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Spain: Metalships & Docks to Build Subsea Construction Vessel for McDermott

McDermott International, Inc. (McDermott) will build another high capacity reeled pipelay vessel with top-tier payload capacity, tentatively named Lay Vessel 108 (LV108). The vessel will be a sister ship to the recently completed subsea construction vessel the Lay Vessel North Ocean 105 (LV105), and is to be built to similar specifications at Metalships and Docks S.A.U. shipyard in Vigo, Spain.

LV108 is another milestone in our vessel renewal program focusing on the subsea construction market for flexible and rigid product installation,” said Stephen M. Johnson, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of McDermott. “Market analysis indicates that the subsea and deepwater construction market is expected to continue to grow and there is demand for more tonnage in both the rigid reel lay and flexible lay markets. The LV108 is expected to meet this need.”

LV108 is designed for advanced deepwater operations with a high-capacity tower for rigid and flexible pipelay and state-of-the-art marine construction equipment that will enable installation of a variety of products to a depth of 10,000 feet, including rigid-reeled pipelines, subsea components and hardware, and deepwater moorings for floating facilities as well as flexible products – cables and umbilicals.

The principal characteristics of the vessel, such as payload, tension capacity and product size, will mirror those of the LV105, but McDermott anticipates enhanced functionality of the LV108 equipment design compared to the LV105. Delivery of LV108 is anticipated to be around third quarter 2014 for outfitting of the custom-designed lay system, built by a specialist fabricator in Europe.

The vertical reel will have a nominal payload of 2,500 tons plus, subject to vessel loading conditions, and a lay tower operational between 90 and 40 degrees. The nominal tension capacity is expected to be 400 tons, and the range of pipe the vessel can install is between 4 to 16 inches diameter. This 427-foot, dynamically positioned vessel will be equipped with a 400-ton heave compensated crane, will have a transit speed of 15 knots and will operate across a range of water depths up to more than 10,000 feet.

In May we completed building and outfitting the LV105, a vessel that aims to improve our worldwide capabilities to meet the growing needs and technical challenges of the subsea and deepwater markets. The vessel will perform its first project in Asia in up to 4,430 feet of water. We look forward to LV108 joining the LV105 and other vessels in our fleet in 2014,” said Johnson.

Shipbuilding Tribune – Spain: Metalships & Docks to Build Subsea Construction Vessel for McDermott.

Connect The Dots: Bailouts, Bankruptcy And Gold

Simon Black, Sovereign Man

June 29, 2012
Tel Aviv, Israel

This week may very well go down as ‘connect the dots’ week. Things have been moving so quickly, so let’s step back briefly and review the big picture from the week’s events:

1) After weeks… months… even years of posturing and denial, Spain and Cyprus became the fourth and fifth countries to formally request aid from Europe’s bailout funds on Monday.

In doing so, these governments have officially confessed to their own insolvency and the insolvency of their respective banking systems.

Meanwhile, Slovenia’s prime minister said that his country may soon ask for a bailout. (Humorously, Slovenia’s Finance Minister denied any such plans.)

Spain’s 10-year bond yield jumped to over 7% again in response, and many Spanish banks were downgraded to junk status by Moodys.

2) Over in the US, the city of Stockton, California filed for bankruptcy this week… the largest so far, but certainly a mere drop in the proverbial bucket.

3) JP Morgan, considered to be among the few ‘good’ banks remaining in the US, conceded that the $2 billion loss they announced several weeks ago might actually be more like $9 billion.

4) The Federal Reserve reported yesterday that foreigners are reducing their holdings of US Treasuries.

5) Countries from Ukraine to Kazakhstan to Turkey announced that they have purchased gold in recent months to bolster their growing reserves.

6) Chile has joined a growing list of countries that has agreed to bypass the US dollar and settle all of its trade with China in renminbi.

7) China has further announced plans to create a special zone in Shenzhen, one of its wealthiest cities, to allow full exchange and convertibility of the renminbi.

8) World banking regulators from the Bank of International Settlements to the FDIC are proposing that gold bullion be treated as a risk-free cash equivalent by commercial banks.

So… what we can see from this week’s events is:

– European governments are insolvent
– European banks are insolvent
– US governments are heading in that direction
– Even the best US banks are not as strong as believed
– Foreigners are abandoning the US dollar and seeking alternatives
– Gold is money

These events are all connected, and the trend is becoming so clear that even the most casual observers are starting to wake up.

When you connect the dots, the next steps lead to what may soon be regarded as an obvious conclusion: the system, as it exists right now, is crumbling.

No amount of self-delusion can make this go away.

Rational thinking and measured action, on the other hand, can make the consequences go away… turning people from victims into spectators of the greatest bubble burst in modern times.

Source

Spain says markets are closing to it as G7 confers

http://s1.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?m=02&d=20120605&t=2&i=615331606&w=&fh=&fw=&ll=700&pl=390&r=CBRE8540R1P00

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.

FESTERING CRISIS

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.

(Additional reporting by Leika Kihara in Tokyo, Ana Flor and Alvaro Soto in Brazil, Andreas Rinke in Berlin, Fiona Ortiz in Madrid. Writing by Paul Taylor, editing by Mike Peacock)

Desperate Argentina Now Seen Begging for Oil Investment

https://i0.wp.com/www.thedailybell.com/images/library/kirchner150.jpg

Thursday, May 10, 2012 – by Staff Report

Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou on Tuesday urged US companies to invest in YPF, the nationalized oil company that Argentina recently expropriated from Spain’s Repsol … “We are very optimistic in terms of what is coming for the Argentine economy in general and the hydrocarbons sector specifically” Boudou said at a Conference on the Americas at the US State Department in Washington. Far from scaring off foreign investment because of the expropriation, the government of President Cristina Fernandez has set the framework for “excellent opportunities for those who want to invest in joint ventures and possibilities of joint work in the energy sector,” he said. The Cristina Fernandez administration is gambling that the discovery in May 2011 of a giant oilfield in Argentina’s Patagonia would be too tempting for foreign oil giants to ignore. YPF needs the know-how and the capital to fully exploit the oil fields in the south-western Nequen province, known as Vaca Muerta (Dead Cow), which according to official estimates holds 150 million barrels of oil. YPF is “open to capital and the possibility of working together with public or private companies in Argentina or abroad,” Boudou said. – Merco Press

Dominant Social Theme: Don’t cry for Argentina. It’s all under control …

Free-Market Analysis: Are Argentina’s top officials having second thoughts about their expropriation of Spain’s Argentine oil-producer? It would seem that way from the above news report via Merco Press.

If the move was as wildly destructive as people think it may have been, then this posture would tend to confirm the idea that one of the world’s more powerful and influential states is simply spinning out of control.

The results may be truly catastrophic, not just for Latin America but for the larger, struggling world.

This boom may well be ending – or certainly growing long-in-the-tooth after a decade or more.

Although the Argentine expropriation of Repsol made major shock waves, the Argentine government under President Cristina Fernandez has portrayed it as a judicious and necessary gambit.

Many other observers regardless of political affiliation have branded the move as a shallow populist one that will bring disaster to Argentina and environs.

As the predictions of damage mount, there is more speculation that Fernandez’s action may bring down not only her own government but other regional governments as well.

These predictions involve inevitably a peso devaluation that will set off a dollar-withdrawal frenzy in big regional banks. Real estate prices – radically inflated after a decade of monetary expansion – may well plunge. The results could affect large swaths of South America.

Countries that could be affected include Uruguay, Brazil, Chile and Peru among others – all countries that have pursued moderate market-based policies and have benefitted from the South American industrial and monetary boom.

Meanwhile, Repsol doesn’t seem apt to surrender. Here’s more from the article.

YPF is “open to capital and the possibility of working together with public or private companies in Argentina or abroad,” Boudou said.

Last week the Argentine president signed a bill expropriating 51% of YPF stock from Repsol, its majority shareholder, sealing a measure that has roiled the country’s trade ties with Europe.

Cristina Fernandez has argued that the move was justified because Argentina faces sharp rises in its bill for imported oil, and Repsol has failed to make agreed investments needed to expand domestic production.

In Madrid, a Repsol spokesman Tuesday said the company has warned its competitors that they will face legal action if they invest in YPF.

“The idea is to protect the assets that were confiscated in Argentina until the situation is resolved in a satisfactory way for the parties that are involved,” the spokesman said.

Conclusion: A cascading crisis in South America may still seem likely …

Source

Bolivian Soldiers Walked Into This Spanish Power Company, Hung A Flag And Seized Control

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AP

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — President Evo Morales announced Tuesday that his government is completing the nationalization of Bolivia’s electricity sector by seizing control of its main power grid from a Spanish-owned company.

Morales took advantage of the symbolism of May Day, the international day of the worker, to order troops to occupy installations of the company, a subsidiary of Red Electrica Corporacion SA.

The president’s placing of another of what he deems basic services under state control comes as neighboring Argentina moves to take control of the country’s oil company, YPF, from the Spanish energy company Repsol SA, which had held a majority interest.

Spain‘s ambassador to Bolivia, Ramon Santos, told reporters the electric grid takeover “is sending a negative message that generates distrust.”

Red Electrica is the sole operator of the transmission grid in Spain, and the Spanish government holds a 20 percent stake in the company.

Morales did not say how much the company would be compensated, but the nationalization decree says the state would negotiate an indemnization fee.

Morales said only $81 million had been invested in Bolivia’s power grid since it was privatized in 1997.

The government, meanwhile, “invested $220 million in generation and others profited. For that reason, brothers and sisters, we have decided to nationalize electricity transmission,” he said.

Bolivian soldiers peacefully took over the company’s offices in the central city of Cochabamba, hanging Bolivia’s flag across its entry.

Red Electrica had no immediate comment. A security guard reached at its headquarters in Spain said a statement was expected later.

The company owned 74 percent of Bolivia’s electrical transmission network, or 1,720 miles (2,772 kilometers) of high voltage lines.

Two years ago, on May Day, Morales’ government took control of most of Bolivia’s electrical generation, nationalizing its main hydroelectric plants.

Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, has moved to put energy, water and telecommunications under state control.

But analyst Joao de Castro Neves of the Eurasia Group said the president has been far more pragmatic and less radical than the leftist leaders of Venezuela or Argentina.

“He knows his limits,” Castro Neves said. “The Bolivian state doesn’t have the capacity to take over all these sectors (including mining) and maintain the high levels of investment they need.”

He noted that Morales still hasn’t come to terms for taking over several small mines whose nationalization he announced last May Day.

Bolivia’s government also has not been able to negotiate compensation for the power plants taken from GDF Suez of France and Rurelec PLC of Britain.

Morales continues to deal with multinational companies such as Brazil’s oil company, Petrobras, and Repsol, whose president, Antonio Brufau, he met with on Tuesday after announcing the power grid takeover.

The two men inaugurated a $528 million natural gas plant in eastern Bolivia that represents the single biggest foreign investment in the country under Morales. It is designed to triple the amount of gas sent to Argentina and the local market to 9 million cubic meters a day, said Carlos Villegas, president of Bolivia’s state energy company, YPFB.

In the case of electricity, the government is following a policy of returning to the public domain a sector privatized during the 1990s.

“Just to make it clear to national and international public opinion, we are nationalizing a company that previously was ours,” Morales said.

The 20 percent of the industry the government does not own is in the hands of small companies serving cities in the eastern lowlands that are not connected to the national grid.

In his first year in office in 2006, Morales announced he was “nationalizing” the oil and gas sector. He began extracting concessions from multinational energy companies, renegotiating contracts to give Bolivians greater control of and a bigger share of profits from the natural gas industry, the country’s biggest ahead of mining.

In 2008, he used May Day to announce the completion of the nationalization of Bolivia’s leading telecommunications company, Entel, from Telecom Italia SpA

The nationalizations have not saved Morales from widespread criticism by Bolivians upset over rising consumer prices, lower domestic oil production and discontent over government plans to build a highway through a lowlands nature preserve inhabited by Indians.

Morales’ approval rating is down to about 40 percent from 69 percent when he began his second term in January 2010.

Read more: BI

Enagas: Musel LNG Terminal to be Mothballed After Completion, Spain

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.

Enagas: Musel LNG Terminal to be Mothballed After Completion, Spain>> LNG World News.

Leftist economist masterminds Argentina’s YPF grab

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By Hilary Burke and Magdalena Morales
BUENOS AIRES 
Fri Apr 20, 2012 12:42pm EDT

(Reuters) – Government economist Axel Kicillof stormed the world stage this week when Argentina moved to nationalize energy company YPF, defending the plan he helped devise in a fiery speech worthy of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Charismatic and polarizing, the 40-year-old Kicillof lambasted “free-market fundamentalists” as he defended the push to seize control of YPF from Spain’s Repsol.

Just four months after taking the deputy economy minister post, Kicillof has penetrated the small circle of trusted advisers to President Cristina Fernandez, who singles him out for praise in her speeches.

Sporting sideburns and an open collar, Kicillof told Congress that only “morons” would think the state was stupid enough to play by Repsol’s rules and make an offer to buy 100 percent of its shares. He blasted economic theories that “justify the looting of our resources and our companies.”

People who know Kicillof say they are not surprised to see him become the public face of a move that has prompted howls of protest from abroad. They say he has always been brilliant, hard-working and even messianic.

One classmate remembered a high school camping trip where Kicillof and a group of friends played at him being God, surrounded by his chanting followers.

“It was child’s play, but it’s striking that Axel was God,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Kicillof, who declined to be interviewed for this story, spent most of his career in academia, giving classes and writing about the theories of economists such as John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx.

His first foray into business administration came in 2009, when he took a key position at flagship carrier Aerolineas Argentinas, which the government had expropriated from Spanish travel group Marsans.

Last year, he rose to prominence when Fernandez’s administration fought to appoint him as state representative on the board of directors at steelmaker Siderar, despite company resistance.

With that, local media at odds with the government crowned him the new radical boogeyman.

As a college student, Kicillof co-founded TNT, a group that used irony and humor to tackle corruption and raise standards inside state-run Buenos Aires University’s economics department.

Later, during the 1999 presidential election, he helped organize a protest against Argentina’s obligatory vote because he said the field of candidates was too narrow.

“He’s a brilliant guy. He’s one of the most intelligent people I know, very honest and with strong ideals,” said Leo Piccioli, general manager of Staples Argentina and a fellow member of TNT in the 1990s.

SALVATION

Despite his youthful appearance, Kicillof is an old-school ideologue who shuns the tenets of 21st Century globalism and believes Argentina must find its own way to economic development and industrial prominence.

In his Tuesday speech, he mocked the concept of the “rule of law,” saying this was designed to protect big business. He also compared the Spanish operators of YPF and Aerolineas Argentinas, who received no compensation after the airline was expropriated.

“Spanish officials decide what is done at YPF … in the same way that (Marsans) was bent on lobotomizing Aerolineas Argentinas,” Kicillof said. “This is a transnational group that doesn’t think about the Argentine worker.”

Kicillof helped put together a strategic plan for Aerolineas, which critics say has failed because the company keeps losing money. Others say it is impossible to evaluate his administration of the airline’s finances when so much tax revenue has been used to revamp the company.

Admirers call him captivating while critics see him as inflexible and verbose. His influence is growing where it counts — with the president.

At both Siderar and YPF, Kicillof urged company officials to make fewer dividend payments abroad and invest more locally. Fernandez ended up enshrining that view in government policy.

“He was the main architect of this concept,” said a personal acquaintance who met Kicillof in the last few years. “He is absolutely convinced that (his vision) will be Argentina’s salvation and not its death knell.”

Some people view Kicillof as a threat to the country’s future, saying he will scare off private investors. Emerging markets analyst Walter Molano at U.S.-based BCP Securities called Kicillof “a flaming red Marxist” on Thursday.

One old friend said his lack of political experience, and his impulsive, irreverent style, could eventually cause a rift with the president and end with him being scapegoated.

But that view might underestimate the loyalty shown by Fernandez to another controversial government figure, price and import czar Guillermo Moreno, famed for his vulgar talk and his fanatical work ethic.

Like Moreno, Kicillof isn’t seen giving an inch.

“He is intelligent,” his old schoolmate said. “But he won’t listen to other opinions or other points of view. He won’t learn from past mistakes.”

(Writing by Hilary Burke; Editing by Helen Popper and David Gregorio)

Incensed Spain threatens Argentina after YPF seizure

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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.

Source

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