MADRID, May 31 (Reuters) - Spanish oil company Repsol will seek punitive damages from Argentina for the seizure of its Argentine energy unit YPF, its chairman warned, in a move backed by fuming shareholders on Thursday.
Fresh demands would step up the stakes in a potentially long legal battle. Repsol has already sued Argentina for $10 billion in compensation over the seizure of its majority stake in YPF in mid-April, in a case that could drag on in arbitration and the courts for years.
“This was an act of piracy,” Repsol shareholder Rafael Gonzalez said at the company’s annual meeting in Madrid, pleading with Chairman Antonio Brufau to keep up the fight against Argentina.
Repsol’s shares have lost almost half their value so far this year, hit by Argentine president Cristina Fernandez’s expropriation of its 51 percent stake in YPF on April 16. Fernandez contends that the Spanish company did not invest enough.
Repsol has also taken steps to file a complaint at the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), though analysts noted Argentina’s track record in ignoring past ICSID fines.
Brufau opened the door to negotiations with Argentina to reach an agreement suitable to both sides and avoid a drawn-out court battle.
“It’s not good for Argentina to have a lawsuit of this magnitude for years, so the best would be for us to sit down and negotiate,” Brufau told shareholders.
Repsol unveiled a four-year strategic plan earlier this week, pledging heavy investment in its exploration business in a bid to recover from the blow of the loss of YPF. (Reporting By Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Will Waterman)