Category Archives: Spain
By Julien Toyer MADRID | Tue Jun 5, 2012 5:44am EDT
(Reuters) – Spain said on Tuesday that credit markets were closing to the euro zone’s fourth biggest economy as finance chiefs of the Group of Seven major economies were to hold emergency talks on the currency bloc’s worsening debt crisis.
Treasury Minister Cristobal Montoro sent out the dramatic distress signal in a radio interview about the impact of his country’s banking crisis on government borrowing, saying that at current rates, financial markets were effectively shut to Spain.
“The risk premium says Spain doesn’t have the market door open,” Montoro said on Onda Cero radio. “The risk premium says that as a state we have a problem in accessing markets, when we need to refinance our debt.
The country, which enjoyed rapid growth after it joined the euro at its launch in 1999, is beset by bank debts triggered by the bursting of a real estate bubble, aggravated by overspending by its autonomous regions.
The risk premium investors demand to hold Spanish 10-year debt rather than the German equivalent hit a euro era high of 548 basis points on Friday, on concerns that Spain’s fragile banking system and heavily indebted regions will eventually force it to seek a Greek-style bailout.
Montoro said Spanish banks should be recapitalized through European mechanisms, departing from the previous government line that Spain could raise the money on its own and prompting the Madrid stock market to rise.
But his comments on Spain’s borrowing sent the euro down after the 17-nation European currency earlier hit a one-week high against the dollar on expectations that a conference call of G7 finance ministers and central bankers may hasten bold action.
The European Central Bank holds its monthly rate-setting meeting on Wednesday and European Union leaders meet on June 28-29 to discuss their strategy for overcoming the two-year-old crisis which has already seen Greece, Ireland and Portugal forced to accept international bailouts.
Investors have fled peripheral euro zone sovereign debt for the relative safe haven of German Bunds and U.S. and British government bonds amid worries about Spain’s banking crisis and fears that a June 17 Greek election could lead to Athens leaving the euro, setting off a wave of contagion around the euro area.
Spain will test the market on Thursday by issuing between 1 billion euros ($1.24 billion) and 2 billion euros in medium- and long-term bonds at auction.
Emilio Botin, chairman of the nation’s biggest bank, Banco Santander told Reuters Spanish banks needed about 40 billion euros in additional capital, adding that “there is no financial crisis in Spain”. Montoro said the figures were “perfectly accessible”.
But his dramatization of the debt situation set a stark backdrop for the conference call of the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and Britain, plus European Union officials, which two G7 sources said would start at 1100 GMT.
Montoro’s comments appeared aimed at pressuring the ECB and EU paymaster Germany to find ways of intervening. But the central bank has so far shunned calls to resume purchases of Spanish government bonds, and Berlin has said it is up to Madrid to decided whether to apply for assistance if it needs help.
Spain has been trying to persuade EU partners to allow direct aid from the euro zone’s rescue fund to recapitalize its banks without making it submit to the political humiliation of a full-fledged assistance programme, officials say.
The festering euro zone crisis has sparked mounting concern outside Europe, with the United States fretting that it could further harm its faltering economic recovery, and countries such as Japan and Canada fearing fallout for the global economy.
“We have reached a point where we need to have a common understanding about the problems we are facing,” Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi told reporters.
Ottawa and Washington both called for action after a G7 source said fears that capital flight from Spain could escalate into a full-fledged bank run had triggered the emergency talks.
“Markets remain skeptical that the measures taken thus far are sufficient to secure the recovery in Europe and remove the risk that the crisis will deepen,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
In a sign of increasing concern about the euro area’s debt crisis, Australia’s central bank cut interest rates by 25 basis points to 3.50 percent, the lowest level in two years. It cited further weakening in Europe and a deterioration in market sentiment.
PRESSURE ON BERLIN
Pressure is building in particular on Germany, the biggest contributor to euro zone rescue funds, to back away from its prescription of fiscal austerity for the region’s weaker economies and to work harder on fostering short-term growth.
Berlin argues that it is already doing its share by encouraging above-inflation domestic wage settlements, accepting the prospect of higher-than-usual German inflation and most recently agreeing that Spain should have more time to achieve its fiscal targets.
Furthermore, Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the door on Monday to the prospect of a euro zone banking union in the medium term, saying she would discuss with EU authorities the idea of putting systemically important cross-border banks under European supervision.
A German government strategy paper seen by Reuters sets out a timetable for closer fiscal union in the euro zone, but Berlin does not expect final decisions on strengthening economic policy coordination until March 2013, with only a roadmap being agreed at this month’s summit.
A G7 source familiar with plans for the call said the group would urge more progress at this month’s EU summit, though this alone would probably disappoint global markets.
Central banking sources said the ECB could contribute by cutting its main interest rate, lowering its deposit rate to try to shake loose some 700 billion euros parked overnight in its vaults by anxious banks, or by providing a third big liquidity injection to banks.
Some analysts believe the bank is more likely to await the outcome of the Greek election and the EU summit before taking decisive action.
A G7 source said there was only a very small chance the G7 would go as far as to pledge coordinated action to curb excessive currency volatility. Japan, for one, fears a strong yen, which has been a safe haven for investors during the euro zone crisis, could help tip its economy into recession.
The G7 could also call for concerted action at the upcoming summit of the wider Group of 20 major economies in Mexico on June 18-19, the source said. The G20, which includes China, played a prominent role during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
A G20 official in Asia said the grouping, which also includes Brazil and India, could look to put pressure on Germany to switch to stimulus mode, as part of a wider call for strong, developed economies to step up spending.
“Germany and Canada could be seen as those having fiscal capabilities among the advanced economies,” the official said.
- Merkel rejects debt sharing as Obama urges Europe action (ekathimerini.com)
- Spain wants euro zone fiscal authority (news.yahoo.com)
- Spain tries to calm investors amid market pressure (seattlepi.com)
Even though the construction of 7 billion cubic meter/year terminal at Musel is nearing its completion and should be running until the end of the year, it will not be put into operation immediately due to insufficient gas demand.
Following a governmental decree, issued in March, the terminal will be put into “hibernation period” thus saving up to Eur67 million ($88 million) in regulated costs on annual basis.
According to, Antonio Llarden, the CEO of gas infrastructure operator Enagas, which has been contracted for construction of the terminal “it will not be brought online until demand justifies it,” Platts informed.
Namely, analysts predict a rise in gas demand in 2012 of up to 2.5%, followed by a surging demand for LNG having in mind the ongoing interest for pollutant free energy sources. Based on the fact that Enagas recorded a 30% increase in international LNG sale in 2011, the company forecasts a rise in LNG demand in the upcoming period which could pave the way for operationalization of the terminal.
The facility of 300,000 m3 LNG storage space, featured in two tanks of 150,000 m3 capacity and 800,000 m3/h emission capacity will be piping gas between Musel and Llanera, where it will be connected to the already operating gas pipelines in Galicia, León and Cantabria. The design of the facility allows extension of both its storage capacity and emission totaling to 1,200,000 m3/h.
As Llarden pointed out, the Spanish Government plans to construct another LNG terminal on the Canary Islands, which should be included in a new infrastructure plan, covering the period 2012-2020 and Enagas already has its eye on the potential construction.
- USA: Mitsubishi Inks Development Deal with Cameron LNG (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Why America’s Missing Out on the Billion-Dollar Global LNG Game (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: Golden Pass LNG Plans Re-Exports (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: Sabine Pass LNG Gets Cargo (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Maxximus World Records Highlight Power of LNG (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Japan: Osaka Gas Eyes U.S. LNG (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Zachry-CB&I venture lands Freeport FEED (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: Cheniere, KOGAS Ink Sabine Pass LNG Deal (mb50.wordpress.com)
MADRID – An incensed Spain threatened swift economic retaliation against Argentina on Tuesday after it announced plans to seize YPF, the South American nation’s biggest oil company, in a move which pushed down shares in Spanish energy giant Repsol, the controlling shareholder.
Madrid called in the Argentine ambassador in a rapidly escalating row over the nationalization order by Argentina’s populist and increasingly assertive president, Cristina Fernandez, a move which delighted many of her compatriots but alarmed some foreign governments and investors.
Promising action in the coming days, Spanish industry minister Jose Manuel Soria said: “With this attitude, this hostility from the Argentine authorities, there will be consequences that we’ll see over the next few days. They will be in the diplomatic field, the industrial field, and on energy.”
“Argentina has shot itself in the foot,” said Foreign Minister Jose Manual Garcia-Margallo.
Despite the rhetoric, Spain appeared to have little leverage over Buenos Aires – any action to be taken will be determined at a cabinet meeting on Friday – and Argentina has proven impervious to such pressure in the past.
Repsol said YPF was worth $18 billion as a whole and it would be seeking compensation on that basis, but the Spanish oil major’s shares fell by 7.5 percent in Madrid on Tuesday. The company said it could raise money in the bond market and sell some assets to help its cash flow.
Repsol described Argentina’s move as “clearly unlawful and seriously discriminatory” and said it would take legal action.
“This battle is not over,” Repsol Chairman Antonio Brufau said. “The expropriation is nothing more than a way of covering over the social and economic crisis facing Argentina right now.”
But Fernandez dismissed the risk of reprisals. “This president isn’t going to respond to any threats … because I represent the Argentine people. I’m the head of state, not a thug,” she said.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he expected Argentina to uphold international agreements on business protection with Spain. “I am seriously disappointed about yesterday’s announcement,” he said in Brussels.
But action against Argentina appeared limited in scope. The EU Trade Commissioner would write to Argentina’s trade minister to “reiterate our serious concerns” while an EU-Argentine meeting this week would be postponed.
“It’s absolutely shameful considering everything that Spain has done for Argentina,” said a woman called Domi, who was filling her tank at a Repsol petrol station in Madrid.
“I hope the government takes measures and does something serious. They’ve pulled our leg long enough!”
Spanish media condemned the Argentine action, believed to be the biggest nationalization in the natural resources field since the seizure of Russia’s Yukos oil giant a decade ago.
La Razon newspaper carried a photograph of Fernandez on its front page in a pool of oil with the headline: “Kirchner’s Dirty War”, referring to her full name. The business newspaper La Gaceta de los Negocios called the takeover “an act of pillage”.
El Periodico spoke of “The New Evita”, pointing out that Fernandez had announced the nationalization in a room decorated with a large portrait of Eva Peron, the actress who was married to a president and revered by many Argentines as a populist mother of the nation and champion of the poor.
Repsol’s Brufau said he suspected nationalization of YPF was imminent when he tried to contact Fernandez last Friday and was told that the president “was angry” and did not want to speak.
YPF has been under pressure from Fernandez’s centre-left government to boost oil production, and its share price has plunged in recent months on speculation about a state takeover.
Spanish investment in Argentina may now be at risk after the move on YPF. In the “reconquista” or reconquest, of the 1990s, newly privatized Spanish businesses bought Latin American banks, telephone companies and utilities, much as their armor-clad ancestors had conquered the region 500 years earlier.
Through its latest nationalization move, Argentina runs the risk of frightening off foreign investors, key to contributing money to help develop one of the world’s largest reserves of shale oil and gas recently discovered in the Vaca Muerta area.
ACE UP ITS SLEEVE?
This led some analysts to question whether Argentina might have an ace up its sleeve in the form of a new partner such as China Petrochemical Corp (Sinopec Group).
Repsol has, however, identified Vaca Muerta as “the cause of the pillage”, or the reason Argentina went after its YPF share.
A Chinese website said Sinopec was in talks with Repsol to buy YPF for more than $15 billion, although other sources said the nationalization move would probably get in the way of such a deal. Sinopec dismissed the report as a rumor.
Fernandez said the government would ask Congress, which she controls, to approve a bill to expropriate a controlling 51 percent stake in YPF by seizing shares held exclusively by Repsol, saying energy was a “vital resource”.
“If this policy continues – draining fields dry, no exploration and practically no investment – the country will end up having no viable future, not because of a lack of resources but because of business policies,” she said.
YPF’s market value is $10.6 billion, although an Argentine tribunal will be responsible for valuing the company as part of the takeover. Central bank reserves or state pension funds could be used for compensation.
Fernandez, who still wears the black of mourning 18 months after the death of her husband and predecessor as president Nestor Kirchner, stunned investors in 2008 when she nationalized private pension funds. She has also renationalized the country’s flagship airline, Aerolineas Argentinas.
Such measures are popular with ordinary Argentines, many of whom blame free-market policies such as the privatizations of the 1990s for the economic crisis and debt default of 2001/02.
Her announcement of the YPF takeover plan, however, drew strong warnings from Spain, Mexico and the European Union, a key market for Argentina’s soymeal exports.
Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon said Fernandez’s plan would damage chances for future foreign investment in Argentina and hurt Repsol, in which Mexico’s state oil monopoly Pemex holds a 10-percent stake.
Venezuela, where socialist President Hugo Chavez has nationalized almost all the oil industry, applauded her move.
The row over YPF comes as Fernandez heaps pressure on Britain over oil exploration off the Falkland Islands, over which Argentina claims sovereignty.
- Spain threatens Argentina after YPF seizure (business.financialpost.com)
- Argentina To Seize Control Of Oil Firm (news.sky.com)
- EU calls off meeting with Argentina over Repsol (newsok.com)
- Argentina moves to renationalize leading oil company (ctv.ca)