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Argentina Investigating Companies on Fuel Price-Fixing

Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Argentine energy companies including YPF SA and Petrobras Argentina SA are being investigated by the country’s antitrust agency for fuel price-fixing, Planning Minister Julio De Vido said.

Argentina’s transport association filed a complaint about fuel prices last week, De Vido said today in a press conference in Buenos Aires. The government will establish a committee to investigate the complaints and potential solutions in addition to the work of the national antitrust commission.

Local units of Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc were included in the complaint, which said the companies were acting as a cartel, De Vido said. Some refining companies are artificially increasing wholesale fuel prices, the transportation ministry said today in a separate presentation.

In the report, entitled dominant “Position Abuse and Cartelization of the Fuel Market,” the ministry said that some refining companies are charging as much as 30 percent more for wholesale fuel than what they charge in gas stations, affecting transport companies in particular.

“The government is filing this complaint to defend the purchasing power of the Argentines and the competitiveness of the economy as a whole,” Amado Boudou, the country’s Vice President, told reporters today in Buenos Aires.

Local spokesmen for Repsol YPF, Shell, Petrobras and Exxon didn’t immediately comment about the investigation.

Shares of YPF SA, Argentina’s largest refiner, fell 2.9 percent to 166 pesos in Buenos Aires trading. Petrobras Argentina fell 0.3 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bill Faries in Buenos Aires at wfaries@bloomberg.net Carlos Manuel Rodriguez in Mexico City at carlosmr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at dcrofts@bloomberg.net

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