Exclusive: Spanish court to hear Repsol lawsuit against YPF

Thu Jul 11, 2013 7:03am EDT
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By Andrés González

MADRID (Reuters) - A Spanish court has agreed to hear an unfair competition claim brought by oil major Repsol against former Argentine subsidiary YPF over the exploration of the vast Vaca Muerta shale oil field, court documents seen by Reuters show.

While the consequences of the decision remain to be seen and a trial could be years away, the move could eventually make it more difficult for international firms to invest in Vaca Muerta.

Some analysts also believe it could put pressure on Argentina to settle compensation with Repsol for the asset, still claimed by the Spanish oil group and whose potential value is estimated at anything from $7.5 billion to as much as $90 billion.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez seized Repsol's majority stake in YPF in May 2012, accusing the Spanish group of investing too little in the unit and forcing it out of the country.

Repsol denied the charges and has filed lawsuits against the country for a loss of $10.5 billion.

The company denied to comment on the judge's decision. YPF was not immediately available to comment.

Repsol has also lodged suits against U.S. oil firm Chevron and Bridas Energy, led by Argentina's Bulgheroni family, after they signed two agreements worth $1.5 billion euros each to invest in Vaca Muerta.

The Madrid court turned down an appeal from YPF arguing the case should not be tried in Spain and has started proceedings to gather the claims against YPF, Chevron and Bridas into the same lawsuit, a court writ seen by Reuters said.   Continued...

Employees work at a YPF gas station in Buenos Aires May 23, 2013. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci