3. Cristina Plays Peron
Don't cry for Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, she just grabbed herself an oil company!
Sorry, but it's hard not to hear the strains of Evita whenever the popular -- and populist -- Cristina takes center stage as she did this week when she moved to re-nationalize the country's largest oil company.And come to think of it, the ideal song from the Tony-winning musical that best sums up her push to take back YPF (YPF) may be "Oh What a Circus," because her ridiculous ploy has created quite the sideshow indeed. Fernandez's plan, currently being debated by the country's Congress, would give Argentina a majority stake in YPF by taking control of 51% of its shares currently held by Spain's Repsol. Shares of YPF tanked over 30% Wednesday and are down over 70% in the past year, despite oil prices moving drastically higher and the company's discovery of a huge shale deposit in the western part of the country. Shares of Repsol have plummeted over 15% in the past week as a result of the Argentine threat. Of course, YPF's inability to capitalize on its reserves is most certainly not the fault of her government's haphazard energy policies. No, in Cristina's eyes, the fact that Argentina's populace is suffering through double-digit inflation and an energy shortage, despite the country's role as an oil-producing nation, is the fault of Repsol's "emptying" YPF. YPF, for the record, was privatized in the 1990s and Repsol's subsidiary in Argentina holds 57% of its shares. Repsol's Chairman Antonio Brufau said the Spain-based group will demand a compensation of approximately $10 billion from Argentina for its aggressive behavior. Cristina, on the other hand, is telling the now-irate Spaniards that they'll take what she gives them. Why? Because that's what her late husband, former President Nestor Kirchner, is telling her to do. "I hope he's watching over me because he always wanted to recover YPF for the country," said Argentina's President, who added, "I am a head of state and not a hoodlum." Perhaps Cristina, but you are also not Madonna. And when Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez applauds your act, as he did this week, you should seriously consider changing your tune. Argentina is already shut out of international debt markets because of the country's 2001 default and this latest in a string of nationalization initiatives will only keep foreign capital further away when you need it the most. Listen, we understand that you have a very mad existence down there, but if there is one thing we know, it's that when you break promises to international investors, they will keep their distance. Wait! That sounds familiar, doesn't it? Maybe if we hum it we'll recognize it.
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