* YPF is main jet fuel supplier in Argentina
* Gov't wants companies to boost investment in sector
* Companies previously accused of overcharging for diesel
BUENOS AIRES, Feb 21 State-run Argentine
airline Aerolineas Argentinas has accused three energy companies
of overcharging for jet fuel, stepping up government pressure on
leading supplier YPF, La Nacion newspaper reported on
Aerolineas filed a complaint with the country's antitrust
commission earlier this month, accusing YPF, Royal Dutch Shell
and Esso of selling the fuel at a price that is "far
above the cost of production," La Nacion said.
YPF provides about 80 percent of the jet fuel used in
Argentina, energy sector sources told the newspaper.
The country's center-left government has tightened the
screws on the company, which is the local unit of Spain's Repsol
, as part of a drive to get companies to increase
investment in energy output.
Argentina's economy has grown at a sizzling pace in most of
the last nine years, spurring demand for energy at a time when
private investment in exploration and production has sagged.
Costly energy imports have cut into the country's trade surplus.
After officials accused YPF and others of overcharging for
diesel, the antitrust commission ordered changes in the way they
set prices. And the government last week banned YPF from making
foreign trade deals due to unpaid taxes.
A source at YPF said the company had not been informed of
the complaint by Aerolineas Argentinas.
No one was available to comment at the country's antitrust
commission or at Aerolineas Argentinas on Tuesday, a national
holiday in Argentina.
Federal Planning Minister Julio De Vido, who oversees energy
policy, responded to reports of fuel shortages at service
stations by saying the government would ensure supplies if YPF
"This is what we've always done, we had to import $9 billion
in 2011 because the energy companies, and YPF in particular, did
not produce enough to supply the domestic market," De Vido said
in a statement published on the presidential website.
"They want to force us to let local prices follow
international prices (higher), but we will not give in to this
extortion," he said.
An industry source said that in recent weeks, YPF has had
difficulty getting official authorization to buy the dollars it
needs to import fuel. The government must pre-approve all
purchases from abroad and related foreign currency deals.
De Vido did not refer to the issue of jet fuel. But
President Cristina Fernandez, in her first speech after a
three-week medical leave last month, slammed energy companies
for charging global rates for the fuel.
"Nearly all the JP1 (jet fuel) is produced here, with the
exception of a very small amount that is imported, which I think
they do to justify charging us the international price,"
Esso was purchased last year by Pan American Energy, which
is controlled by BP Plc .