(Adds comments from interview with executives starting in paragraph 4)
By Juliana Castilla and Christian Plumb
BUENOS AIRES/NEW YORK, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Argentina’s state-controlled energy company YPF plans to invest $21.5 billion in the country from 2018 to 2022 and increase oil production by 26 percent as it considers reshuffling its generation, distribution and refinery assets.
Investment in Argentina’s energy sector by companies in partnership with YPF is projected at $8.5 billion during the period, bringing total expected investment to $30 billion through 2022, the company said.
By the end of that time Argentina’s largest oil and gas producer expects to have drilled 1,600 new oil and natural gas wells, it said.
YPF executives said in an interview in New York that part of the $8.5 billion will come in the form of a capital injection into the company’s power generation business, which will be spun off as part of the process.
“You might see hopefully soon a new partner coming into our YPF power subsidiary – we are not in a position to disclose who,” said Chief Financial Officer Daniel Gonzalez.
Press reports have previously said General Electric Co is the most likely partner for the business.
The power sector transaction is just one of several the company may consider in coming years including a potential sale of its stake in gas distributor Metrogas, for which Citi has been mandated to consider “strategic options,” he said.
YPF will also be closely watching Brazilian state-owned cohort Petrobras’ plan to spin off its fuel distribution arm in the coming months as well as its potential deals in refining and other areas.
“We may look at a number of opportunities of reshuffling the portfolio across different business lines,” YPF Chairman Miguel Gutierrez told Reuters.
YPF is the main company exploring the shale formation of Vaca Muerta in Patagonia, which Argentina is counting on to help it become a net oil exporter after years of running an expensive energy deficit.
The formation is expected to keep drawing interest from oil majors as well as private equity firms and may also see investments from several independent oil and gas companies, which explore for and produce crude, but do not refine it, Gutierrez said.
“They are starting to knock on the door and understand the situation,” he said.
Attracting investment to develop Vaca Muerta is a priority for Argentina’s business-friendly President Mauricio Macri, who took office in December 2015. Macri has implemented a number of free-market reforms, including the reduction of costly subsidies for home gas and electricity consumption. (Reporting by Juliana Castilla Christian Plumb; additional reporting by Hugh Bronstein and Jessica Resnick-Ault; Editing by Susan Thomas and Grant McCool)