG currently accounts for some 5% of Gas Natural's total sales, but within 4-5 years the company expects this to increase to 30%. Gas Natural ESP serves 1.1 million clients and is rated AA+ by credit ratings agency Duff and Phelps.

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