Argentina will not face $16.1 billion YPF judgment in US while it appeals

Argentina's markets react to the result of the country's general elections

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Argentina persuaded a U.S. judge not to enforce a $16.1 billion judgment arising from the government's 2012 seizure of majority control in oil company YPF while the cash-strapped country appeals the judgment.

In a decision on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan agreed to suspend enforcement until Dec. 5 without requiring Argentina to post bond, but said the country must pledge its equity interest in YPF plus some receivables to the plaintiffs.

She also said that because the amount of security being pledged is "minimal," Argentina must expedite its appeal.

The judgment arose from Argentina's April 2012 decision to seize a 51% stake in YPF held by Spain's Repsol, saying underinvestment justified the seizure, without tendering for shares held by minority investors.

Two investors, Petersen Energia and Eton Park Capital Management were awarded the $16.1 billion including interest in September after suing.

Burford Capital funded the litigation and has said it was entitled to 35% and 73% of Petersen's and Eton Park's respective damages.

Lawyers for Argentina and the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Argentina had argued that enforcing the judgment or requiring a bond would "cripple" a country suffering from triple-digit inflation, drought, a weakened currency and a $235 billion debt burden.

Preska said she was "dubious" that Argentina would win its appeal.

She nevertheless said that "particularly in light of the questions of Argentine law decided in this case, the court finds that international comity counsels that the Republic have its day in the court of appeals without the havoc that posting a bond in the full amount might cause."

Argentina's troubled finances were a major factor in Sunday's election, where voters chose Javier Milei, a right-wing libertarian economist, as the country's next president.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Sonali Paul)