Grupo de Energía de Bogota-GEB
takes on Ecopetrol in battle for Isa
GEB líder en energía eléctrica y gas natural en Colombia, con presencia en Colombia, Perú, Brasil y Guatemala.
By Diana Delgado/Argus
Petroleumworld 02 02 2021
Grupo de Energia de Bogota, one of Colombia's largest conglomerates, is taking on state-controlled Ecopetrol in a battle for control of electricity transmission giant Isa.
GEB chief executive Juan Ricardo Ortega said the company has around 14 trillion Colombian pesos ($3.88bn) in cash and potential loans to submit a bid for the state's majority stake in Isa.
GEB has not yet been invited to make an offer for Isa, but "if they (the government) give us the go ahead, we can have the check in two months," Ortega said, highlighting the significance of a cash offer for the central government that is facing a significant fiscal gap because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
GEB has held negotiations with financial institutions, including Bank of America, JP Morgan, BBVA, Santander, Sumitomo, Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas, to secure loans for the deal. GEB has four letters of credit ready to choose from, he said.
Last week, Ecopetrol said it had presented a non-binding offer for the government's 51.4pc stake in Isa in an aggressive move away from its core oil business. The proposed sale of 8.5pc of the oil company currently held by the government would help to finance the transaction, while still leaving 80pc of Ecopetrol in state hands.
Jorge Tadeo Lozano university economics professor Edgar Jimenez said the government is unlikely to invite GEB to submit a bid for Isa because it does not want to lose control of key energy assets.
"It is still important to maintain a controlling stake in companies that are strategic for national energy security, so a majority stake in the companies (Isa and Ecopetrol) will be maintained," mines and energy minister Diego Mesa said last week.
Timing is another consideration. If Isa is sold through an auction under Colombian law, it would have to be offered first to minority shareholders, including employees and pension funds, among others. Then, it would be put to auction through an IPO, a process that could take two years.
Ecopetrol has said it could wrap up the deal in six months, even though its plan to bypass an IPO has come under market scrutiny.
Isa has assets across Latin America. Like Ecopetrol, it is controlled by the Colombian government, but more of its shares are traded publicly.
GEB has businesses in the electricity and natural gas sectors of Colombia, Peru and Guatemala. The firm also wholly owns TGI, Colombia's largest gas pipeline network.