Argentina eyes up more Repsol businesses as criticism mounts

Marion Dakers
ARGENTINA wants to take an even bigger chunk of Repsol YPF’s operations in the country including its gas arm, it revealed yesterday in an official decree.

As the World Bank threw its weight behind growing global criticism of the renationalisation plans, the government said it aims to use its self-declared powers to seize Repsol YPF Gas.

The company’s “essential activity” of gas distribution needs to be under national control, it added in a Spanish statement. The firm is separate to the Repsol YPF group, but is 85 per cent owned by a Repsol subsidiary.

Outgoing World Bank president Robert Zoellick told a press conference: “It’s a mistake… I think it is a symptom we have to watch out for under economic pressure whether countries will move, ... respond more to populism, respond more to protectionism.”

Argentina’s economy minister is set to attend meetings in Washington this weekend to explain the country’s position to fellow finance chiefs.

Analysts yesterday moved to cut ratings for Spanish-listed Repsol, whose shares tumbled a further 4.8 per cent yesterday.

S&P yesterday cut its debt rating by one notch to BBB- with a negative outlook, saying the seizure of YPF will “materially worsen Repsol’s credit metrics”.

The ratings agency assumes that Argentina will not compensate Repsol in the near-term.

Investec has lowered its earnings forecasts, warning that “a dividend cut could be weeks away” even if the firm does not write off the cost of the stake, which Repsol claims to be worth $10bn (£6.2bn).