Canada's Brookfield poised to snap up Colombia generator in auction

Wed Jan 13, 2016 7:00am EST
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BOGOTA Jan 13 (Reuters) - Canada's Brookfield Asset Management looks set to buy up the controlling stake in Colombian power generator Isagen, valued at nearly $2 billion, on Wednesday after another possible bidder withdrew from the auction this week.

The 57.6 percent stake has a minimum price of 6.48 trillion Colombian pesos ($1.98 billion) and is the largest privatization in the country in nearly a decade.

The government plans to use proceeds to fund highways, bridges and tunnels across the country, its so-called 4G infrastructure projects.

Chile's Colbun withdrew from bidding on Monday, in part because of a 21.5 percent increase in the minimum price, the company said.

The depreciation of the peso currency and the government's fiscal struggles amid a global fall in the price for crude oil, Colombia's largest export and source of foreign exchange, make the sale particularly beneficial, analysts said.

"It's a win-win," said Rupert Stebbings, vice president of equity markets at Bancolombia. "The government is getting way more local pesos - back of the envelope they're getting about 25 percent more in local pesos then they would've gotten a year ago, and the Canadians are buying it at around 25 percent cheaper than they would have a year ago in dollars."

"The money is much better spent in the 4G, in the infrastructure projects, than receiving dividends every year," Stebbings said.

The sale of Isagen, which operates seven power plants across the country, has been suspended at least twice because of legal challenges. A last minute appeal by a left-wing senator to halt the auction was rejected late on Tuesday.

Brookfield, which has around $225 billion of assets under management, set up a $400 million fund to invest in Colombian infrastructure assets in 2009.

In recent years, it has expanded its operations in South America, where it now operates $16 billion of assets, investing in property, renewable energy, utilities, agriculture and timberland in Brazil, Chile, Peru and Colombia.

It acquired Transelec, the largest electricity transmission system in Chile in 2006. It 2011, it purchased an electrical distribution business in Colombia and, in 2012 and 2013, it bought toll road networks in Brazil and Chile. (Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb, additional reporting by Matt Scuffham in Toronto; Editing by David Gregorio)