November 30, 2018 / 2:55 PM / in 15 days

Colombia temporarily suspends search for Electricaribe buyer

BOGOTA, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Colombia has temporarily suspended its search for a buyer for beleaguered energy company Electricaribe, President Ivan Duque said late on Thursday.

It will resume the search in 2019, with an option for distribution and commercialization to be handled under separate agreements, he said.

The government ordered the liquidation of the company - a subsidiary of Spain’s Gas Natural - in March 2017 because of service provision failures, after taking temporary control of Electricaribe’s assets.

Last week the government announced it would invest about $220 million in the company.

Just one company had shown interest in the sale, Duque said in a statement to journalists, without naming the company.

“The sale process that was in progress, which had just one show of interest with respect to the company, is suspended,” Duque said. “From January to the final quarter of 2019 there will begin a process to find an optimum, quality operation.”

To make the offer more attractive, Colombia will assume responsibility for some $370 million in Electricaribe pension obligations, he added.

Italy’s Enel recently played down its interest in buying Electricaribe, saying it would only consider the possibility with a Colombian partner.

Electricaribe operates in seven provinces and has more than 2.6 million customers. The government estimates it will require investments of more than $2 billion in the next 10 years. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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