Argentina ups stakes in oil, and now gas, takeover | News | DW | 20.04.2012
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Argentina ups stakes in oil, and now gas, takeover

Cristina Fernandez's government has announced plans to also expropriate shares in YPF Gas, an arm of the country's biggest energy company. As with oil firm YPF, the shares had until now been property of Repsol in Spain.

Argentina on Thursday announced plans to expand the expropriation of the country's biggest oil company, YPF, also targeting a majority share its YPF Gas division. In both cases, the shares will be forcibly "purchased," albeit with the price as yet unknown, from Spanish oil company Repsol.

YPF Gas is not technically part of the YPF oil group, which the government ordered to be nationalized on Monday.

YPF Gas "plays an essential role in Argentina's hydrocarbon policy," a government statement issued in Buenos Aires on Thursday said.

A spokesman for Repsol in Madrid, Kristian Rix, told the Associated Press "we are not commenting," when asked about the further acquisition of YPF Gas.

President Cristina Fernandez has said the takeover is part of a plan to solve energy shortages in Argentina, saying Repsol exported too much fuel, over-borrowed on YPF's books and was guilty of breaches of environmental laws.

The government of Spain, Repsol and the EU had all criticized the initial announcement to take over the main YPF oil concern, with World Bank President Robert Zoellick joining the chorus on Thursday.

"I think it was a mistake," Zoellick said of the expropriation. "And I think it is a symptom that we have to watch out for, under economic pressure, whether countries will move to more national, autarchic policies, respond more to populism, respond more to protectionism."

The legislation in Argentina reportedly has broad backing in both houses of parliament, with opponents of the bill still saying they'd support it. The mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, who hopes to win the presidency in a 2015 election, said he would not repeal the YPF takeover if elected, "now that the damage is done."

The stock markets have reacted nervously to the news on all sides. Repsol shares tumbled 17 percent over the course of the week, while YPF stock rallied by 10 percent on Thursday, but only after losing half their value earlier in the week.

msh/ccp (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)