August 14, 2018 / 10:23 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 2-Colombia's Ecopetrol net profit rises 170 pct on higher crude

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BOGOTA, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Ecopetrol SA, Colombia’s state-run oil company, said on Tuesday its second-quarter net profit rose to 3.5 trillion pesos ($1.17 billion), up 170 percent from the same period in 2017, thanks to higher crude prices.

The company plans to invest between $3.5 billion and $4 billion this year to boost production and explore for more oil to replenish dwindling reserves, drilling 620 wells and doubling the number of rigs in operation from last year.

Consolidated oil and gas production in the second quarter rose to 721,000 barrels per day (bpd), the company said in a regulatory filing. Protests which led to the temporary closure of some fields had lowered consolidated production to 701,000 bpd during the first quarter.

Ecopetrol is targeting output of 725,000 bpd of crude and gas equivalent by the end of 2018, up from 715,000 bpd last year.

“We knew how to take advantage of a favorable crude price environment and at the same time we reaffirmed our technical operative and financial capacities,” Chief Executive Felipe Bayon said in the statement.

The company’s reserves have dipped to the equivalent of about 7.1 years of production, well below the average of nearly 12 years for the world’s top oil and gas companies.

The company spent $1 billion in investment during the first half, the filing said, a 15 percent increase on the same period in 2017. Investment is concentrated on exploration and production, which were up 23 percent.

The company had said it expects to quicken investment in the second half and that the run-up to the country’s June elections slowed spending because anti-corruption laws make it difficult for public companies to open bidding for contracts during elections.

President Ivan Duque, who took office this month, has promised to invest in Ecopetrol’s refineries and crack down on guerrilla groups that attack pipelines.

Colombia has struggled to attract investment and maintain output as bombings and protests have frequently interrupted operations.

Pumping through the Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline was stopped for six months this year due to repeated attacks by Marxist ELN rebels.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in April to June increased by 52.9 percent compared with the same quarter in 2017, to 8.6 trillion pesos, Ecopetrol said.

Total sales in the first quarter were up 29.2 percent compared with the same period last year, to 16.98 trillion pesos.

Ecopetrol will hold a call with investors on Wednesday.

$1 = 2,983.93 Colombian pesos Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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