February 27, 2019 / 1:32 PM / 8 months ago

Ecopetrol to pay Colombia $2.64 bln in profits from 2018, dividends

BOGOTA, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The Colombian government, which owns more than 88 percent of state-run oil company Ecopetrol, will receive $2.64 billion in 2018 profits and extraordinary dividends, the company said on Wednesday.

The 8.18 trillion peso figure includes extra resources the company had in reserve but decided to pay out given its secure financial position, Ecopetrol said in a statement.

Minority shareholders will get 1.06 trillion ($342 million).

The announcement comes as Colombia is evaluating whether to sell up to 8.9 percent of its share in Ecopetrol amid an effort by Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla to fill a funding gap in this year’s budget.

Ecopetrol said on Tuesday its net profit in 2018 was 11.55 trillion pesos ($3.72 billion), 74.6 percent higher than the year before and its highest annual net profit in five years.

Fourth-quarter net profit fell to 2.64 trillion pesos, down 22.8 percent from the same period in 2017, because of lower crude prices and accounting adjustments.

Ecopetrol fell just short of its 2018 spending goal of between $3 billion to $3.5 billion, spending $2.9 billion.

The company has said it will invest between $3.5 billion and $4 billion in 2019 as part of an ambitious plan to boost production and explore for more oil to replenish dwindling reserves.

Some 80 percent of the investment will be focused in upstream projects, mostly in Colombia.

The company will hold a call with investors about overall 2018 and fourth quarter results on Wednesday.

$1 = 3,095.29 Colombian pesos Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra and Julia Symmes Cobb Editing by Bill Trott

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