Argentina threatens to take over power firms after blackouts

BUENOS AIRES Thu Dec 19, 2013 2:01pm EST

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BUENOS AIRES Dec 19 (Reuters) - Argentina on Thursday threatened to take control of utility firms Edenor and Edesur after power outages blanketed large swaths of the capital and surrounding areas just ahead of the South American summer.

"If they are not willing to give people the service they deserve, we will be willing to take over that service," said cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich.

Edesur is controlled by Endesa, a subsidiary of Italy's biggest utility, <Enel ENEI.MI>. Edenor is owned by the Argentine firm Pampa Energia .

Capitanich said the government of President Cristina Fernandez has ordered the companies to "immediately" solve the problems behind the blackouts, which started when temperatures around Buenos Aires rose in recent days.

Following the government's warning, shares in Edenor fell 7.75 percent to 2.5 pesos on the Buenos Aires stock exchange.

Fernandez has nationalized several firms providing public services during her term, including a water distribution company.

The firms could not be reached for immediate comment on Thursday.

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