May 6, 2019 / 10:21 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Colombia's Ecopetrol says Q1 profit rose 5 pct, helped increased output

(Adds detail on oil output, comment)

BOGOTA, May 6 (Reuters) - Colombia’s state-run oil company Ecopetrol said on Monday its first quarter net profit was 2.745 trillion pesos ($847.1 million), 5 percent higher than in 2018, helped by an increase in output, sales and greater operating efficiencies.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were up 2.9 percent in the three-month period compared with the year before, to 7.4 trillion pesos, the company said in a filing with the country’s financial regulator.

Ecopetrol said the results were achieved even with lower Brent oil prices, which went from $67.2 dollars per barrel in the first quarter of 2018 to $63.8 per barrel at the close of the first quarter of 2019.

“The result reflects the positive response of deposits with primary and secondary recovery, the development of gas markets, and the effective implementation of investments,” Ecopetrol’s President Felipe Bayon said in a statement.

“During the first quarter of the year we had a favorable macroeconomic environment, where a higher exchange rate, a lower effective tax rate and greater savings in financial expenses allowed (the company) to compensate the lower price of Brent,” he said.

Ecopetrol has said it will invest between $3.5 billion and $4 billion in 2019, more than its spending in 2018, 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, it has said, while another portion will be spent in the United States, Brazil and Mexico.

Ecopetrol invested $647 million between January and March, 59 percent more than last year.

The company said it met its production goal for the quarter, reaching average output of 728,000 barrels per day equivalent, up from 701,000 barrels a day last year. It expects 2019 output to reach between 720,000 and 730,000 bpd equivalent.

Ecopetrol has been plagued by near-continuous attacks on its oil pipelines, generally attributed to leftist rebels.

There have more than two dozen attacks in 2019 on the Cano Limon, Trasandino and Mansoya Orito pipelines. (Reporting by Helen Murphy Editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown)

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