El diario británico publicó una entrevista al CEO de YPF. El autor repasa la carrera de Galuccio y destaca su carisma para manejarse en negociaciones con altos funcionarios del mundo, como Vladimir Putin. Relata el avance de YPF en el desarrollo no convencional y en su brazo tecnológico, Y-TEC. El ejecutivo explica que los logros conseguidos en materia de hidrocarburos en la Argentina son una muestra del éxito de trabajar en conjunto entre el sector público y privado, y asume que se necesitan más socios que colaboren con el desarrollo energético del país. La ventaja es que “nuestros inversores están felices”, dice.
Miguel Galuccio’s easy charm is infectious. Even Vladimir Putin broke into a smile during a tête-à-tête earlier this year with the chief executive of YPF, Argentina’s renationalised energy company.
“I asked myself: how am I going to break the ice with this guy?” says Mr Galuccio, recalling how the notoriously severe Russian president’s expression had barely flinched during an official lunch just before their meeting.
But Mr Putin’s stern countenance quickly melted away when Mr Galuccio, who was 47 that day, played his opening gambit. “Mr President, this is my second birthday in Russia. The first was in Siberia. This time I am in the Kremlin, with you. I’m getting better,” joked Mr Galuccio, earning himself a jaunty slap from the Russian leader.
Whether Russia’s Gazprom ends up partnering with YPF to develop Argentina’s vast, untapped shale reserves, as Mr Galuccio hopes, remains to be seen.
But his ability to win the confidence of others has certainly gone a long way in helping him to reach the pinnacle of corporate Argentina, which he achieved when President Cristina Fernández gave him the top job at YPF after the government expropriated a 51 per cent stake in the country’s biggest company from Spain’s Repsol in 2012. “For a president who had taken such a complicated decision as to nationalise a company like YPF, and then put it into the hands of someone who is not a politician and who she doesn’t even know — that’s when I clicked,” said Mr Galuccio, who admits that he had been standoffish when he was first invited to meet the president.
After all, taking the reins at YPF in 2012 following a highly politicised and antagonistic expropriation process was a risky proposition; venomous critics would be waiting to pounce at every false move. And besides, he had been very happy living as what he calls a “global nomad”, moving from the US to Mexico to Indonesia.
At the time he was offered the job at YPF, he was based in London, where he was running a team for Schlumberger, the oil services company, in charge of more than 100 projects around the world. But the petroleum engineer was impressed that Ms Fernández — often derided by her critics as a populist — was convinced that YPF needed to be managed by a professional from the private sector. That sealed his decision: “If it was a risk for me, she was taking a risk that was 10-times greater. And we had a chance to do something really great.”
Mr Galuccio was no stranger to YPF. Indeed, he insists that he would never have taken the job had he not started his career there.
He vividly recounts how chills were sent down his spine when he received a telephone call late one evening while he was a 24-year-old trainee working in Denver, where he knew no one. Although he had eaten, it was an invitation to dinner from a senior figure at YPF with whom he had had a long technical discussion earlier that day, which he was quite convinced had not gone well.
“Today we are going to dine twice,” he excitedly told his wife, who was heavily pregnant with their first child. He accepted the job he was offered over dinner: “It was the most important decision I have ever taken.”
Although going to work out in the field in Comodoro Rivadavia on the inhospitable southern coast of Argentina meant that, to his great dismay, he missed the moment of his son’s birth, it provided essential technical experience that laid the foundations for his career.
Ironically, his first stint at YPF came to an abrupt end when it was acquired by Repsol in 1999, even though the Spanish company chose Mr Galuccio, after a lengthy selection process, as the face of their publicity campaign to relaunch their image in Argentina. A true oil man, Mr Galuccio was disappointed by the lack of oil and gas culture at Repsol, and took a job at Schlumberger instead.
Of course, Mr Galuccio would eventually become the face of YPF again, but only once Repsol had gone. His return was partly thanks to his brother, who persuaded him to advise Sergio Urribarri, the governor of his home province Entre Ríos, about shale — even though, Mr Galuccio points out with a cheeky grin, he had to break it to him that there was no chance that the shale reserves in Entre Ríos would ever be commercially viable during the governor’s political lifetime.
Nevertheless, Mr Urribarri, a close confidant of the president, was so impressed that he put Mr Galuccio’s name forward when candidates were being sought to lead the newly renationalised company, which was founded as a state enterprise in 1922.
Before taking the plunge, Mr Galuccio admits that it was necessary to “align expectations” and be assured that the president shared his vision of YPF as a “hybrid” company — majority-owned by the state, but with a strong private sector culture. Since then, he insists that his success would not have been possible without the support he has received from the president and her inner circle, such as economy minister Axel Kicillof, a former university professor with a special fascination for Karl Marx.
Indeed, the president’s gamble on Mr Galuccio seems to have paid off. Three years on, a declining trend in oil and gas production has been reversed, causing YPF’s profits and share price to soar, while important progress has been made in developing the Vaca Muerta shale formation in Patagonia, which contains some of the largest unconventional energy reserves in the world.
Mr Galuccio is especially proud of the focus on technology that he has brought to YPF, which he says has traditionally been the domain of oil service companies, such as his former employer, Schlumberger.
“In unconventional energy, technology is an extremely important factor. Whoever has that edge can change the future,” he says, jumping out of his chair to show off some special sand that could make “fracking” more efficient, made at his request with polymers in a laboratory by Y-TEC, the company’s research and development arm that he founded.
“YPF is a showcase of what can be done by combining the public and private sectors,” says Mr Galuccio, who argues that the government’s objective to secure energy independence for Argentina does not conflict with the need to create shareholder value. Both require production and reserves to grow, and for that it is necessary to raise capital. “It is clear today that we have helped — and are helping — our country, and also that our investors are happy,” he says.
But this is still only the beginning. Despite impressive results so far, Argentina’s goal of becoming energy self-sufficient remains distant and further jeopardised by the collapse in oil prices over the past year, which is putting a damper on the foreign investment that Argentina so desperately needs for its shale reserves to realise their full potential.
Certainly, the epic nature of his task has not escaped Mr Galuccio. “The importance of YPF for the country transcends its importance as a business,” he says. “YPF could change the history of Argentina.”