Suddenly awash in cash, Colombia's state-owned oil company Ecopetrol has postponed its planned $50 million-$60 million local securitization.

"We may not need the money this year," noted a company official in Bogota.

Rising oil prices have prompted the company to review its cash flow forecast for this year, he said. Ecopetrol had forecast a price of $13 a barrel for the benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil and is now revising that to around $16 a barrel.

The novel oil-backed deal was fully structured by ING Barings and rated triple-A on the local scale by Duff & Phelps de Colombia, but will remain on hold. The deal was designed to allow Ecopetrol to issue debt off-balance-sheet by securitizing the company's right to produce oil in Colombia (ASRI, 11/16/98, p.1) In that way, the state-owned company could raise money without adding to Colombia's sovereign debt load.

While suspending the domestic offering, Ecopetrol proceeded with its second international securitization recently. The $175 million transaction closed via Salomon Smith Barney last month.

Noting less than ideal pricing - the deal carried a coupon of 10.73% - the official said that volatility in the emerging markets and in Colombian securities, in particular, contributed to the relatively high pricing on the triple-B rated deal. - JB

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