Celsia Buys GDF Central America Plants in $840 Million Deal

Celsia SA, Colombia’s fourth-biggest power producer, is turning to Central America for its first international expansion, buying stakes in seven power plants in Panama and Costa Rica in a $840 million deal.

The company will buy hydroelectric and thermal plants in Panama and a wind plant in Costa Rica from Courbevoie, France-based GDF Suez, according to an e-mailed statement yesterday. The deal, which Celsia expects to close by December, will add 535 megawatts of generating capacity, boosting the company’s total by 30 percent.

As recently as April, Celsia executives had signaled they would push to expand abroad in a call discussing quarterly results. They mentioned Panama and Costa Rica along with Chile and Peru as potential target countries.

The company will pay $560 million for the assets with cash and pre-approved loans, Chief Executive Officer Juan Guillermo Londono said today on a conference call. Including debt, the deal would be valued at $840 million, he said.

Celsia’s shares rose 2.4 percent to 6,350 pesos at 9:12 a.m. in Bogota trading, the best performer on the benchmark Colcap index, which rose 0.2 percent.

The Central American assets will provide “attractive growth potential,” considering the region’s expected demand, Londono said in the statement yesterday.

GDF Suez, which operates atomic reactors, pipelines and offshore gas platforms, has been hurt by lower demand for gas-fired power during Europe’s economic slump, leading it to close or mothball more than 11,000 megawatts of capacity.

Jose Alberto Velez, CEO of Celsia’s parent company, Medellin-based Grupo Argos SA, said in April that it was exploring further energy investments after dropping out of the bidding for Colombian hydropower producer Isagen SA.

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