YPF expropriation ruling: politicians trade barbs as shares fall

The shares of YPF and other Argentine companies dropped immediately after Friday’s ruling

Argentine politicians crossed swords on Friday after U.S. Judge Loretta Preska ruled against Argentina in the lawsuit over the 2012 expropriation of state oil and gas company YPF. 

Estimates made during the trial indicate that Argentina could have to pay as much as US$16 billion to Burford Capital.

Preska ruled in favor of Burford’s argument that Argentina took control of YPF on April 16, 2012, when the government decreed its intervention. The decree put then-Planning Minister Julio De Vido and Axel Kicillof, who was vice economy minister at the time, in charge of the process.

Kicillof, now the governor of Buenos Aires province, called the ruling an “attempt at foreign intervention in our campaign” on X (formerly Twitter). He said that when it was expropriated from the Spanish company Repsol, YPF was being “emptied” as its “production, investment, and reserves were falling.”

“Now, YPF’s potential is infinite and its value incalculable,” he continued, pointing to energy projects including oil exports to Chile and Argentina’s prospective entry into the liquefied natural gas sector. He added that the development of the country’s Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas field was led by YPF. 

The company’s current market capitalization is US$5.23 billion, a third of what Argentina would pay if the ruling is enforced. Presidential spokeswoman Gabriela Cerruti confirmed on Friday that the government would appeal Preska’s ruling, saying that Argentina would defend YPF against “vulture funds”.

“Let Kirchnerism put up the money,” opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio (JxC) presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich wrote on X (formerly Twitter), in all caps. “I have always opposed the barbarity of an expropriation without complying with the Constitution. Now let them pay for it out of their own pockets,” she added. As a deputy, she voted against the company’s expropriation in 2012.

Libertarian presidential candidate Javier Milei said that the ruling was “a sample of how expensive the thieving, parasitic and useless political caste is for us.” He pointed out that the Unión Cívica Radical party, now part of JxC, voted in favor of the expropriation in 2012. 

Milei has repeatedly proposed re-privatizing the state-owned company.

Market reactions

Burford’s stock price rose by 25% after the ruling, easing to 14.5% by the close of the session. 

YPF’s American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) — its negotiable securities that allow its shares to trade on the U.S. financial markets — dropped by 3.3% after Preska’s decision. Since the primaries, the company’s ADRs have fallen by 14.5%.

Other Argentine ADRs, which rose early in the day, also fell sharply. These included the bank BBVA (-8.3%) and energy companies Transportadora de Gas del Sur (-5.4%), and Pampa Energía (-5.2%).

The S&P Merval index fell 2.8% and Argentine dollar-denominated bonds dropped up to 4%. The main decreases were in Global 2038 (-4%), Global 2035 (-3.8%), and Bonar 2041 (-2.9%). Meanwhile, JP Morgan’s EMBI index rose 17 basis points to 2,155 units.

Burford Capital is a fund that bought the trial rights from two companies belonging to the Argentine Esquenazi family, Petersen Energia Inversora and Petersen Energía, and another company, Eton Park.

Eton Park and Petersen held about 29% of YPF shares between them. The fund is entitled to approximately 70% of the compensation, while the rest will go to the companies.

“The Ruling results in a complete win against Argentina at the high end of the possible range of damages,” a statement released by Burford on Friday said.

“I’m pleased to see this extraordinary win and the value it could create for our shareholders once we complete the litigation process and collect from Argentina,” Christopher Bogart, Burford’s Chief Executive Officer added, describing the ruling as a “major milestone”. 

The ruling follows a prior decision in March by the Court and an evidentiary hearing held in July.


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