Bogota – The Colombian government has requested authorization from Congress to sell 10 percent of its majority stake in state oil company Ecopetrol, saying it will use the funds for flood relief.
Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry submitted a bill Tuesday in Bogota formalizing the petition for the divestment, through which the administration intends to raise some 16 trillion pesos (about $9.03 billion).
"Basically Congress is being asked to authorize the government to reduce its stake (in Ecopetrol) from 80 percent to no less than 70 percent," Echeverry said.
Four years ago, Ecopetrol held an initial public offering that boosted its shareholder count to close to 500,000 and the company is currently carrying out a new share sale, which began July 27 and will run through Aug. 17.
During that three-week period, Ecopetrol plans to leave 675.6 million shares, or 1.67 percent of the company's capital stock, in public hands.
Referring to the proposal submitted to the Senate, Echeverry said the sale would be carried out "with a view to maximizing shareholder value, both for the main shareholder, which will continue to be the government ... and for minority shareholders."
President Juan Manuel Santos' administration says it will complete the divestment gradually, with an initial sale tentatively slated for 2012.
The proceeds will be allocated in large part for rebuilding infrastructure damaged by constant heavy rains that battered the country from April 2010 to mid-2011, Echeverry said.
Another batch of funds will be invested in roads, public services, irrigation districts and levees, as well as other projects, he added.
Ecopetrol is Colombia's largest company and the fourth-biggest oil firm in Latin America.