(Adds statement from Spanish government in support of Gas
BOGOTA/MADRID, March 14 Colombia's government
regulator said on Tuesday it had ordered the liquidation of
Electricaribe, an affiliate of Spain's Gas Natural, but
the company had asked Colombia to find a way to allow it to keep
Colombia's government took temporary control of
Electricaribe's assets in November, citing risks from lack of
payment and quality of service.
"The company is not in a position to provide energy service
with the quality and continuity that's required," regulator Jose
Miguel Mendoza told reporters in Bogota. "When the assets of the
company are sold, creditors will be paid in the order
established by law."
Gas Natural, which has an 85.38 percent stake in
Electricaribe, said it was willing to talk with the Colombian
government to find a way to continue operating and investing in
But a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday that
Gas Natural would file a complaint within 15 days with the World
Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment
Disputes (ICSID) over Colombia's decision to liquidate the unit.
The Spanish government expressed regret over the Colombian
decision and said it would support Gas Natural if it decided to
pursue legal action.
Spain's foreign ministry also urged dialogue to reach a
"satisfactory solution" for all parties, it said in a statement.
With about 2.5 million customers on Colombia's Caribbean
Coast, Electricaribe has total liabilities of about 2.4 trillion
pesos ($800 million).
Gas Natural has attributed the liquidity difficulties to
customers failing to pay and people connecting illegally.
(Reporting by Carlos Vargas, Nelson Bocanegra and Carlos Ruano;
Writing by Jesus Aguado and Helen Murphy; Editing by Lisa Von
Ahn and Ruth Pitchford)