Ecopetrol Says No ‘Significant’ Oil Output Cut From Protest

Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) --Ecopetrol SA (ECOPETL), Colombia’s largest oil company, said there were no “significant” production cuts because of a labor protest.

Most wells are operating normally at the Cira Infantas field in northeastern Colombia, said an official at Ecopetrol in Bogota who can’t be identified because of company policy. Protesters earlier hampered employees from entering the complex.

Latin American workers are seeking improved labor conditions amid sustained demand for commodities including oil, which has rallied 15 percent in three months. Protests in Colombia last year cut output at fields owned by Ecopetrol and Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. (PRE), preventing the nation from meeting a 2011 production target of 1 million barrels a day.

“They want to take advantage of the industry’s bonanza,” Nicolas Bernal, an analyst at brokerage Ultrabursatiles SA, said in a telephone interview from Bogota. “There has been a notable push in foreign investment, and locals see that.”

The brokerage rates Ecopetrol shares a “hold.” Bernal doesn’t own shares of the company.

Contract driller Estrella International Energy Services Ltd. halted part of its operations because of protests, according to a company statement today.

Colombian oil production will rise 18 percent to an average of 1.1 million barrels a day this December from 930,000 barrels a day last month, Mines and Energy Minister Mauricio Cardenas said in an interview last week. The country is South America’s third-largest oil producer after Venezuela and Brazil.

Shares

Occidental Petroleum Corp. also has a stake in Cira Infantas, which supplies Ecopetrol’s Barrancabermeja refinery.

Shares of Ecopetrol slid 65 pesos, or 1.5 percent, to 4,415 pesos at 4:00 p.m. in Bogota.

The Colombian peso weakened against the dollar on concern reduced oil production will limit dollar inflows. The peso erased earlier gains, declining 0.2 percent to 1,846 per U.S. dollar in the next-day market, according to the stock exchange’s foreign-exchange electronic transactions system, known as SET- FX.

To contact the reporter on this story: Heather Walsh in Bogota at hlwalsh@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at dcrofts@bloomberg.net

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