Colombia’s Antioquia department has offered to sell its 53% stake in the 2.4-GW Ituango hydroelectric project in return for a minority interest in Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM), according to BNamericas.
Under the deal, EPM would acquire Antioquia’s 2% share of the project and the 51% interest held by the department’s development institute IDEA. EPM already owns 46% of the Hidroeléctrica Ituango consortium.
“It is a necessary and convenient move that helps us to avoid a long and tortuous legal conflict,” Antioquia governor Luis Suárez said in a video posted on social media on Thursday. “It is aimed at protecting the public assets of IDEA and, of course, EPM. It would allow us to continue establishing alliances in Antioquia and to strengthen EPM’s presence [here].”
EPM did not immediately comment on the proposed operation.
Serious construction problems have forced Hidroeléctrica Ituango to postpone the project’s scheduled startup to early 2022, more than three years later than originally planned.
Initially slated to cost 11.4 trillion pesos (US$2.97 billion), Colombia’s largest infrastructure project is now expected to require 16.2 trillion pesos in a best-case scenario, at least US$1.2 billion over the original budget.
Suárez said the sale would ensure EPM continues to be “100% public” and that Antioquia has a minority representation on its board.
The multi-utility is currently owned by departmental capital Medellín, whose mayor Daniel Quintero has been accused of wielding undue influence in his dual role as EPM chairman. EPM’s current board was handpicked by Quintero after the previous directors quit en masse last year, alleging that he had made important decisions related to Hidroituango without consulting them.