Billionaire eyes investment in Argentina energy or mining

James Packer. Credit: Sky News Australia via YouTube

Australian billionaire James Packer is considering an investment in Argentina’s energy or mining sectors, according to people familiar with the matter.

Packer explored investment options during a dinner late last year at a race track in Buenos Aires with businessmen and politicians including Economy Minister Sergio Massa, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss private details.

He inherited a multibillion dollar business empire when his father Kerry died in 2005 and is flush with funds after last year’s sale of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd. to Blackstone Inc. for almost A$9 billion ($6.4 billion). Packer owned more than one third of Crown.

A representative for Packer’s private investment company wasn’t available to comment by phone and didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the possible investment.

Foreign investment has become somewhat rare in Argentina amid a slew of interventionist policies, including capital controls, and annual inflation near 100%. Massa, the country’s fifth economy minister in four years, is looking to turn the economy around and is expected to be a presidential contender in October’s elections should he succeed. Some investors are anticipating that a new administration would improve the business climate in the resource-rich country.

Argentina’s oil and gas sector is already gaining attention thanks to plans to expand pipeline capacity that would help heralded shale patch Vaca Muerta to unleash its potential.

A program with the International Monetary Fund to overhaul how Argentina charges for power also makes that industry more attractive. Italy’s Enel SpA is selling all of its Argentine assets, including a power plant and electricity distributor in Buenos Aires.

In mining, Argentina has emerged as one of the most exciting prospects to produce lithium coveted by battery makers for the global transition to cleaner power and electric vehicles. Miners in the Argentine Andes are also hurrying to unearth copper, another key metal needed for adoption of renewables.

(By Jonathan Gilbert, with assistance from Angus Whitley)


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