(Adds details on Capex cut, bond issuance, labor talks, share price)
By Richard Lough and Juliana Castilla
BUENOS AIRES, March 4 (Reuters) - Argentina’s YPF will cut capital expenditure by at least 20-25 percent this year to mitigate the impact of the global oil price rout, the state-controlled firm said on Friday, sending its shares lower.
In a clear acknowledgement that the global downturn was hurting the exploration of one of the world’s largest untapped shale resources, YPF said it was putting rigs into standby mode and forecast tough discussions with labor unions.
“We do not see a meaningful production growth this year,” Chief Executive Officer Miguel Galuccio told an investor conference call.
Asked if the reduction in investments could be more severe, Galuccio said: “20 percent is a starting point. If we need to go down further, we will.”
YPF shares traded at 282.00 pesos at 12.58 p.m. (1058 ET), down 1.4 percent on Thursday’s close.
Galuccio’s chief financial officer, Daniel Gonzalez, said Argentina’s largest petroleum producer was considering a single bond issuance on international markets this year but added there was no clarity on timing. He did not say how much would be issued.
A depreciating peso currency and cut in the government-fixed price of domestically-produced oil helped shunt YPF into the red in the fourth quarter, with the company posting a 1.70 billion pesos loss.
Galuccio forecast the local price for crude oil, set artificially high at $67.50 per barrel, would hold steady in the near future. Even so, he said the low international oil price would require a reduction in exploration activity and “more effort on the cost side” from YPF.
YPF said 20 rigs had been put into standby by December and that the number of rigs now operating in Vaca Muerta stood at 11 from 17 last year.
Local newspapers cited the leader of major oil workers trade union saying YPF was studying 2,000 job cuts.
The executives acknowledged that “difficult” conversations loomed. “We are discussing with the unions the way we can handle this without having a major impact on the workers,” said Galuccio.
Covering an area the size of Belgium, Vaca Muerta was a geologically more complex shale resource than most U.S. fields but was becoming better understood, Galuccio said
He anticipated the cost of drilling horizontal wells in Vaca Muerta would fall to $10 million per well this year from $13 million last year. (Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)