Argentina's State-Oil Company to Sell Bonds Ending Two-Month Debt Drought

(Bloomberg) -- Argentine’s state-controlled oil company YPF SA has asked banks to submit proposals for a bond sale in the second half of the year to fund an aggressive growth plan for its power unit.

YPF Energia Electrica SA will try to sell at least $500 million of bonds as it seeks to double its generation capacity by 2020, according to two people with direct knowledge of the plan, who asked not to be named as talks are private.

YPF declined to comment.

This is the latest step in the company’s plan to turn its power unit, which will be re-branded as YPF Luz in the coming days, into Argentina’s third-largest energy generator. In March, YPF sold a 24.99 percent stake in the business for $275 million to General Electric Co. Negotiations for a third partner -- previously identified as Blackstone Group by people familiar -- have so far failed to materialize.

YPF Chairman Miguel Angel Gutierrez said in June there were no active talks for another partner, though one could be brought in as YPF Luz grows, adding that a stock-market listing was also a possibility.

Business Plan

YPF Luz is looking to invest $2 billion in renewable and thermal projects through 2020. The company is currently the fifth-largest producer in Argentina, with 1,800 megawatts generation capability with 270 employees. The two largest generators are Central Puerto SA and Pampa Energia SA.

Once YPF Luz receives offers from banks, a debt sale may take place as soon as August, the people said. The company may seek to sell more than $500 million of bonds, two of the people said, adding that market conditions for Argentine companies right now make sales that large difficult.

"It’s good to be ready to issue, but going out right now doesn’t seem a good alternative for the company," TPCG analyst Florencia Mayorga Torres said by phone. "I can imagine they will wait until at least the fourth quarter to sell, hoping the market sentiment regarding Argentina improves."

Most Prolific

YPF is Argentina’s most prolific bond issuer, with 35 debt securities currently outstanding, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Its most actively traded bond, $1.5 billion of 8.5 percent senior unsecured notes maturing in 2025, yields around 8.9 percent after spiking to a high of 9.74 percent last month. With $1.2 billion in dollar-denominated bonds and other financing due in 2018, YPF may also have to come to market with another bond offering soon.

If YPF’s bond sale takes place, it may put an end to a company-debt drought that started after Transportadora de Gas del Sur SA sold $500 million of seven-year bonds to yield 6.8 percent on April 26. The drought has been so severe that Argentina’s biggest company, Telecom Argentina SA, has postponed a $1 billion bond sale four times on market volatility.

The increase in borrowing costs has also been a result of the decision by Argentina, Latin America’s third-largest market, to go to the International Monetary Fund to request a $50 billion credit facility to insure debt repayment. On June 13, the lender of last resort summarized its view on Argentina’s repay ability saying "the federal debt is sustainable but not with a high probability."

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.