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Argentina energy firm Axion to invest $1.5 bln to expand plant - finmin

(Adds details on IFC financing for Axion plant expansion)

BUENOS AIRES, May 24 (Reuters) - Argentine energy firm Axion Energy, partially owned by China's CNOOC Ltd (HKSE: 0883.HK - news) , will invest $1.5 billion to expand a local refinery, Argentina's Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay said on Tuesday.

The International Finance Corporation, the private sector lending arm of the World Bank, will provide financing of $378 million for the project, which is expected to create some 1,600 jobs in its construction phase, Prat-Gay said.

The investment, which was reported this month by Project Finance International, a Thomson Reuters (Dusseldorf: TOC.DU - news) publication, is aimed at upgrading refining capacity at the Campana Refinery, which is located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Buenos Aires.

The financing package consists of an eight-year, $78 million loan from the IFC and a $300 million loan raised by IFC from several commercial banks, including ICBC (HKSE: 1398-OL.HK - news) , BBVA (LSE: 931474.L - news) , Credit Agricole (Swiss: ACA.SW - news) and Citibank.

Axion, which is partially owned by private Argentine oil and gas company Bridas Corporation, has already invested around $600 million towards upgrades for the refinery since 2013.

President Mauricio Macri took office in December promising to reboot Latin America's third-largest economy after more than a decade of interventionist Peronist policies which fueled high inflation, weak growth and a yawning fiscal deficit.

IFC has committed over $1.3 billion to financing projects in Argentina over the past 12 months, becoming the largest international source of financing to the country's private sector during this period.

In a separate statement, consumer goods giant Unilever (Amsterdam: UZ8.AS - news) said it plans to invest 4.82 billion pesos ($343.53 million) from 2016 to 2019 to boost capacity at its local factories. ($1 = 14.0310 Argentine pesos) (Reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi, Nicolas Misculin, and Anthony Esposito; Writing by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Bernard Orr and Alan Crosby)

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