The sale of Colombian power giant, Isagen S.A, has cast doubt over the country’s economic solvency and a transaction considered “cheap” for the US $2 billion paid by Canadian investment fund Brookfield Asset Management.
With only one bidder vying for the Medellín-based power generator, which owns six power plants across the country, right-wing politicians and left-wing activists have slammed the deal. They claim the government of President Juan Manuel Santos was in too much of a hurry to get its hands on much needed cash to finance ambitious infrastructure, including Fourth Generation highways, at the expense of this country’s energy independence.
As Canada’s largest asset management firm, Brookfield specializes in property and renewable energy. It currently has over US$ 225-billion in assets and through its power generation business, the firm operates hydroelectric facilities, interconnections and transmission facilities in North America, and development of wind power in Canada.
The consortium led by Brookfield to get Isagen started in 2013, but faced delays by lawmakers and opposition in Congress. Isagen is the country’s third power generator with 16 percent of Colombia’s electricity flowing through the interconnected SIN grid.
Brookfield Colombian Investments ended up with a 57.6 percent stake in the company buying-in at US $1.38 per share. Chile’s Colbún SA had also planned to bid on Isagen, but backed-out early in the year after the minimum price was increased.
Former Colombian president and senator, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, denounced the deal, stating the Toronto-based investor had “cheated the country.” The government of President Juan Manuel Santos claims the sale is beneficial for the country at a time of unseasonably warm weather and an impending nationwide drought.
“Isagen is an asset that produces a dividend, a profit, but that profit is very low compared with what that same money, belonging to Colombians, can render, for example, leveraging the financing of large highways, large projects that the country needs,” said Santos.
The President also reiterated his position that a 4G highways modernization project is the most ambitious in the history of the country and will generate thousands of jobs in rural areas.
According to Fitch Ratings, the transaction announced January 13th will not reflect an immediate change in the credit profile of the company and change of control is expected to take place in the later half of January.
The company’s rating also shows a solid competitive position in the electric generation sector in Colombia, as well as expectations for the completion of megaprojects such as the Sogamoso Hydroelectric Project in Boyacá.