Feb 2, 2023
Chile’s Enap Set to Slash Debt Burden That Weighed on Investment
(Bloomberg) -- Enap, Chile’s state oil and gas company, plans to use near-record earnings to slash its debt burden, while increasing investment in its refineries and in exploration and production.
The company aims to reduce its debt load to about $3 billion “medium term” from the current $4.3 billion, Chief Executive Officer Julio Friedmann said in an interview. Plans include a bond sale in the first half of this year to refinance some securities.
The improved financial position — with 2022 profit surging to $575 million — comes after Enap’s oil and gas operations in Egypt, Ecuador and Argentina got a boost from high crude prices, while healthy international refining margins benefited plants in Chile. Those trends are expected to extend into this year and next, enabling the company to pre-pay some short-term obligations. About half of the current debt burden matures in the next three years.
“We are going to issue bonds,” the MIT-trained executive said Wednesday from the Aconcagua refinery in central Chile. “We are closely evaluating the local and international markets.”
At the same time, Friedmann, who took the reins at Enap in November, plans to increase capital expenditure to about $700 million this year from $550 million last year.
The increase comes after underinvestment in the past few years because of Covid restrictions and the heavy debt load. Spending will focus on making treatment processes cleaner and upgrading infrastructure, as well as a more aggressive approach to increasing gas reserves in the far south of the country, he said.
Enap plans to expand in both liquefied petroleum gas and natural gas markets in Chile, focusing on the wholesale business and eventually selling directly to large-scale consumers such as mines. Organizational changes to enable the expansion will be announced soon. There are no plans to enter the final distribution business, Friedmann said. The company wants to supply more gas to southern cities as a way of replacing dirtier fuels such as wood and diesel.
Enap and its partners are also preparing pipelines and a refinery near Concepcion to start receiving crude from Argentina’s Neuquen basin sometime this year in an arrangement that could supply as much as 30% of its needs.
While there’s plenty of potential do collaborate more with energy-rich Argentina, particularly in the Magallanes area, that would require greater long-term visibility on supplies from the neighboring country, Friedmann said.
He sees a role for Enap in the development of green hydrogen in Chile. It’s in talks with three companies to enable its facilities in Magallanes to be used to receive all the wind turbines, electrolyzers and other equipment that will be needed to make the clean fuel. Enap is also evaluating its own small pilot plants and will consider whether to take up options to enter other green hydrogen projects as an equity partner.
While the company will maintain its focus on meeting rising demand for traditional fuels, it anticipates new regulation that will require lower emissions. It’s also looking closely at clean-fuel options for aviation, Friedmann said.
(Adds clean fuel plans in last paragraph. I previous version corrected spelling of CEO’s surname.)
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