Spanish-Argentine oil company Repsol YPF SA admitted Monday that it's looking to divest a stake of around 45% of its Argentine unit YPF which it purchased in 1999 for the sum of 15 billion US dollars when Argentina was ruled by President Carlos Menem.
Madrid-based Repsol-YPF said in a regulatory filing that it's looking for local partners to acquire "no more than" 25% of YPF, and it later plans to float " around 20%" of YPF in the Buenos Aires stock market. This filing clarifies earlier statements regarding the company's plans for YPF. In its weekend edition, Spanish financial daily Expansion said Repsol is in advanced talks with three Argentine financiers, Jorge Brito, Enrique Eskenazi and Eduardo Eunekian, and plans to pick one of them as the buyer of between 15% and 25% of YPF. Expansion revealed that although the three potential candidates have "good relations" with President Nestor Kirchner, "Eskenazi seems to be the favourite". The deal could be closed by "the end of June" says Expansion adding that Repsol values its Argentine affiliate in 10 billion Euros. The report came after earlier speculation in the Argentine press, fuelled by comments made by Repsol over the last month regarding a renewed push to divest part of YPF. Repsol-YPF said Monday that the entrance of an Argentine shareholder in YPF's share capital would help to "increase the involvement of Argentina's society in YPF's management." Last year, Repsol put on hold earlier plans to list YPF, formerly a state owned company that was acquired by Repsol in 1999 for 15 billion US dollars. YPF accounts for about a third of earnings and half of Repsol's hydrocarbon reserves. Repsol holds 99.9% of shares and the Argentine government 0.1% and veto right over strategic decisions. Market analysts say Repsol is seeking to raise funds and improve its delicate relationship with the current Argentine government, which has often criticized the 1999 sale of YPF. As to the three candidates involved, Mr. Brito is CEO of Bank Macro and president of Argentina's Bankers Association; Eskenazi runs the Banco Santa Fe and is heavily involved in construction and wineries. Finally Mr. Eurkenian is vice-president of the Argentine Chamber of Commerce and the leading shareholder in Aeropuertos 2000 which manages Argentina's main airports, plus Carrasco in Montevideo and Malpensa in Milan.