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Repsol files World Bank complaint on Argentina’s YPF takeover

Argentina’s drive to seize control of leading energy company YPF from Spain’s Repsol appealed to many Argentines.

Marcos Brindicci/Reuters

Spanish oil major Repsol filed a complaint against Argentina at the World Bank's international arbitration forum on Monday over the government's expropriation this year of Repsol's controlling stake in YPF.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez nationalized YPF, the country's biggest energy company, in May, accusing Repsol of slack investment to boost output at a time of growing demand.

Repsol, which has denied under-investing in YPF, confirmed its request for arbitration at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in a statement on Monday.

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The oil company's filing calls Argentina's seizure of its 51-per-cent controlling stake in YPF "unlawful and discriminatory," a legal source said.

Repsol says the stake is worth $10-billion (U.S.) but Argentine government officials have indicated they think it is worth significantly less. The Planning Ministry has formed a committee to determine its value for compensation purposes.

Legal specialists say it could take more than a year to complete the ICSID arbitration process, which deepens legal wrangling over the nationalization.

Repsol also sued Argentina in May through a U.S. court and has threatened legal action against companies that invest in YPF.

A Spanish court last month agreed to consider a lawsuit by Repsol against U.S.-based Chevron Corp. over its co-operation agreement with YPF.

Argentina has a poor record at the ICSID.

In March, U.S. President Barack Obama said he would suspend trade benefits for Argentina because it has failed to pay more than $300-million in compensation awards in two disputes handled by ICSID.

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Ms. Fernandez's takeover of YPF drew strong criticism from the European Union and several other key trade partners already irked by Argentina's import curbs and other unorthodox policies aimed at boosting the trade surplus.

YPF, under new chief executive Miguel Galuccio, has unveiled a $37.2-billion investment plan through 2017 aimed at boosting oil and natural gas output by almost a third and bringing the company's huge shale resources on stream.

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