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Brazil Energy Min: Petrobras To Invest $500 Million In Argentina In 2012

BRASILIA -(Dow Jones)- Brazilian state-run energy giant Petroleo Brasileiro (PBR, PETR4.BR), or Petrobras, will invest $500 million in Argentina this year in an effort to boost production, Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao said Friday. Lobao and Argentine Planning Minister Julio de Vido spoke with reporters after a meeting in Brazil's capital, and included Petrobras Chief Executive Maria das Gracas Foster. Lobao said that Petrobras invested about the same amount in Argentina last year. The meeting took place after Argentina's Neuquen province revoked a concession held by the local affiliate of Petrobras, known as Petrobras Argentina SA (PZE, PESA.BA). Argentina's top oil-and-gas-producing provinces have revoked a number of concessions in recent weeks as President Cristina Kirchner tries to force energy companies to invest more in production and exploration. The country also is in the process of expropriating a 51% stake in national oil company YPF from Spain's Repsol (REP). De Vido also said Friday that he will meet with other oil companies next week, including U.S. oil majors Chevron Corp. (CVX), ExxonMobil (XOM), Conoco Phillips (COP) and China's Sinopec. The minister, who will take over as head of YPF under Argentina's nationalization plan, declined to give any details about the meetings. Brazil, however, "trusts" its relationship with the Argentine government and doesn't see any risk that Petrobras's assets in the country will also be nationalized, Lobao said. The investments planned by Petrobras are aimed at boosting the company's share of the Argentine market to 15% in coming years, up from about 8% currently, Lobao said. -By Jeffrey T. Lewis and Jeff Fick, Dow Jones Newswires; 55-21-2586-6085;

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