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Argentina Aims to regain control of YPF by Winter - Report

BUENOS AIRES - Argentina' s government aims to "regain control" of the country' s biggest oil and gas company, YPF SA, by winter, the newspaper Pagina 12 reported Sunday.

YPF, which is majority-owned by Spain' s Repsol YPF SA, was a state-run company until 1999, when it was privatized.
"Before the cold weather arrives, the government aims to regain control over YPF. But it still hasn' t decided how to do it," according to the paper, which has close ties to the government.

Spokesmen for the government and YPF couldn' t be reached for comment.

Argentina' s winter formally begins in June, though cold weather typically appears in May.

The newspaper article said the government is mulling a number of options for forcing YPF to increase production, including an outright nationalization, a less intense "intervention" in the company, and the possibility of helping other investors acquire more shares in the company.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has been pushing YPF to increase investments in exploration and production at a time when declining oil and gas output has made Argentina increasingly dependent on expensive fuel imports.

Kirchner has harshly rebuked the company for its alleged role in forcing the government to double its fuel import bill to $9.4 billion last year.

Speculation that the government might nationalize YPF has been rampant since Pagina 12 reported earlier this year that the Kirchner administration might take over the company. The refusal of government officials to confirm or deny the report has further fueled the speculation.

"Cristina has received distinct proposals and has to decide among them," the paper reported Sunday. "Without being dogmatic, she would prefer that YPF commit itself to carrying out the investments that it hasn' t yet done. If it doesn' t, there are likely others who are interested in taking over responsibility."

The article indicated a hostile takeover of YPF could end up being much cheaper if Congress declared the company to be in the public interest. Such a move could lead investors to ditch the stock en-masse, pushing its market value down.

"As one can see, there are various alternatives," the paper said.

Whatever happens, two Argentine provinces have already moved to revoke concessions held by YPF, and other provinces seem likely to do the same in the days and weeks ahead.

-By Taos Turner, Dow Jones Newswires



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