Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Colombia's IGBC Index Falls; Exito Lower On Chavez Threats

Colombia's IGBC Index Falls; Exito Lower On Chavez Threats

BOGOTA (Dow Jones)--Colombia's benchmark IGBC stock index fell 0.6% on Tuesday, dragged down by a weak U.S. market and lower crude prices.

Shares in state-controlled oil firm Ecopetrol fell 1% to 2,445 Colombian pesos ($1.25), while Canada-based based oil company Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. (PRE.T, PEGFF) fell 0.3% to COP28,900 as the price of crude fell, said Eduardo Sanchez, a stock analyst with local brokerage Valores Bancolombia.

Pacific Rubiales announced Tuesday it had drilled two successful appraisal wells in Colombia.

"Pacific Rubiales had some successful results, but, due to the behavior of the crude price, this wasn't reflected in the share price," Sanchez said.

Shares in Colombia's largest retailer, Almacenes Exito SA (EXITO.BO), fell 1.4% to COP19,700 after the Venezuelan government shut four hypermarkets owned by Cativen, in which Exito has a 28% stake. The markets were closed for 24 hours to investigate whether the firm was involved in price-gouging.

"The market shouldn't be worried," Laurent Zecri, Exito's chief financial officer, told Dow Jones Newswires. "This was a preventive measure. They didn't find any price that had been increased and we are respecting the law in Venezuela."

Cativen operates 6 hypermarkets and 32 supermarkets in Venezuela, Zecri said.

On Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened to seize businesses that increase prices in response to the devaluation of the Bolivar. On Friday, Chavez cut the official currency peg to 4.3 bolivars per dollar from the previous rate of VEF2.15. Importers of essential goods such as food and medicine will buy currency at a subsidized rate of VEF2.6.

The Colombian peso firmed to COP1,962, from 1963.50 on Friday. This is the sixth straight day the peso has appreciated. The rally is being driven by the government converting dollars it raised by bond sales on international capital markets into local currency, said Felipe Munoz, who manages a fund of dollar government bonds for local brokerage Corredores Asociados.

The Colombian treasury placed the equivalent of $2.5 billion in bonds on international markets in 2009, of which $2 billion will be spent in 2010. Since most government spending is in pesos, the treasury sells dollars for pesos on the foreign exchange market.

On the debt markets, the yield on the benchmark peso-denominated government bond maturing in 2020 rose to 8.889% from 8.625% on Friday.

-By Matthew Bristow, Dow Jones Newswires. 57 314 2983277; colombia@dowjones.com

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