Argentina decides to control oil firm YPF - report

BUENOS AIRES, March 31 Sat Mar 31, 2012 7:42am EDT

BUENOS AIRES, March 31 (Reuters) - Argentina's government has made the decision to take control of leading energy company YPF and is discussing whether to renationalize it or intervene in its administration, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

YPF, which is controlled by Spain's Repsol , is under intense pressure from the center-left government to boost output to reduce surging fuel imports that are eroding the country's trade surplus.

Pagina 12 newspaper, which is seen as reflecting government thinking, said President Cristina Fernandez had made up her mind on the need for state control and that internal debate was now focused on how to go about it.

It gave the possible options as expropriation or state intervention including the purchase of company shares.

To reduce the risk of legal challenges, any such move would be preceded by the passing of a law declaring oil and natural gas production as matters of public interest, the newspaper said.

"There's no going backward on this," it quoted unnamed government sources as saying. "Repsol has an extractive model for YPF that doesn't work for us. Company rationale doesn't contemplate the reinvestment of profits and putting capital into exploration and production based on what the country needs."

YPF's stock has been battered by weeks of speculation about a possible renationalization and a series of sanctions by national and provincial authorities, such as the withdrawal of operating licenses.

YPF officials have defended the company's investment record and criticized provinces for revoking its concessions.

It says its investment in Argentina rose 50 percent in 2011, with most of the cash channeled into upstream including exploration projects like those that led to the huge Vaca Muerta shale find, which could potentially double Argentina's energy output.

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