Itau Joins Slim in Argentine Oil Business After YPF Loan Default

Itau Unibanco Holding SA, Latin America’s biggest bank by market value, took a stake in YPF SA, joining billionaire Carlos Slim in the Argentine oil company’s shareholder register as part of a syndicated loan settlement.

Itau Unibanco SA - Grand Cayman Branch acquired a 3.6 percent YPF shareholding on June 12, the Buenos Aires-based company said yesterday in a regulatory filing.

Itau, based in Sao Paulo, was among banks that received YPF shares as collateral after a loan default by Argentina’s Eskenazi family, operators of YPF before the Argentine government’s seizure of the company in April. The Eskenazi-owned Petersen Group had used YPF dividends to meet obligations until defaulting in May on a $1 billion loan.

“The acquirer doesn’t intend to obtain a greater holding or take control of the company,” YPF said in yesterday’s filing, citing a letter from the Itau unit.

Argentina took 51 percent of YPF from Repsol SA in April as President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government seeks to halt declining oil output and stem fuel imports that doubled to $9.4 billion last year. The government opposed YPF dividends. Before the defaults the Eskenazis owned 25 percent of YPF.

Slim’s bank and a separate investment vehicle control 32.9 million of YPF’s Class D shares, or an 8.4 percent stake, YPF said in a June 14 filing. Slim hasn’t decided whether to keep the stake, his son Carlos Slim Domit, co-chairman of America Movil SAB, said in an interview in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Share Rebound

YPF has soared since Slim’s stake was disclosed, climbing 15 percent over the past three days to 78.50 pesos in Buenos Aires yesterday, reducing a slump this year to 53 percent. The ADRs rose 3.3 percent to $11.77 yesterday.

The Argentine government, which said Repsol under invested since it acquired YPF in 1999, wants to tap shale reserves that may hold at least 23 billion barrels of oil equivalent in the country’s south.

YPF, Argentina’s largest oil producer, will invest $7 billion in 2013 as it plans to double exploration in five years and boost refining, Chief Executive Officer Miguel Galuccio said June 6. The company targets investments of $1.2 billion in shale oil next year, he said.

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