Wed | Oct 4, 2023

US judge orders Argentina to pay USUS$16b for expropriation of YPF oil company

Published:Sunday | September 17, 2023 | 12:06 AM

A judge in the United States ruled that Argentina must pay US$16.1 billion to minority shareholders of state-controlled oil company YPF due to the government’s 2012 nationalisation of a majority stake in the firm.

US District Judge Loretta Preska in New York issued final judgment Friday detailing the dollar amount that the South American country would have to pay.

Preska on Friday ordered Argentina to pay US$14.38 billion to Petersen Energía, including US$7.5 billion in damages and US$6.85 billion in interest and US$1.7 billion to Eton Capital, including US$897.75 million in damages and US$816.58 million in interest. Interest will continue to accrue if Argentina fails to pay, Preska said.

Argentina, which is currently suffering dire economic woes that include a low level of Central Bank reserves, rising poverty and a galloping inflation of more than 100 per cent per year, has vowed to appeal the ruling.

A week earlier, Preska had made clear it was siding with the plaintiffs in the long-running dispute. Burford Capital, which funded much of the litigation, had said after last week’s ruling that it represented “a complete win against Argentina”.

More than a decade ago, the government of President Cristina Fernández, who served from 2007-2015 and who is now vice president, decided to expropriate a majority stake in Argentina’s largest energy company, YPF.

Congress passed a law expropriating 51 per cent of the shares of YPF from then-majority shareholder Repsol, a Spanish firm. Repsol ultimately received compensation worth some US$5 billion.

Yet minority shareholders Petersen Energia and Eton Park filed suit, saying the government had violated the company’s statutes by not offering to tender for the remaining shares in the company.

YPF is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, so the plaintiffs were able to file their suit in US court.

In a ruling earlier this year, Preska agreed with the shareholders and said they were owed compensation by Argentina and that YPF had no responsibility in the expropriation.

Argentina had argued it should not have to pay more than US$5 billion.

The opposition has used the ruling to criticise Fernández as well as Buenos Aires Governor Axel Kicillof, who was then deputy economy minister and widely seen as the mastermind behind the expropriation. Kicillof is running for reelection in October.