* State-controlled YPF warns that inflation may hurt its
* Inflation at about 25 percent, one of world's highest
* Gov't data says consumer prices rising at far lower rate
* IMF has reprimanded Argentina about its data reporting
* Private economists fined for voicing inflation views
By Hugh Bronstein
BUENOS AIRES, April 30 Argentine energy company
YPF warned on Tuesday that inflation in the
South American country may keep rising and affect its results, a
rare admission considering the company is controlled by a
government known for playing down the problem.
President Cristina Fernandez, re-elected in 2011 on promises
of increasing government influence over Latin America's No. 3
economy, has dismissed complaints that galloping prices make
life hard for consumers and the businesses that employ them.
Inflation has been around 25 percent for several years,
according to private estimates, one of the highest rates in the
world. The government says inflation is less than half that, and
has fined economists whose estimates differ from its own.
However, YPF - which was nationalized last year when the
Fernandez administration seized control from Spanish oil company
Repsol - said inflation could get to be a problem.
"In recent years, Argentina has confronted inflationary
pressure," YPF said in a filing to the U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission. The filing went on to describe the conflict
between the official statistics agency and private analysts.
"Increased rates of inflation in Argentina could increase
our cost of operation, and may negatively impact our results,"
YPF added. "There can be no assurance that inflation rates will
not be higher in the future."
YPF officials were not immediately available for further
comment on the company's inflation warning.
The International Monetary Fund has reprimanded Argentina
about its data transparency, and given the country until Sept.
29 to take action.
The World Trade Organization added its voice to the
criticism in March, saying Argentina's restrictive trade
policies could fuel price pressures.
But Fernandez has largely remained defiant while Economy
Minister Hernan Lorenzino has at times appeared tongue-tied on
"I think that, eh, it's a ... Can we cut this off? Sorry,"
Lorenzino said when asked about consumer prices in a documentary
that aired in late April. "Speaking about inflation statistics
in Argentina is complex, OK?"
Also on Tuesday, YPF said it will distribute dividends of
330 million pesos ($63.6 million) this year, up from the 303
million pesos distributed in 2012.
The company reported a net profit of 3.902 billion pesos in
2012, down 12.2 percent from 2011. The dividends to be paid this
year come from last year's earnings, just as those distributed
in 2012 derived from 2011 operations.
YPF, taken over by the government in May 2012, is seeking
private investment of $4.5 billion to finance part of the $32.6
billion it says it needs over the next five years to boost oil