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Ecopetrol Declines Amid Speculation Government Might Replace CEO

Ecopetrol SA, Colombia’s state-controlled oil producer, declined amid speculation that the government might replace Chief Executive Officer Javier Gutierrez.

Ecopetrol fell 1.3 percent to 3,440 pesos at the close of trading in Bogota, after Bogota TV news program CMI reported that Gutierrez, who started as CEO in 2007, would leave Ecopetrol as soon as next week. The shares had tumbled as much as 4.4 percent to 3,300 pesos, their lowest since August 2010, before Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas said rumors the CEO would be changed were “completely false.”

“Having Gutierrez in control generates confidence for a lot of people” Juan David Ballen, an analyst at the brokerage Alianza Valores SA in Bogota, said in a phone interview.

Ecopetrol’s stock, which tumbled a record 32 percent last year, has lost 7 percent this year amid concern that the company may have to reduce dividends or sell shares to finance its investment plan. In an e-mail, the company’s press office declined to comment on the CMI report or speculation that Gutierrez might be replaced.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. today cut its year-end target price for Ecopetrol’s American depositary receipts to $42 from $49, citing new oil price estimates, a lower 2014 production forecast and updated capital-spending projections. The ADRs fell 1 percent to $35.41 today in New York.

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