Update 2: SPAIN SEES FIRMS' INTERESTS AS NATIONAL INTEREST, OFFICIAL SAYS; SPAIN ANALYZING RESPONSE TO ARGENTINA OVER YPF, OFFICIAL SAYS. Oops.
Update: TRADING HALT: YPF (NYSE)-NEWS DISSEMINATION. Translation: YPF shareholders - you have been Corzined. The money has vaporized. Jon Corzine has been appointed to the newly formed Argentina based Board of Dictators. Have a nice day
There are those who naively believe that any time the tables turn against a government, that government will quietly sit in the corner and play by the rules as its power erodes to zero. Probably the best example of just this is Executive Order 6102 when FDR, in a country that supposedly honors contract laws, issued Executive Order 6102, which effectively nationalized all private gold, no questions asked. And while we may not be there just yet, we are getting close, as demonstrated by the most recent developments in Argentina, where president Cristina Kirchner asked Congress to "expropriate" oil and gas producer YPF (which is majority owned by Repsol YPF) thereby "allowing the government to share ownership of the company with oil-producing provinces, a spokeswoman for Ms. Kirchner said Monday." What is the pretext for this move formerly associated almost exclusively with lawless, "communist" third world banana republics? Why "hydrocarbon self-sufficiency" of course. How soon until any and every government follows suit in a world in which excess liquidity sloshing around makes expropriation of vital energy producing assets a key prerogative? And how long until the resultant (accelerating) collapse in faith of the monetary system, leads government to declare "monetary self-sufficiency" and confiscate everything that is not nailed down. In exchange for worthless pieces of paper of course. Just to make it "fair". And just to return the favor, the market just sent Argentina CDS up by 60 bps, to just shy of 1000 bps. You know, because it's only "fair."
More on this sad development from the WSJ:
The mismatch in Argentina between rapidly growing energy consumption and languishing oil production after a decade of accelerated economic growth appears to be spurring the country's increasingly aggressive stance on YPF. Consumption of oil and gas increased 38% and 25%, respectively, from 2003 to 2010, but oil and gas production decreased 12% and 2.3% in that period, according to Barclays Capital.
Argentina has had to rely increasingly on costly imports. The energy trade balance swung from a surplus of about $2 billion in 2010 to a deficit of about $3 billion in 2011. Making matters worse, Argentina is increasingly strapped for dollars to pay for energy imports, as it has been coping with a wave of capital flight.
Mrs. Kirchner blames years of declining oil and gas output on companies that she says haven't invested enough. Following her cue, provincial governments in recent weeks have rescinded more than a dozen of YPF's production concessions and unleashed a wave of vitriol against the company.
But critics and industry officials say government policies such as high taxes, price caps on home energy rates and unpredictable rule changes like a suspension of tax breaks on production spending have discouraged investment.
Needless to say, it is all YPF's fault it is being nationalized. As for will determine the value of equitable compensation?
The bill calls for YPF's shareholders to be compensated at a value to be determined by a federal tribunal.
Not just a tribunal, but a tribunal which promises to deliver a fair and equitable transfer of monetary equivalents to those saying goodbye to their real assets.
Incidentally, nationalization always and without fail, lead to a collapse in efficiency, productivity and output. We can't wait to see as more and more commodity producers are "expropriated" only to see their outputs plunge, in the process sending the price of whatever commodities are currently in circulation and/or warehoused through the roof, thus leaving the expropriators far worse off than if they done nothing.
Finally, here are the Repsol YPF shareholders who will be less than delighted with this harbinger of what is to come.
All we can say about the big Spanish bank holders: nothing like being kicked when you are down.