Argentina’s government will monitor ownership changes at Spain’s Repsol and it reserves the right to wield its golden share in YPF, the Spanish concern’s local unit, YPF, said in a statement after a board meeting that included a state-appointed director.
During the meeting, Repsol ratified its investment plan for the country. The Planning Ministry had called for the meeting last week as it has grown increasingly concerned that the recent decision of two of Repsol-YPF’s biggest shareholders to wield more influence on the company’s board and management could have a negative effect on the country’s heavily regulated energy market.
The government called for the meeting last week after Mexican state oil firm Pemex nearly doubled its stake in Repsol-YPF to 9.5% as part of a pact with Spanish building firm Sacyr, which holds a 20% stake.
“We request that Repsol formally guarantees the continuity of YPF 2010-2019 investment plan, given the strategic role that the company has in our country’s energy sector” Planning Ministry Deputy Coordination Secretary Roberto Baratta, the state-appointed director in the company, said in a statement.
Baratta also said the company “needs to inform us in a timely fashion of any modification in the running of the company,” emphasizing that during the meeting “we reserved the right of using the state’s golden share” in YPF.
The company made it clear it had received the message in its own news release, noting that “the Argentine government, through its representative in YPF, notified that it would monitor any changes that could take place in Repsol and that could generate any impact or variation in its investment and/or production plans as well as any other changes in YPF.”
Pemex and Sacyr, have said they want to take powers away from executive chairman Antonio Brufau, who has historically had a good relationship with the Argentine government, by creating the post of chief executive officer, as well as changing Repsol’s strategy to increase its stock market valuation.
Sacyr, which borrowed heavily to build its 20% stake in Repsol, has clashed with Brufau before, when its chairman Luis de Rivero confronted Repsol’s decision to cut dividends in 2009.
The Argentine government is particularly concerned because if Sacyr is successful in obtaining larger dividends, it could affect the company’s available liquidity to carry out investments.
But Baretta said that at the meeting “Repsol officials ratified the investment plans for Argentina ... and dismissed any of the projects they have for the local subsidiary.”
All the YPF directors took part in the meeting, including Brufau.
Repsol-YPF controls more than 58% of YPF, Argentina’s Grupo Petersen, 25.4% and the Argentine government has a golden share in the company, which it considers of strategic importance.