Colombia's Ecopetrol says third quarter profit rose 8.5% to $890 bln


Adds details of Ecopetrol results, background

BOGOTA, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Colombia's state-run oil company Ecopetrol ECO.CN said on Tuesday its third quarter net profit rose 8.5% to 3.01 trillion pesos ($890 billion) from the year-ago quarter because of a more favorable exchange rate and despite a fall in crude prices.

"The results are principally a reflection of our good operational performance in all areas and of the commercial positioning of our crude in markets that generate higher values," Chief Executive Officer Felipe Bayon said in a statement to the Colombian financial regulator.

"Add to that the better average exchange rate, financial savings associated with the pre-payment of debt and lower tax rates," Bayon said.

Good returns have allowed the company to compensate for lower crude prices, Bayon said.

The Colombian peso fell 8% against the dollar during the third quarter.

Ecopetrol has said it will invest $3.5 billion to $4 billion in 2019, more than the previous year, as part of an ambitious plan to boost production and exploration to replenish dwindling oil reserves.

The company had invested $2.32 billion through the end of September, just over 80% focused on exploration and production, the company said.

Ecopetrol fared better in the third quarter than other state-run oil companies in Latin America, including Mexico's Pemex PEMX.UL and Brazil's Petrobras PETR4.SA.

Pemex on Monday posted a net loss of some $4.4 billion during the quarter, but said it had reduced its large debt.

Petrobras last week reported a third quarter net income fall of 51.8% from the previous quarter to $2.25 billion, because of already announced one-off charges, some of which pertained to arbitral and legal disputes.

Ecopetrol's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization between July and September rose 3.4% in the quarter from the same period in 2018, to 8.27 trillion pesos.

Crude production during the quarter fell 0.7% to 720,000 barrels per day (bpd) Ecopetrol said, putting it just within the 2019 target output of between 720,000 and 730,000 bpd.

Production was down because of "operational limitations" which temporarily shuttered three oilfields, the statement said.

Ecopetrol is hit by regular pipeline bombings attributed to leftist rebels.

A recent decision by a Colombian tribunal to allow investigative fracking pilot projects is an opportunity to rigorously evaluate the possibility of using the technique, the statement said.

Bayon and other executives are set to discuss the results with investors on Wednesday.

($1 = 3,382.19 Colombian pesos)

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)

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