UPDATE 2-Bolivia takes over four energy companies

Thu May 1, 2008 5:16pm EDT

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(Adds energy minister comment, prices paid and company details)

By Carlos Quiroga

LA PAZ May 1 (Reuters) - Bolivia will pay $43 million to take controlling stakes in four energy companies, one through an agreement with Spanish oil company Repsol (REP.MC) and others through state decrees, the government said on Thursday.

Bolivia's state energy company YPFB signed a deal with Repsol, agreeing to pay $6.3 million to acquire enough shares to give it a majority stake in Repsol's Andina, one of Bolivia's biggest energy companies.

The announcement came exactly two years after leftist President Evo Morales launched his nationalization of Bolivia's energy industry in a bid to increase government income from the country's rich natural gas fields.

Morales on Thursday also decreed the state takeover of natural gas producer Empresa Petrolera Chaco, held by British oil giant BP (BP.L); the Transredes pipeline company belonging to Cayman Islands-based Ashmore Energy International (ASHM.L); and storage and fuel transport firm CLHB, controlled by German and Peruvian firms.

Energy Minister Carlos Villegas said YPFB decided to pay $4.8 million for enough shares to give it control of Chaco, $12.4 million for the stake it needed in Transredes, and $20 million for CLHB.

"This is not a forced sale because since May 1, 2006, the companies have sent various letters where they accepted the nationalization decree. The sale is not compulsive and is being done within negotiated parameters," Villegas told reporters.

Bolivia has South America's second-largest natural gas reserves after Venezuela, and supplies neighboring Argentina and Brazil.

'BOLIVIA WANTS PARTNERS'

Under an agreement signed in the national palace, YPFB now controls 51 percent of Andina and shares management of the company with Repsol.

Repsol had a 50.0024 percent stake in Andina and sold 1.08 percent to Bolivia for $6.3 million.

Andina exploits 18 small oil and gas fields and also has a 50 percent stake in two large natural gas fields, San Antonio and San Alberto, operated by Brazil's state oil company Petrobras (PETR4.SA).

"This contract means a greater understanding between two countries, Spain and Bolivia," Morales said when the agreement was signed. He repeated his oft-said statement that Bolivia wants partners to develop its energy industry, not owners of its resources.

Repsol has other energy companies in Bolivia besides Andina.

Chaco, Transredes and Andina were created when YPFB privatized many of its operations in 1996. Foreign companies took 50 percent stakes in the companies and got administrative control. YPFB recently reacquired a portion of the companies' shares that were held by state pension funds, putting it on its way to taking the controlling stakes it sought.

Chaco operates in 22 oil and gas fields and has invested in projects aimed at increasing natural gas exports to Argentina.

Transredes controls the Bolivian part of the Santa Cruz-Sao Paulo pipeline, conduit for 30 million cubic meters a day of natural gas sent to Brazil. It also operates some internal pipelines. (Reporting by Carlos Quiroga; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; editing by Jim Marshall)

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