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Argentina offers sweetener to firms investing in natgas

Companies that participate in Argentina’s natural gas production plan will have free access to the official foreign exchange market, the central bank announced, opening a loophole in tight capital controls that have been in place for more than a year.

Companies that participate in the South American country’s so-called “Gas Plan” will be permitted to tap the exchange market for the repatriation of investments, income and for the maturities of debt for investments made as of Nov. 16, the bank said in a statement.

“The Board of Directors of the Central Bank of the Argentine Republic approved the conditions for free access to the exchange market of companies that participate in the Plan for the Promotion of Natural Gas Production 2020-2024...,” the bank said in a statement.

President Alberto Fernández called on energy firms in October to invest some $5 billion as part of the South American country’s plan to boost hydrocarbon production and generate jobs, as well as to bring in much-needed foreign currency.

Since August 2019, Argentina has had strict currency controls in place aimed at protecting foreign reserves, after a steep collapse of the peso currency. The limited access to dollars in the official market has led to a gap with alternative rates that has reached more than 40%.

(Reporting by Adam Jourdan and Eliana Raszewski; writing by Cassandra Garrison Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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