According to filings with the Spanish market regulator, Antonio Gomis, who was responsible for YPF on behalf of Repsol, sold 9,424 shares in the company in November last year, four days after the discovery of the vast Vaca Muerta shale gasfield that set in motion the events that led up to the expropriation.
The sale on November 11 also came nine days after a YPF board meeting where Roberto Baratta, the Argentine government’s director in the company, had expressed his opposition to the company paying the 7.15 peso dividend that had been proposed.
The shares sold by Mr Gomis fetched an average price of €22.07 for a total of €207,987. He continues to hold a stake of 6,585 shares in Repsol.
After January, when the government of Cristina Fernández began to send increasingly strong signals that it would take action against YPF, later revoking some of its licences, the value of Repsol shares fell sharply.
Following the nationalisation, Repsol has traded at about €14 a share, or 35 per cent below the price realised by Mr Gomis.
Repsol said Mr Gomis had acted lawfully and in accordance with the company’s code of ethics in what was a private transaction.
Mr Gomis was not allowed to sell shares before November 11, as this was the first day following Repsol’s quarterly results, and the end of a closed period.
Since 2008 YPF had been following a policy of paying out 90 per cent of profits in dividends, which had been reinforced by loan clause agreements between Repsol and the Argentine Petersen Group, which controls 25 per cent of the subsidiary.
As part of a deal in 2008, Repsol agreed to pay the Petersen Group, controlled by the Argentine Eskenazi family, $500m and buy back the holding if Repsol’s stake in YPF fell below 50.01 per cent, or YPF ever lowered its dividend below 90 per cent of annual profits – clauses that have attracted attention from analysts and investors since the nationalisation.
The Eskenazi family has since made it clear to Repsol that it does not intend to trigger the clauses that would force the Spanish company to buy back its shares, people familiar with the situation said.
Repsol saw its stake in YPF cut from 57 per cent to 6 per cent after Buenos Aires seized 51 per cent of its shares, meaning that the company would technically be in breach of the clause preventing it from losing control.
However, as the agreement was subject to Spanish law, Repsol argues that the nationalisation counts as a force majeure event, which it believes means it has not broken any of its obligations to the Petersen Group.
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