Argentine energy giant YPF sticks with $2.7 bln capex plan despite debt woes

BUENOS AIRES, March 12 (Reuters) - Argentine state oil giant YPF said on Friday it would maintain its $2.7 billion 2021 investment plan despite only partially resolving a recent debt crisis, with $1.3 billion of the spending for shale oil and gas production at Vaca Muerta.

The investment represents an 73% increase versus 2020, when the firm suffered a severe blow from the drop in international oil prices and lower demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

YPF, which leads activity in Vaca Muerta, one of the largest shale formations in the world, restructured a portion of its debt last month, but fell well short of a larger plan to free up its financing amid a squeeze from the central bank on access to foreign currency.

“In order to make this ambitious activity recovery plan viable, YPF will maintain strict discipline in managing costs, seeking to improve operational efficiencies,” YPF said in a statement.

Vaca Muerta, the size of Belgium, is the world’s fourth largest unconventional oil reserve and the second largest for gas. YPF said it would drill 180 new wells in the area.

The oil company reported at the beginning of the month that it had a net profit of $539 million in the fourth quarter of 2020, reversing the trend of big losses that it had the rest of last year as a result of the pandemic.

The plan includes investing $800 million in conventional hydrocarbons and $600 million in gas this year. (Reporting by Eliana Raszewski. Writing by Adam Jourdan. Editing by Mark Potter)