Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More on Argentina's YPF takeover

Argentine President Cristina Fernández' proposal to have the Argentine federal government take a 51% stake in the YPF oil company has been big news in Argentina and Spain. Francisco Peregil reports for Spain's El País, which has been editorially critical of Argentine President Cristina Fernández' policies toward the oil company YPF on her proposal to re-nationalize the once state-owned company in Argentina announces expropriation of Repsol oil subsidiary YPF 16.04.2012:

In a speech made in Buenos Aires after returning from the Americas Summit in Colombia, Fernández de Kirchner explained that she will send a law to Congress that proposed giving 51 percent control of YPF to the federal government and the remaining 49 percent to the country’s provinces.
I haven't looked at the actual documents. But this is quite different from what Página 12 reports in El Gobierno Nacional propuso la expropiación del 51 por ciento de las acciones de Repsol en YPF y declarar de interés público el autoabastecimiento de combustibles 16.04.2012. Página 12 says that Cristina's proposal calls for government control of 51% of the YPF shares, with the federal government holding 26.01% of the total and the provinces 24.99%. This is the only report I've seen that claimed the proposal was for 100% nationalization. Bloomberg News has a silly headline for a report by Rodrigo Orihuela: Argentina Seizes 51% of Oil Producer YPF to Stem Imports 04/16/2012.

Continuing with the El País article:

In the coming days, the country’s appraisers will decide how much it will reimburse YPF for its shares.

"When one makes decisions in the interests of national management [...] one also expects that managers understand the interests of the state,” Fernández de Kirchner said.

"We are the only country in America and one of the few in the world that doesn’t manage its own natural resources, but there were stronger arguments in favor of us taking this decision," she said.

The nationalization came just days after Spain issued a stern warning against the Argentinean government not to take control of YPF, threatening to break “economic and fraternal” relations if the leftist Peronist administration of Fernández de Kirchner followed through with the plans.

In Madrid, María Dolores de Cospedal, secretary general of the ruling Popular Party (PP), said the government intends "to give an energetic response" after consulting with its European Union partners.

An EU delegation from Brussels was scheduled to arrive in Buenos Aires on Thursday to demand that Argentina respect the agreements it has signed with foreign investors.

"The EU has nothing against Argentina demanding that YPF invest more in the country, but it must be done respecting the commitments both sides adopt in their agreements," a Brussels source told the [stauchly anti-Cristina] Buenos Aires daily Clarín.
Cristina has seen how the EU is destroying the lives of millions of its citizens with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's insane austerity policies. And also how it has responded to the authoritarian, anti-democratic turn in the Hungarian government with enormous indifference. I'm guessing she's going to take a dim view of the EU siding with Spain's conservative government and Spanish multinational Repsol when the EU leaders are so plainly and cynically callous toward democracy and prosperity in the EU. Argentina has spent over a decade now recovering from the disaster they brought on themselves by the very policies with which the EU is destroying itself. I'm guessing her response to them will be some diplomatic version of, "Bite me".

A later report says that the EU Commission later characterized it as a bilateral dispute between Spain and Argentina. We'll soon see how the EU will proceed. My thought is they would be wise to stay out of it as much as they can. The EU also announced the cancellation of a scheduled visit of officials to Argentina this week; hard to tell if that's "retaliation" or "washing our hands of this one".

Also from El País' English-language articles, the Spanish government is huffing and puffing at the command of Repsol, the current government's exclusive purpose being to comfort the Spanish One Percent while the rest of the country faces staggering unemployment and a decline in real living standards. This is from a few days ago before Cristina's formal proposal: Andrew Sim, Spain ups the ante in its dispute with Argentina over Respol 13.04.2012.

Even early, columnist Mariano Marzo offered this excuse: "Yet they [the Argentine government] also ought to ask themselves whether the fall is not due to a more general and irreversible phenomenon: the ageing of the oil fields." (YPF, a victim of political hounding El País 10.04.2012) Yes, the oil fields are aging and Repsol has been using YPF as a cash cow to finance investments in other parts of the world and in dividend payouts, while not doing very much in the way of new exploration in Argentina itself.

Spain's government is threatening reprisals: Amanda Mars y Miguel Ángel Noceda, El Gobierno da por rota la amistad con Argentina y prepara represalias El País 16.04.2012; España calificó la medida como "un gesto de hostilidad contra nuestro país y nuestro gobierno" Página 12 16.04.2012 Repsol, not surprisingly, is initiating legal proceedings against Argentina. I'm very impressed with the loyalty of Spain's government to Repsol. And to the contrast between that and its loyalty to the needs of the Spanish people in their Angienomics austerity policies.

Sadly, the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Party) displayed how completely they have surrendered to neoliberal concepts by pledging their loyal support to Repsol, as well. Pitiful. PSOE head Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba called Repsol president Antonio Brufau to show "todo el apoyo del PSOE a la compañía" ("the total support of the PSOE for the company") (my emphasis), the company being Repsol. That is just painfully pitiful. If he's not bought, he's leaving money on the table. Because companies pay well for that kind of support. That's just pathetic.

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