UPDATE 2-Mexico's $2.38 bln oil hedge payout covers 80% of lost revenues

(Adds details, economist’s quote)

MEXICO CITY, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Mexico has received $2.38 billion from its annual oil hedging program, its finance ministry said on Friday, compensating for some 80% in lost oil revenues after the coronavirus pandemic sent crude prices tumbling.

The 2020 payout, only the fourth since Mexico began hedging regularly in the early 2000s, acts as a lifeline for an economy pushed deeper into recession by the pandemic.

The hedge, the world’s largest financial oil deal, is designed to protect Latin America’s second-largest economy against oil price crashes. In previous years, Mexico has spent about $1 billion on the insurance policy.

In a report, the finance ministry said the income from the hedge “compensated the fall in oil revenues stemming from lower international crude prices.”

Deputy Finance Minister Gabriel Yorio said the payout covered about 80% of income lost from the price drop.

Mexico had hedged oil revenues at $49 a barrel. It is not clear how much of the protection was financed by options or reserves from a special fund.

“Given Mexico’s budget has still significant exposure to oil revenue, hedging that traditionally very volatile revenue stream is usually a good idea,” said Alberto Ramos, head of the Latin America research team at Goldman Sachs.

“But oil revenue hedging is no substitute for sound economic and fiscal management and sensible oil sector policies: Strong operational, financial and strategic management of Pemex would also go a long way for Mexico to maximize its oil and gas wealth and protect the budget,” Ramos said, referring to Mexico’s state oil company.

Mexico’s sovereign credit rating came under increasing scrutiny in 2020 after a third rating agency downgraded the bonds of Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, to “junk” status in April.

The country is the only one to have completed an oil hedging program of that scale. Mexico previously received payouts in 2009, 2015 and 2016.

Sources told Reuters in December that Mexico was wrapping up its purchases for the 2021 edition of the oil hedging program. (Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher and Dave Graham; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Paul Simao)