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Puerto Rico power company drops Petrobras in new deal

Published:Thursday | August 27, 2015 | 5:52 PMAP

Puerto Rico's heavily indebted power company said Tuesday that it signed a contract to replace Brazilian oil giant Petrobras as the island's main fuel supplier in a bid to save money as a restructuring deadline looms.

The Electric Power Authority said the deal with Connecticut-based Freepoint Commodities will help save US$25 million the first year.

Neither the United States territory's power company nor Freepoint responded to messages seeking details of the contract. Documents filed with Puerto Rico's Comptroller Office show the deal is worth US$870 million, but no further details were available.

The power company said it also modified a deal with Spain-based Gas Natural Aprovisionamientos for US$30 million in savings. The company will continue to provide natural gas for Puerto Rico's Costa Sur power plant, which has been burning natural gas since 2012 in a bid to reduce the US territory's heavy dependence on petroleum.

Details of that agreement were not available at the Comptroller Office.

The contracts “symbolise an important step in the ongoing transformation of the Electric Power Authority," said Javier Quintana, the company's executive director.
It is unclear whether the deals would result in savings for consumers in Puerto Rico, where power bills are on average twice that of the US mainland.

The announcement by the Electric Power Authority comes two weeks before a deadline with creditors to restructure an agency that holds more than US$8 billion in debt. The bondholders group previously agreed to extend a debt payment deadline to September 15 but warned it would automatically end if a restructuring deal is not reached by September 1.

Investors have grown increasingly concerned that the state-owned company could be the island's first one to go bankrupt as Puerto Rico struggles with US$72 billion in public debt that the governor has said is unpayable and needs restructuring.

The Electric Power Authority was forced to sell US$128 million in bonds in June to help generate more liquidity.