FiNETIK – Asia and Latin America – Market News Network

Asia and Latin America News Network focusing on Financial Markets, Energy, Environment, Commodity and Risk, Trading and Data Management

Latin America: Investors News Letter 14 March 2013

Top Ranking Banks in Latin America
After a decade of unusual success, the LatAm banking sector has slowed its growth
The year 2011 closed with disturbing news. Banco Santander decided to sell its subsidiary in Colombia, which finally Chile’s Corp Group bought for US$1.225 million. At the time, the chairman of Santander, Emilio Botin, said the measure was taken to “strengthen the balance sheet” of the crestfallen Spanish giants. As he explained, “Our market share in commercial banking in Colombia is far from the 10% which we aspired to get in the markets where we operate.” …

LatAm Hedge Fund Experts Weigh In
On the Current Political and Economic Context
Though 2011 and 2012 have been strong years for LatAm hedge funds, particularly relative to other regions, the political and Workings macroeconomic context in which local managers are investing has been fraught with complicated developments.  For instance, the slowdown in China has affected commodities markets, the lifeblood of many of the region …

Investors Ditch Brazil For Mexico, Colombia

Gramercy Adds to Latin America Private Equity Investment Team

IFC Invests $100M in Energy for Caribbean, Latin America

Brazil

2013 Oil & Gas Industry Perspectives  Brazil
Brazil is heralded as the largest and most significant new oil and gas prospect of the last few decades. However, there is still a long way to go to realize the promise of a new non-OPEC stable source of supply in the top 5 world oil producers by 2020. Progress toward this ambitious target has been slow in the last year, as project development, execution and political risks have taken their toll …

Brazil Real Drops on Speculation Credit Rating May Be Lowered

First meetings on Guyana-Brazil infrastructure project begins

Paraná green lights process to start Paranaguá port infrastructure works in Brazil

ETF investors avoid Brazil

Brazil Seeks Recipe to Attract Investors at Lower Cost

Brazil May Be Next Health-Care Frontier for Global Investors

Troubled Brazil fund Laep to sell 40 mln new shares-filing

BTG Pactual shuts macro hedge fund to new money

Argentina

Argentina Is Replaying Another Inflationary Collapse

Mining investment in Argentina grows 72% despite risky business climate

Fernandez Angers Investors While Ducking Argentine Austerity

Colombia

Foreign direct investment in Colombia seen down in 2013

Chile

Top LatAm selector on working Chile’s red tape

Banchile builds with Fidessa’s sell-side trading platform and connectivity network

Costa Rica

Costa Rica Constructing $96M Oil Terminal

Peru
Peru announces major upgrade to Lima’s water infrastructure

Peru’s Private Pension Funds Want Higher External Investment Limit

Qatar “looks favorably upon” investment-friendly Peru

Peru’s Private Pension Funds Want Higher External Investment Limit

Velarde Says Peru May Allow Pension Funds to Invest More Abroa

Venezuela

Venezuela to Create New Parallel Exchange Rate, Ramirez Says

Venezuela will establish a new parallel exchange rate as it seeks to crack down on a black market in which the dollar is worth about four times more than the official rate, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said.

Filed under: Argentina, Banking, Brazil, Central America, Chile, Colombia, Latin America, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Latin America: Investor News Letter 18 January 2013

Mexico
Mexican Peso Slides on Carstens Hint at Interest-Rate ReductionMexico’s peso fell the most in four weeks after central bankers signaled that a further slowdown in inflation could prompt them to lower interest rates.
Nieto seeks to open Mexican energy sector
Los Tres Amigos: Positioning Your Portfolio In Mexican Peso Denominated Deb
Most U.S. funds missed Mexico gains, Brazil drop in 2012
Japanese investments in Mexico steady
Region completes work on international infrastructure project with Mexico

Brazil
Brazil’s Real Declines on Inflow Concern; Swap Rates Climb
Brazil: Daylight piracy
“SQUEEGEE merchants of the seas”: that is the nickname shipping companies have bestowed on the pilots who guide ships into Brazilian ports. Their legal monopoly and unregulated fees place them among the country’s highest earners: 150,000 reais ($73,500) a month, estimates the shipowners’ association. It costs twice the OECD average to import a container to Brazil, says the World Bank—and since that excludes bribes and fees for go-betweens, the true figure is surely greater.
Brazil Seeks Private Partners to Operate Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte Airports
Brazil announces regional airport infrastructure investment plans
Brazil aviation faces turbulence after rapid ascent
Brazil ports starved of investment, buried in red tape-group
Guyana, Brazil sign on to infrastructure plan
Brazilian municipality of São Bernardo do Campo to improve sustainable urban mobility with loan from IDB

Latin America
Argentina: Tax & Estate Planning
Argentina rapidly changing oil/gas industry levies to attract foreign investment
Bolivia takes over Spanish-owned Iberdrola energy suppliers
Colombia: ANI to launch four new public infrastructure concessions valued at US$1.95bn
Colombian Peso Advances on Foreign Investment Outlook
Chile: First Solar Stakes Claim in Latin America
Peru’s investment opportunities attracts Qatar’s firms Peru: Infrastructure gap put at $88bn
Peru-based AFPs invest over US$3.5bln in infrastructure
Cement Industry Figures In Peru: Btg Pactual Begins Coverage Of Cpac With A Buy Recommendation
Peru to invest over US$701mln in access infrastructure projects
Peru: Ezentis shifts focus to Latin America, helped by $64M Telefónica Peru contract
Peruvian entrepreneurs expect investment to continue growing in 2013
Venezuela: What Hugo Chavez’s Illness Means for Venezuelan Mining

Latin America and Caribbean PhotoVoltaic Demand Growing 45% Annually Out To 2017 
Latin American ports record strong performance in 2012
South America: A Powerhouse, Not a Circus
10 Latin American startups to look out for in 2013

Filed under: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Energy & Environment, Japan, Latin America, Mexico, News, Peru, Risk Management, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Latin America: Investors Newsletter 15 June 2012

Petrobras Is Worst Big Oil Investment on Deepwater Disappointments: Energy   Petroleo Brasileiro SA is the worst investment among the world’s biggest oil companies this year as Brazil’s state-controlled producer suffers delays and cost overruns developing the largest oil finds in more than a decade.

Iusacell, Telefonica to challenge Mexico’s Slim America Movil  – Iusacell and Spain’s Telefonica said on Wednesday they have reached a deal to share their infrastructure in Mexico as they seek to mount a

FX swings may stir debt investors in Mexico, Peru  Mexico, Peru debt mkts most vulnerable to outflows in Latam. * Peru acting to curb FX, Mexico avoiding intervention.

Mexico’s Slim family (Grupo Carso) takes stake in Argentina YPF nationalized enegy company Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim and his family have taken a stake in Argentina’s recently renationalized energy company YPF in lieu of a loan guarantee, ..

Filed under: Argentina, Brazil, Energy & Environment, Latin America, Mexico, News, Risk Management, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Latin America: Investors Newsletter 13 April 2012- Alternative Latin Investor

Alternative bioenergy M&A picks up steam in LatAm
-
Ethanol deals wait for better days

Alternative bioenergy crops could drive the next big wave of M&A in Latin America, much like sugarcane drove activity during the ethanol boom in the early 2000s, according to industry sources.

European Bank Crisis
-How will it affect Latin America?

European banks provide 45% of all the external credit lines to LatAm. Could a pullback from their international lending activities affect the operations of LatAm companies?

Other News from Latin America

LatAm tops for emerging Private Equity 

UBS Promotes LatAm Dealmaker 

Latin America’s Start Ups Expand: From Silicon Valley to Tequila Valley 

GM urges Latin America to honor trade pacts 

Private Equity Poised For Gains In Brazil On Growth Ahead 

Brazil Stocks Erase Gains, Slump On Foreign Investor Exit

Mexican firm eyeing Cuba offshore oil projects

Mexico steps out of Brazil’s shadow

Chile LAN-Brazil TAM Tie-Up Co Seen Having 2014 Revenue Of $17.5 Billion

YPF Jumps on Report Argentina Seeks Control: Buenos Aires Move

Investors Should Say Goodbye Argentina

Peru Central Bank Buys $668 Million to Stem Sol Gain: Lima Mover

Uruguay’s Credit Rating Returned to Investment Grade by S&P

Fitch revises outlook on 5 Venezuelan banks to negative

Ecuador Chosen as Best Overseas Residential Investment Market

 

Source: Alternative  Latin Investor, 13.04.2012

Filed under: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Latin America, Mexico, Peru, Risk Management, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kroll LATAM Risk Report August 2010: Money Laundring, Mobile Banking, Mexican Security, Brazilian Litigations

MONEY LAUNDERING  Banks on High Alert

Throughout much of Latin America and the Caribbean, banks and other financial institutions are getting tougher on money laundering. For the bad guys, the game of cat-and-mouse continues, as they jump from one country to another, looking for the weakest link in the chain. GO TO FULL STORY

BANKING & TELECOM  Mexico The Regulator as Hero

Mexico’s unheralded decision to design rules for mobile banking is a major milestone on the road to including millions of unbanked and underserved Latin Americans in the financial system and the formal economy. GO TO FULL STORY

Mexico Corporate Security

An annual survey conducted by Kroll and the American Chamber reveals a higher sense of insecurity among business executives at multinational and Mexican corporations. The safety of employees and executives remains the top concern for corporate heads of security. GO TO FULL STORY

CORPORATE LAW Challenging Sham Litigation  in Brazil

A Brazilian regulatory agency takes on Germany’s Siemens for alleged anti-competitive practices in a case that is likely to set an important precedent for regulators and the courts in protecting free market competition.  GO TO FULL STORY

Source: KROLL, 06.08.2010

Filed under: Brazil, Central America, Chile, Colombia, Latin America, Mexico, News, Peru, Risk Management, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ETF: BlackRock ETF Industry Review Latin America Industry Review – Year End 2009

BlackRock has just published its Latin America Industry Review Year End 2009 report. This report is a review of the Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and Exchange Traded Products (ETPs) listed globally.

At the end of 2009 the Latin American ETF industry had 17 locally domiciled ETFs, 211 exchange listings, and assets of US$9.84 Bn from three providers on two exchanges.

There are 169 ETFs cross listed in Mexico at the end of December 2009 from eight providers, while there are 340 ETFs registered for sale in Chile from 10 providers, and 277 ETFs registered for sale in Peru from 12 providers.

Read full report of BlackRock_ETF_Latin_America_Review_2009

Source:MondoVisione, 05.03.2010

Filed under: Argentina, BM&FBOVESPA, BMV - Mexico, Brazil, Central America, Chile, Colombia, Exchanges, Latin America, Mexico, News, Peru, Services, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jim Rogers’ Crystal Ball on Latin America and China

The legendary investment guru and long-time commodities booster shares his views on the global economy, the commodity bull market and how Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and other Latin American economies will hold up in 2010 and beyond.

Ian McCluskey, Miami, Kroll – Tendencias January 2010

Alabama-raised Jim Rogers is perhaps best known as co-founder, with George Soros, of the Quantum Fund, which made him a wealthy man by his mid-30’s. But that was 30 years ago. Since then, he has circumnavigated the globe on a motorcycle and in a souped-up yellow Mercedes, written several best-selling books, and made countless millions more investing and dishing out advice in his customary blunt, yet southern gentlemanly manner.

A regular face on financial news networks and at investment summits the world over, Rogers – his timing impeccable — pulled up stakes in Manhattan in late 2007, selling his Riverside Drive mansion for a record $15 million just as the real estate market began to sour. He now makes his home in Singapore, while running his business out of a law office in downtown Miami. Rogers spoke with Kroll Tendencias in late December during a brief stopover.

Like other soothsayers, Rogers is bullish on much of South America. He foresees a great future for Colombia, but is not smitten by Brazil’s long-term prospects. Rogers, whose Rogers’ International Commodities Index (RICI) provides a compass for investment funds worldwide, predicts that the commodity bull market has another 10 years or so to run its course. He expects gold to hit $2,000 an ounce and oil to reach $200 a barrel sometime this decade.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation.

The Global Economy At least in the first half of 2010, he global economy will be better than in 2008 or 2009, but I would worry about 2011 and 2012, because governments are printing and spending so much money. We’re still in an ongoing economic problem that started in 2000 or 2001. We’ll see it get better for a little while, but over the next couple of years, things will not be better than they were in 2007, and perhaps never will be, in some countries.

Commodity Prices If the world economy gets better, commodity prices will go up because of shortages and, if the economy does not get better, commodities will still go up because governments are printing so much money. Will commodities go up in 2010?  I have no idea. If there is some big surprise – if the U.K. goes bankrupt, if America invades Iran — everything will go down for a while. But whatever happens, I expect commodities to be among the best places to be in 2010.

Crises on the Horizon I don’t foresee any critical events that will impact commodities in 2010. I would expect there to be a currency crisis or semi-crisis in the next year or two. I don’t think many people expect it, except me.

Bubbles in the Making Some emerging markets may be over-priced, but that does not mean a bubble. That’s just being expensive. Every market gets over-priced one time or another in any given year. The only bubble I see developing anywhere in the world is in the U.S. bond market, the long-term government bond market. I cannot conceive of lending to the U.S. government for 30 years in U.S. dollars at 3, 4, 5 or even 6% interest. It’s just mind-boggling to me.

Outlook for Latin America I am much more optimistic about most of Latin America, especially South America, than I am about North America, with the exception of Canada. I am more optimistic about parts of Latin America than I am about much of Europe. And that’s partly because of all the natural resources. South America is a commodity story.

Gushing over Colombia It looks like there will be real peace in Colombia and, if so, that would be one of the phenomenal opportunities of our time, because they have it all. Colombia’s been at war for, what, 30 years, 40 years? Any time you can get to a country shortly after a war ends, there are usually enormous opportunities because everything is so cheap. There’s not much energy, not much capital, not much optimism, still a lot of malaise. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. And Colombia has natural resources – coal, oil, agriculture – and, of course, it could become a tourist destination again. Terrific country. (Note: Last summer, after Sri Lanka declared an end to its long-running civil war, Rogers paid a visit to look around. “I didn’t buy anything yet,” he says.)

Not Sold on Brazil Whenever commodities have done well, Brazil has done extremely well. People get excited about Brazil, they start talking about the new Brazil, but then the bear market comes back to commodities, and the same old thing happens – [Brazil] prints money, inflation, military problems, military coups – and I suspect that will happen again, perhaps in 20 years or so. Right now, of course, things are great. Brazil’s economy is commodity-based and commodities are going through the roof. Do not get me wrong; I’m just suggesting that I have heard this story before about the great new Brazil.

Brazil’s President Lula The country is run by a socialist, but nobody really wants to be a socialist any more, and the ones that do want to be rich socialists. [Lula] came in in 2002 just as the bull market was gathering steam, so he looks like a genius.

More Attractive South America
Chile is doing well, even Uruguay. I’m still optimistic about Peru, too. It’s got a lot of natural resources and a reasonably good government. It, too, had a long war. Look around South America and, other than Venezuela and perhaps Ecuador, there are better things happening than before. But, again, whenever there’s a boom in commodities, if you’re a commodity country, you look better, you feel better. There’s nothing like having lots of money in the bank, lots of income, to make countries feel better and more attractive.

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop in Argentina (Note: In a November 2000 article in AmericaEconomia magazine, Rogers famously announced that, after driving around Argentina for several weeks, he was liquidating his remaining investments in the country and encouraged everyone else to do the same.)  The good on the horizon in Argentina is that things have gotten so much worse over the last seven years or so, that we are getting closer to a bottom. I’m not putting a single peso back into Argentina and have not done so since the [the 2001 debt default] because their governments – I don’t know how they do it – it’s astonishing how bad they can be. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop — another default, another debt crisis or whatever it might be. Argentina is a great agricultural nation, but they tell their farmers “You can’t export your stuff.” What they desperately need is foreign exchange and yet they say “We’re not going to earn any foreign exchange.” It’s stupefying how hopeless they can be at times.

Wary about Mexico Mexico has some huge problems. Forty percent of its income comes from oil but the oil is depleting at a very rapid rate. And of the country’s 100 million people, they are mainly young people.  I suspect you’ll see serious problems in Mexico over the next decade because young people get agitated pretty easily. If the government faces serious economic problems because they don’t have any money any more, Mexico could boil over.

China’s LatAm Connection China sees huge shortages of raw materials developing. The Chinese are not just going to Latin America. They are all over Central Asia, Africa. They are buying up everything in sight, because they know what’s coming. They are going where the commodities are and are willing to pay proper prices. And, in most countries the Chinese don’t tell the locals what to do. They say “Here’s your money, now let’s develop those mines, or grow those cops.” Most countries seem to be welcoming the Chinese with open arms.

Commodities Trading in China (Note: China’s Dalian Commodities Exchange recently invited Rogers to become its first foreign advisor.)  The main problem with doing anything with the Chinese as far as exchanges are concerned, is that their currency is blocked. You cannot trade the currency. It’s illegal for me to buy and sell commodities in China because I am not Chinese. Even if a foreigner could invest on the commodities exchange in China, the currency is still blocked. Not many people are going to take their money to China if they can’t get it out. Some companies, like Cargill, have licenses to trade but there aren’t many. If and when China does open up to foreign investors, I suspect China would become the largest commodities trading exchange in Asia, perhaps even in the world.

Hugo Chavez’ Perennial Threat to Stop Selling Oil to the U.S. and Sell Instead to China Chavez could conceivably do it, but oil is oil. It’s not like we’re talking about Picassos. Even if Chavez told the U.S. “We’re not going to sell you oil any more,” who cares? We’ll buy it somewhere else. There would be a temporary dislocation in the market. Some refineries would suffer, some ships would suffer, but it would all be re-jiggered. Chavez has to sell his oil somewhere; he can’t simply stop selling. So that oil is still in the market. If he sells it to China instead of America, those who were selling to China would now sell to the America. Oil’s a fungible product.

The author: Ian McCluskey ( imccluskey@kroll.com ) is Editor of Kroll Tendencias, a monthly online thought leadership platform that focuses on business trends and business challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean. Articles are produced by Kroll consultants and other thought leaders in the region.

Source: Kroll – Tendencias January 2010

Filed under: Argentina, Asia, Brazil, Central America, Chile, China, Colombia, Latin America, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

China Latin America: The decade of the Panda?

Before China can deliver on its promise of massive investments in Latin America, Chinese companies need to overcome their fear of Latin American volatility and political risk.  And Latin America needs to prepare more cross-border suitors to bridge the cultural divide.

John Price, Shanghai –  Kroll Tendencias, January 2010

When President Hu Jintao toured Latin American capitals in November 2004, he predicted that trade and investment flows between China and Latin America would both surpass $100 billion within a decade.  His forecasts turned out to be too conservative on trade but naively ambitious regarding the flow of Chinese investment to Latin America.  Two-way trade topped $140 billion in 2008 but, according to Shanghai’s SinoLatin Capital Analysis, accumulated Chinese investment in the region at the end of 2008 stood at a meager $12 billion, considerably less than the foreign direct investment into Latin America from the U.S. state of Michigan.

What the booming trade figures underscore is the growing dependency between China and resource-rich Latin America and the compelling logic of partnership.  The disappointing investment flow levels, on the other hand, reflect the many challenges in bringing together two utterly different cultural, political, business and legal systems, in spite of the economic imperative to do so.   The missing actor, whose absence has prevented the marriage of the Latin American suitor and the Chinese bride, is the proverbial marriage broker — the bi-cultural professional class of bankers, lawyers, and consultants that can construct and maintain cross-border investments.

It takes time to develop effective marriage brokers in global business, but progress is being made.  As his company’s name would suggest, Erik Bethel, principal of private equity firm Sino-Latin Capital in Shanghai, is one such cross-border broker.  Bethel recognizes the potential of Latin America to Chinese investors and is gambling his professional career on that promise.  Born in Miami to Cuban parents, educated in the Ivy League of U.S. colleges, Bethel honed his investment banking skills in Latin America, then decided to pursue the China dream and moved to Shanghai seven years ago.  At that time, Shanghai was still a would-be financial center, littered with cranes and covered in construction dust.

Since then Shanghai as boomed as a financial hub and Bethel has learned Mandarin.  More importantly, after searching high and low, Bethel has identified some of the elusive cast of dealmakers among China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs), whom he must woo into investing in Latin America. “Unlike the traditional global financial centers of Wall Street or the City of London where big investors walk with the swagger of pseudo-celebrities,” Bethel explains, “the guy writing the check in China is likely to be a humble bureaucrat working diligently behind a non-descript desk.  He doesn’t frequent fancy clubs or high profile conferences.  Finding him is half the battle.”

Bethel and other pioneers like him may be the key to China making good on Hu Jintao’s investment forecast.  “My job,” says Bethel, “is to find that SOE investor, who by and large has a rudimentary, if not distorted, perception of Latin America, educate him on the opportunities and realities of doing business in the region, and hopefully convince him to get on a plane and go kick the tires on the great potential that exists for Chinese companies.  I realize that this is both a frightening and exciting prospect for someone, who may never have left China other than to go to Hong Kong, and who speaks only a smattering of English and no Spanish or Portuguese, but the opportunities are just too great to ignore.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but without someone like us undertaking this great effort, how on earth is Chinese money ever going to find its way to Latin America?”

Indeed, the challenge of bringing together Chinese capital and Latin American resources requires many more foot soldiers like Bethel in China.  From the Chinese investor’s perspective, Latin America still seems more distant and exotic than the many investment opportunities at home or within China’s continental sphere.  Nothing less than a full-press educational and public relations effort is needed inside China by all those with an interest in attracting Chinese capital to Latin America, be they diplomats, multi-latinas or the professional service firms bent on catching the wave of investment.

China, the new source of global investment capital

While many Chinese investors have yet to discover Latin America, no one now doubts the tectonic shift of capital flow coming out of China.  For the last 15 years, China has absorbed more direct investment than it exported as the global Fortune 1000 bet their futures on the Middle Kingdom.  When the year-end numbers are in, however, 2009 is expected to mark the first year of positive net outflow of investment capital for China, with over $100 billion in the form of direct foreign investment overseas.

China’s sudden emergence as the new FDI source on the world stage is explained in large part by its export-driven economic growth model. In order to maintain an undervalued currency and, with it, full employment — a political imperative — China must export $250 billion of capital each year to balance its excess trade and tourism surpluses.  For several years now, the easy solution was for the Central Bank of China to buy U.S. Treasury bills, thus helping to stoke the engine of U.S. consumerism (and Chinese exports) with record low U.S. interest rates.  That formula looks less attractive thanks to undisciplined U.S. monetary and fiscal management which represses U.S. interest rates and weakens the dollar, as the prospect of much higher U.S. inflation looms ahead.

The one-trick pony model of exporting to the over-indebted U.S. middle class is now passé.  China must look to other markets for its exports and simultaneously speed the rise of its internal consumer base. Middle income emerging markets like most of Latin America, South and North Africa, SouthEast Asia and Central Asia are in many ways more natural markets than the U.S. for China’s portfolio of mass-produced consumer goods.  Building bridges both politically and commercially in those markets requires outbound Chinese direct foreign investment. 

Garrigues, Spain’s largest commercial law firm, whose transactional practice follows closely the global flows of capital, set up an office in China in 2005, when Spanish firms had caught the China bug and were pouring in capital.  Francisco Soler Caballero, head of the Shanghai office, explains, however, that the firm’s business, like the international capital flows, has reversed course.  “We came to China to help Spanish companies enter the Chinese market,” says Soler. “We continue to help Spanish companies expand in China but the economic crisis in Spain has curbed the appetite of Spanish companies for costly Chinese acquisitions. Today, we find more cross-border opportunities with Chinese companies who want to expand abroad.  Having helped countless Spanish companies enter Latin America, we are now doing the same for Chinese SOEs.  It is a welcome but unpredicted turn of events for our China practice.”

Internally, China has all it needs to develop its economy save one important element, natural resources.  There is a growing sense of concern among Chinese economic planners that medium-term growth is threatened by an uncertain supply of raw materials, which presently China must import from foreign controlled firms.  When Japan and South Korea reached a similar impasse during their rise to developed-nation status, they chose to negotiate long-term supply contracts with oil, gas and mineral producers, carefully selecting downturn years to lock in attractive pricing over 10-30 years.  With their strengthening currencies and relatively low commodity prices, such a strategy made sense for Japan and Korea in the late 80s and 90s. Given China’s obsession with maintaining its cheap currency, its resulting excess liquidity and the likelihood of continued elevated pricing with commodities, it makes far more sense for China to venture out and buy operational control of its raw material supply.  

In 2008, China had 19.6 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and 2.3 trillion cubic meters of proven natural gas reserves (14th and 16th largest reserves in the world, respectively).  But given China’s vast energy demands, China still had to import 55% of its crude oil consumption in 2008, according to the China National Information Center.

By 2020, Chinese natural gas production is expected to fall short of consumption by 50-100 billion cubic meters, which explains why PetroChina went on a recent shopping trip to Australia in search of gas production assets.

Even more dramatic are China’s shortages of metals and minerals. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Chinese reserves of copper, manganese, and nickel are 5.4%, 8%, and 2.5% of the world’s total, while China accounts for 27%, 48% and 22% of the world’s total consumption of these metals.

Even in the politically sensitive terrain of food supply where China spends billions subsidizing its agricultural base, the country cannot avoid a reliance on imports.  Soybean is a good example.  China currently imports over 60% of its annual 50 million tons of consumption.  In terms of forestry, China is one of the largest importers of wood pulp and industrial round wood (7.4 million tons and 38.6 million tons in 2007, respectively) not only to satisfy the domestic market but also the export-driven demand of its paper and furniture industries.

Chinas Risk Adversity

Latin America has the good fortune of having many of the top producers of the resources that China so badly needs.  And there is clearly no shortage of capital in China.

New suburban homes in the Pudong district of Shanghai are sold before they are built, at a cost of $3-$5 million for a 3,000 square foot, two-floor home in a gated community.  China’s own economic stimulus package includes vast, and some say, opulent infrastructure projects.  The 30 kilometers of high speed rail track from central Pudong to Shanghai’s airport carries its passengers up to 430 km/hr for a total of 8 minutes at a construction cost of almost $2 billion.  If Chinese money can find its way into such questionable investments, why can’t Latin America attract more Yuan to its compelling array of resource companies and infrastructure opportunities?

The small and nascent talent pool of service professionals that can bridge the regions may be the most important reason for the disconnect thus far, but equally important are Latin America’s lingering perception problems.

Predictability, which the Chinese value above all else, is not a traditional Latin American virtue.  Chinese investors are disheartened by Latin America’s history of volatility.  Rather than seeing currency fluctuation as an opportunity like many savvy Latin American investors do, the Chinese loath the uncertainty that it adds to their forecasts.  Many Latin American economies have made tremendous strides to curb currency volatility and build international reserves through floating currency regimes and fiscal discipline.  Chinese investors need to be enlightened about this change and to become better versed in the science of currency hedging.  They also need to learn how to navigate and mitigate the legal and political risks of doing business in Latin America.

At home, large Chinese SOEs can rely on the rule of law or their own political power to manipulate the rule of law to ensure legal and regulatory certainty.  When the same companies look abroad, they tend to prefer one of three models; a sound legal environment, like Australia, Canada, the U.S. or Europe, where their investments are defendable through the courts; or small, undemocratic economies like the Sudan and Burma, where they can exercise political influence to their liking; or satellite economies like Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan where they enjoy political sway and legal protections.

The perception in China of Latin America is that the region offers neither the protections of a transparent legal system nor the ability to exercise unperturbed political influence.  Some of the largest mergers and acquisitions to date in the region have been via the purchase of foreign-listed companies, such as Corriente Resources (copper mining) and EnCana (oil and gas), both Canadian companies with significant investments in Latin America.  In this respect, it is the legal community that must lead the effort to illustrate the defendable legal rights of foreign investors in Latin America’s more advanced economies and differentiate those from the list of countries in the region where legal risk remains a serious obstacle.

Related to legal risk is the acute Chinese sensibility to political risk.  Latin America’s political dynamic is frankly too fluid and complex for most Chinese investors to grasp.  The need to campaign from the left and govern from the right, which is Latin America’s political hallmark, can prove both alarming and confounding to Chinese investors.  The relatively decentralized governance of most Latin American countries adds another source of anxiety to Chinese investors, who must get used to idea that in Latin America they are as vulnerable to the vagaries of local politics and local political players like labor unions, NGOs, and indigenous advocates, as they are to the whims of the executive branches or national legislatures.  China learned this lesson when Chinese copper giant Zijin faced violent labor conflict with its Rio Blanco mine investment in Peru.

When it comes to political risk, the Chinese need to alter their thinking, not just to deal with Latin America, but with most countries in which they wish to invest.  China’s lack of understanding of political risk cost them dearly in the U.S. when in 2005 the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) was denied by the U.S. government in its bid to purchase Unocal, subsequently gobbled up by Chevron.  China miscalculated again when telecom equipment maker Huawei was turned down in its quest of 3Com.

Perhaps Latin America’s most difficult image problem is that of physical insecurity. In a country like China where physical violence toward the business class is unheard of, where guns cannot be owned by its citizens, Latin America is the wild west by comparison.

It is one thing for a company to visit Latin America to sell goods or buy raw materials.  In either case, the risk of physical violence intruding on the negotiations is minimal.  But in the case of Chinese foreign investment, which typically relies on securing Chinese managerial control through the transfer of dozens, if not hundreds of employees from China to the foreign operation, the risk is considerably greater.  The internationally readied managerial labor pool in China is very thin, such that sending people to an “unsafe” environment is not an easy internal sell for many Chinese firms.  Overcoming the security hurdle requires a dual effort.  Latin Americans need to more openly address their security shortcomings when presenting their countries, regions and companies as investment destinations.  Meanwhile, Chinese investors need to embrace security risk by better understanding it and learning how to mitigate such risks through preventive measures and insurance products.

In November 2008, the economic imperative of Chinese natural resource investment in Latin America received a boost from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs when it published in its Latin American regional policy paper a centerpiece mandate titled “Go Outward” (走出去).  In China, government directives still matter because it is the government controlled SOEs (typically 70% government, 30% private ownership) that naturally lead the charge of outbound foreign direct investment.  These vast oligarchy-like enterprises have the capital (or privileged access to it) and the need to invest in their supply base.

High-level policy embracement of a “Buy Latin America” strategy was slow in developing in part because China always considered it an untouchable zone of influence of the U.S.  That fear has evidently subsided or been usurped by the sheer economic imperative of securing natural resource supplies.  The recent push by the government has prompted a new sense of urgency to invest in Latin American resource companies and resource related infrastructure projects.

The onus now lies upon vested interests to build the bridges that will bind this vital, though still awkward, partnership.  Latin Americans, with the help of service professionals, especially investment bankers, private equity funds, law firms, risk consultants and insurance firms, must step up their efforts to educate their future Chinese partners on how to evaluate, navigate the opportunities and mitigate the risks of investing in  Latin America.

Source: Kroll- Tendencias January 2010

Filed under: Argentina, Brazil, Central America, Chile, China, Colombia, Energy & Environment, Latin America, Library, Mexico, News, Peru, Risk Management, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Latin America Exchanges: Colombia Stocks Lead

Colombia leads Latin American stocks in growth the past decade and last year, but Brazil remains the volume champion.

Colombia’s benchmark IGBC stock index grew by 927.9 percent the past decade. That was more than any other Latin American stock index and compares with a 9.3 percent decline in the Dow Jones Index in the same period, according to Economatica.

Colombia’s stock transactions also were the best performer in Latin America last year, according to a separate analysis from Economatica. The average value of transactions in Colombia fell by 2.3 percent in 2008, which was lower than all other countries in the region and compares with the total Latin America decline of a 13.5 percent.

Brazil’s Ibovespa index, which has been among the global leaders in recent years, grew by 301.3 percent in the ten year period.

Last year, Brazil’s exchanges posted an average of $2.4 billion in stock transactions, a decline of 13.6 percent compared with 2008, according to Economatica.

Brazilian companies — led by oil giant Petrobras, mining giant Vale and banking giant ItauUnibanco – dominated stock transactions in Latin America last year. Nine of the ten most traded stocks were from Brazilian companies. The other one was from Mexico-based America Movil, Latin America’s largest wireless operator.

Mexico’s IPC index grew by 350.5 percent in the ten year period. Last year, Mexico’s stock transactions averaged $440.1 million, a 13.9 percent decline.

The Caracas Stock Index (IBC) grew by 916.5 percent in the ten year period, but last year stocks traded in Venezuela saw their average daily value drop by 29.5 percent. That was the second-worst result in Latin America.

The worst performer last year was Argentina, where the value of average daily transactions fell by 54.5 percent. During the previous decade, the country’s Merval index increased 321.3 percent.
The Lima Stock Index (IGBVL) was among the leading growth winners in the past decade, with an increase of 671.8 percent. Last year, the average value of Peruvian stocks fell by 21 percent.
Chile’s IPSA index grew by 218.8 percent in the past decade. Last year, Chile’s daily average stock transactions fell by 3.6 percent, which was the second-best performance in Latin America, according to Economatica data.

Source: Latin Business Cronicle, 07.01.2010

The study took into account currency fluctuations in the main Latin American markets between December 31, 1999 and December 31, 2009, Efe reported.

The stock exchange with the greater profitability in the decade was Colombia’s, with a 927.9 percent increase, followed by Venezuela (916.5 percent), Peru (671.8 percent), Mexico (350.5 percent), Argentina (321.6 percent), Brazil (301.3 percent) and Chile (218.8 percent).

Source: El Universal, 07.01.2010

Filed under: Argentina, BM&FBOVESPA, BMV - Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Exchanges, Latin America, Mexico, News, Peru, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mexico the 2nd largest exporter of high technology to the U.S.

Mexico October 30, 2009. Mexico was the country with largest exports of high technology products to the U.S. during the first half of 2009, overtaken by China only.

According to the TechAmerica Foundation report, an association of worldwide innovative companies, Mexico has become the second most important supplier country for the United States.

Only in the early months of this year, the U.S. imported goods from Mexico for an amount exceeding $51.1 billion dollars, almost half of what China sells to the country.

Other U.S. suppliers were the European Union, with $34.4 billion dollars, Japan with $30.3 billion dollars, and Malaysia with 22.5 billion dollars.

In counterpart, the main markets for U.S. technology products were, in that order, the 1.European Union, 2.Canada and 3.Mexico. The market purchased goods worth $27.7 billion dollars during the first half of this year.

TechAmerica Foundation report notes that the fastest growing markets for U.S. exports are Brazil, Colombia, Belgium, Costa Rica , Venezuela, Argentina and Chile, in that order.

Source:E-Mid, 30.10.2009

Filed under: Argentina, Asia, Brazil, Central America, Chile, China, Colombia, Latin America, Mexico, News, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , ,

China and Latin America; the new conquistadors – Update 1

When Hugo Chávez first met Barack Obama at the Summit of the Americas in April, the Venezuelan leader could not resist pressing one of his favourite tracts into the US president’s hands. Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, a staple of student radical literature, tells the story of a continent that has long seen itself as the victim of foreign exploitation. Mr Chávez, though, may have given the book to the wrong leader. It should have been given to the Chinese.

China’s links to the region are deepening fast. Indeed, if the mooted $15bn bid for Repsol YPF’s Argentine oil unit by China’s state-owned energy companies CNOOC and CNPC comes off, South America will also be the recipient of China’s largest outward investment to date. Bilateral trade with the region has risen 10-fold since 2000, reaching $143bn last year. China is now Brazil’s largest trade partner. It takes almost three-quarters of the iron ore produced by Vale, the world’s largest iron ore company. It has been a bigger buyer of Chilean copper than the US, and it is already a major investor in Venezuelan oil – even as Caracas has nationalised several western concerns.

FiNETIK recommends:

    Beijing formalised this heightened level of Latin attention last November. In a policy statement, it talked amicably of “win-win” strategies, and mutual political respect. Deeds followed words, with a renminbi currency swap extended to Argentina worth $10bn, a $1bn pledge to invest in an Ecuadorean hydroelectric plant and, in the Caribbean, loan packages to Jamaica and continued trade credits to Cuba. Meanwhile, Chinese light manufacturers eat their Latin American counterparts for lunch. A few years ago, the most oft-cited economic statistic in Mexico was that more sombreros were made in China than at home.

    Filed under: Argentina, Asia, Brazil, Chile, China, Energy & Environment, Latin America, Mexico, News, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    Venezuela announces joint oil venture with Vietnam

    President Hugo Chavez’s government says it is forming a joint oil company with Vietnam to exploit Venezuela’s heavy crude.

    State-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, will cooperate with Vietnam’s state oil and gas monopoly, PetroVietnam, on oil exploration and production in Venezuela, according to a presidential decree in the Official Gazette issued Friday.  The company, to be called PetroMacareo SA, will operate in Venezuela’s eastern Orinoco River basin, and may also participate in transporting and selling oil, the decree said.  Under Venezuelan law, PDVSA’s partners may hold only a minority stake in oil production projects.

    During a visit from Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet in November, the two leaders discussed the possibility of building an oil refinery in Vietnam, and of cooperating with the Asian nation to build oil tankers. Chavez’s government has been forming joint oil ventures with allies ranging from Russia to China as Venezuela aims to diversify its oil clientele.

    The United States remains the top buyer of oil from Venezuela, which is the fourth-largest oil supplier to the US.

    Source: Forbes, 25.05.2009  click here for original article

    Filed under: Energy & Environment, News, Venezuela, Vietnam, , , , , ,

    China and Venezuela Launch Joint Oil Venture

    BEIJING – State-owned PetroChina and Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, have formed a joint venture to pursue exploration and production projects in Venezuela, the official Xinhua news agency reported Wednesday.

    China’s largest oil company will hold a 40 percent stake in the joint venture, PetroChina CEO Jiang Jiemin told company directors. PetroChina also approved the signing of a loan totaling 100 billion yuan ($14.7 billion) to fund foreign operations in 2009.

    “The drop in oil prices on the international market represents a special opportunity for expanding horizons,” PetroChina said.

    PetroChina and PDVSA plan to form two other joint ventures that will focus on transporting crude and developing two refineries, one of which will be in the southern province of Canton, Jiang said. The executive did not provide specific figures on the agreements reached with PDVSA.

    PetroChina, the world’s second-largest oil company in terms of market capitalization, trailing only U.S. behemoth ExxonMobil Corporation, expects to produce 40 million tons of Venezuelan petroleum annually, Jiang said.

    The joint venture created by PetroChina and PDVSA will allow the oil companies to work together and cut exploration and production costs.

    Source: Xinhua 13.05.2009, LatinAmerica Harald Tribune 18.05.2009

    Filed under: Asia, China, Energy & Environment, Latin America, News, Venezuela, , , , , , , , ,

    China’s influence in Latin America

    While the United States is preoccupied with other parts of the world, China is paying ever more attention to Latin America, sending leaders to the region, opening banks and promising investment. At this writing, two Chinese leaders are touring the Western Hemisphere.

    One of them is Vice President Xi Jinping, who is likely to succeed President Hu Jintao early next decade as China’s maximum leader. Xi left this morning on a tour that will take him to Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil, all nations eager to enhance ties with China.

    Elsewhere in the region, Vice Premier Hui Liangyu is paying official visits to Argentina, Ecuador, Barbados and Bahamas from Feb. 7 to 19. Might seem like no big deal, you say? Well, recall that President Hu visited Latin America in November, stopping in to Cuba and Peru. And while Hu was rubbing elbows with most of the major Latin presidents at the APEC summit in Lima, China’s highest ranking military officer was elsewhere in South America on tour. That officer, Xu Caihou, is vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, which controls the People’s Liberation Army. Only President Hu outranks Xu in the military hierarchy. On his trip in November, Xu toured military installations in Venezuela, Chile and Brazil and promised increased exchanges between the two regions.

    For Washington to match this pace of high-level visits, it would have to send President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and a fourth senior official, perhaps Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to Latin America within four months.

    I doubt we will be seeing that. The Chinese officials aren’t going empty handed either. Just take a look at the $7.3-million national stadium Chinese workers are erecting in the Bahamas, a quick boat ride from Miami. I’m sure Hui will tour the site later this week and receive multiple huzzahs from the Bahamians for this showpiece project.

    Xi will be attending a big powwow of Mexican industrialists on Tuesday. If one were looking for a specific gauge of China’s growing influence on the world stage in relation to the United States, one could do worse that just studying the Beijing-Washington-Latin America triangle.

    Consider the trade numbers between China and Latin America and the Caribbean, for example. Trade between the region and China jumped 13-fold since 1995, from $8.4 billion to $110 billion in 2007. China is now the region’s second biggest trading partner after the United States.

    A concrete sign of China’s growing trade importance occurred just a couple of weeks ago. On Jan. 12, China formally became a member of the Inter-American Development Bank, the leading hemispheric financing arm for long-term development projects. As Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong signed the forms for membership, China also threw in $350 million into bank coffers. With the Chinese flag flies along with the other 47 flags of the IDB’s member states.

    Another sign of Chinese interest: Beijing has agreed to open branches of the China Development Bank in Mexico, Brazil and two other countries, a sign of intensified trade cooperation. My understanding is that this is a quasi-private bank. The world has indeed grown smaller. If Latin America was once considered part of the U.S. backyard, it’s now also part of China’s backyard.

    Source: McClatchy Newspapers By Tim Johnson 08.02.2009

    Filed under: Banking, China, Energy & Environment, Latin America, News, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    Latin American Outlook, Profit Potential and Risks in 2009

    The “right” Latin America will thrive in the New Year, fueled by ts own growth – with an assist from the continued hot growth from China – while the “wrong” Latin America will get left behind.

    The second phase of emerging markets expansion is well on its way – a period of self-sustaining growth, driven by consumer growth and infrastructure spending.  And Latin America, following China and other Asian economies, is one of the key global pillars of growth that will save the global economy and the U.S. financial system from total collapse. But not all the countries in Latin America will go on to prosper.  There is a wide gulf in the policies that will continue to separate the winners from the losers.

    Let me explain.

    In a recent article in our affiliated monthly newsletter,  The Money Map Report, Money Morning Investment Director Keith Fitz-Gerald made three important points:

    * The emerging markets (of which Latin America is the second-most-important leg) will play a growing role in the continued long-term growth of the world economy.
    * The U.S. economy will continue to grow long-term, but its relative importance in the world economy will continue to decline.
    * In the near term, the emerging markets could well play a determining role in keeping the overall global economy – and the U.S. financial system – from dropping into a depression-like funk that we won’t be free of for years. Emerging economies in Asia and parts of Latin America have huge cash reserves, much of which will be invested in infrastructure projects over the next 20 years.

    In the next three years, China, alone will invest as much as $725 billion in infrastructure, while Brazil will invest $225 billion for the same purpose.
    This is important to remember, given that the dramatic sell-off the emerging markets have experienced has many investors doubting the ability of these countries to “decouple” from the global economy.  The reality of the situation is that most investors and pundits are failing to differentiate between economic decoupling and market decoupling.

    The Gloomy Present

    While growth in emerging economies has dropped slightly, the prices of securities and currencies in emerging markets has fallen drastically.   Many investors think that the U.S. economic crash will lead to a dramatic drop in U.S. orders of emerging-market products, which will cause those economies to drop off. That, in turn, would squeeze the profits and market valuations of the companies that operate in these economies.

    But that’s a mistaken assumption. And here’s why.

    In Brazil, for instance, exports account for a mere 13% of gross domestic product (GDP). In China, exports are just 10% of GDP. So some contraction in U.S. and European orders can easily be counterbalanced by fiscal and monetary stimulus in these countries.

    On Oct. 27, in the depths of a rabid, indiscriminate sell-off, I published an extremely bullish piece on Brazil. Since that article was published, Brazil went on to rally as much as 47%. As of Friday’s close – even after some subsequent profit-taking – the exchange traded fund (ETF) that represents the Brazilian market (EWZ) is still up 21% (and has risen as much as 42% since my recommendation).

    And most emerging markets economies have plenty of fiscal and monetary maneuvering room. Leading the pack is China, which accounted for some 27% of global growth last year, and which has continued to use both fiscal and monetary tools to keep itself on a solid growth path.

    It recently slashed interest rates again, down to 6.66% (a lucky number in the Chinese culture, meaning “things (are) going smoothly”).  With record foreign reserves of $1.9 trillion, China also approved a “fast and heavy-handed” $586 billion stimulus, mainly in housing and infrastructure, to be implemented through 2010.  And the Chinese yuan will drop almost 7% vis-a-vis the U.S. dollar to cushion losses in trade.  It has also lowered taxes on investments in capital goods.  And in a key move that’s been almost totally overlooked by the media, China has made huge market-oriented reforms in agriculture.

    China has just allowed its 780 million farmers to rent, transfer or utilize as collateral their rights to their lands and eliminated all taxes on agricultural production and to farmers.  This will allow for a massive increase in the scale of production by consolidating companies.  In this way, China will keep its 120 million hectares dedicated to agriculture exclusively, with no possibility of urbanization, while at the same time allowing the millions of small farmers to sell out, and get capital to move to the cities.  This will not only increase the productivity of Chinese farming dramatically by allowing for economies of scale to work and attracting billions in investments, it also will create a huge incentive for these millions of farmers to move to the cities, boosting housing and infrastructure demand.

    Brazil’s plans are very similar to those of China. There’s a:

    * Strong fiscal stimulus, allowing a drop in the value of the real currency (a decline that’s already been substantial) in order to cushion exports.
    * An easing of capital requirements to Brazil’s strong banking system, which will incentivize housing and car loans.
    * Export financing.
    * And huge local infrastructure projects.

    There is another little-understood phenomenon that cushions the blows for emerging economies: Intra-emerging market trade has become increasingly important.  By now everybody understands that iron ore from Brazil and coal and oil from other emerging markets is flowing into China in order to fuel China’s massive infrastructure buildup and growing consumer demand.

    The Breakdown on Brazil

    Increasingly, a growing proportion of the infrastructure needs of industrial goods being bought by emerging economies are goods produced by other emerging economies.  Trade between Latin America and China has increased by 13 times since 1995, from $8.4 billion to $100 billion.  And China, now the second-most-important commercial partner to the region after the United States, has finally been accepted as a member of the Inter-American Development Bank, committing itself to contribute $350 million to the bank. As an example of this growth in industrial trade, Argentina just bought 279 subway cars from China’s CITIC Group.

    However, not all trade with China has been successful, due to China’s notable deficiencies in quality control, especially in health standards.  For example, Latin American imports of medicines manufactured in China had catastrophic results in Panama two years ago, where more than 100 people died and hundreds more became ill from medications containing toxic Chinese glycerine.  Recently, Panama detected toxic chemicals in imported Chinese sweets and crackers and Argentina’s customs recently seized Chinese 20,000 thermos containers for having elevated content of toxic chemicals.

    And all of this means that there is a market disconnect between the prices of Brazilian shares and those elsewhere in Latin American equities and the fundamentals of the underlying companies, that we will see played out in the next and subsequent years.  Why?

    Just because huge financial losses by banks precipitated a massive de-leveraging cycle, which means they had to sell their holdings, regardless of merit. And that included big sell-offs in preferred investments, including the hugely promising and profitable Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) (ADR: PBR), Vale (ADR: RIO), and many others.

    And what is worse, their sales hit the stop losses of major hedge funds, who were also leveraged in such favorite plays as commodities, steel, coal, agro, emerging markets and even defensive stocks such as the U.S.-based Pepsico Inc. (PEP).

    When you have the proprietary positions of banks and hedge funds all trying to get out of the same door at the same time because of risk management issues, you get the current disconnect between market fundamentals and pricing.

    Another impact that we have to understand is that the ongoing dramatic interest rate drops in all major G7 economies and the more than $3 trillion in G7 fiscal programs will have a marked impact on growth next year, containing what would have been a much nastier economic contraction.  But while G7 countries will barely grow between negative 0.5% and a positive 1% in 2009, with the worst contraction front-loaded and recovering in the second half, emerging economies will grow at a minimum of 4%, and in the case of China maybe as high as 10%.

    In my October Brazil analysis, I detailed the massive stress that Brazil came under in 1995 because of another exogenous shock: The Mexican devaluation, the so-called “Tequila effect,” which ricocheted around the world, and which caught Brazil in 1995 in a much weaker position than it is in today. Back then, Brazil had a much higher level of debt, much lower reserves, a fiscal sector that needed huge reform, and a much lower capacity for exports.  Brazil dealt with this massive stress effectively and went on to work at each one of its weaknesses in the next 13 years, getting itself into a position of strength today.

    While having the temptation and the perfect excuse for a default right at hand, Brazil proved its seriousness back then by taking the hard, but certain road to progress, keeping its international commitments and gradually affecting strong structural reforms.  Since then, it has become a net creditor to the world; it controlled inflation, and avoided an overheating of its economy with tight fiscal and monetary policies during the recent run-up in commodity prices.

    This is paying off strongly today.  The policies, run day to day by a sophisticated technocracy led by top economists and international bankers, many of which held top positions in leading international banks, has allowed Brazil to move forward and to anticipate GDP growth of 4% to 5% for the New Year.
    Hence, Brazil is by far my favorite Latin American play for 2009.

    Checking Out Chile

    Following closely behind, and hindered only by its small size, is the poster child of fiscal and monetary prudence: Chile.

    Chile, which came out of its 1970s default by eliminating its foreign debt and successfully restructuring its banking system, has made every effort to maintain very prudent fiscal and monetary policies and to diversify its exports away from copper, which, being the largest exporter of the metal in the world, still accounted for 38% of its GDP.

    Today, Chile exports many diversified products, including agricultural products, wine, fertilizers and industrial wares.  And because it’s situated on the Pacific Coast, it is geographically well positioned to trade with the fastest-growing markets in the world – China and the other emerging Asian tigers.

    But Chile, in order to minimize the cyclical nature of its economy due to the wide fluctuation in the price of copper, decided years ago to start a “rainy-day” fund, which would accumulate wealth in the good years and be used to soften the blow in the bad ones.  Now, Chile boasts a $28 billion sovereign wealth fund, accumulated almost completely from its copper profits.  That’s almost equal to a staggering 14% of the country’s GDP in cash savings!  This will enable Chile to implement counter-cyclical policies to keep growing at 3.5% to 4% next year – or about the current rate of growth, even with the worldwide meltdown.

    Chile already has started to deploy this capital, having passed a $1.15 billion government plan on top of last month’s $850 million to stimulate housing and small-business lending, injecting that capital into a government bank that will make available loans for small businesses.

    Avoid Argentina

    Chile’s fiscal prudence is in direct contrast to Argentina’s lack of discipline.  Argentina’s Peronist government, which squandered the agricultural commodities bonanza in fiscal spending, is now is trying to use its majority in both houses in Congress to pass the nationalization of the privatized pension funds under the excuse of “protecting them from market volatility.”

    These funds, which now have successfully grown to more than $30 billion in size, or 73% of the government’s budget and have returned an average of more than 13% a year since inception will allow the government to cover its fiscal gap and debt maturities next year and to financed public works and consumption projects.  The government, at the same time, is suffering from an important loss of confidence, as evidenced by its need to resort to police controls in order to prevent the illegal purchase of U.S. Dollars.  Argentina might end 2009 with growth of negative 2% and unemployment of 10%.  Stay away.

    A “Maybe” for Mexico

    Mexico, given its strong links to the United States, is receiving a heavy dose of external shocks on many economic and financial fronts – especially where the United States is concerned: It’s being hit by a drop in exports (the United States is the main component), the drop in oil prices, lower tourism (its largest proportion of travelers is from the United States), falling U.S. investments in Mexico, and reduced remittances from Mexicans working in the United States back to their Mexican relatives.

    In addition, many companies suffered strong losses in their derivatives hedges, banks have had to reduce lending due to reduced liquidity and the Mexican peso has lost some 22% of its value against the U.S. dollar.  Mexico’s growth in the New Year may fall to about 1% from 2008’s 2.4% pace, and the country is on its way to approving the first budget with a fiscal deficit in four years.  The government’s target will be negative 1.8% of GDP, in order to stimulate the economy.  Mexico, seeing its oil production declining, is seen moving soon towards opening some oil areas for exploration and development, which some estimate could add another 1% to GDP.

    Once the U.S. markets have stabilized, Mexico’s stocks will be an incredible buy once more, since they discount a very bad scenario at these prices.

    A Case Against Colombia

    Colombia, another country that has merited a lot of attention, given its staunch support of U.S. anti-drug and anti-money-laundering efforts, has seen its free trade agreement with the United States inexplicably delayed.

    The country foresees a tightening of credit conditions, so it is moving up its peso-based borrowing to this year.  Next year it will issue only $1 billion in foreign bonds and tap $1.4 billion from multi-lateral lenders.  So the refinancing risk for Colombia is muted, given the small amounts involved, and the country’s economy should expand a minimum of 1% in the New Year, even in the worst economic scenario. However, Colombia could grow as much as 4% under a moderate scenario.

    That would represent a big drop from the 8% growth recorded this year.

    The story in Colombia has been the curbing of inflation, and how far behind the curve the central bank has been, at least as recently as July, when it boosted rates up to 10% and then kept them there.

    These ultra-high interest rates, combined with the global slowdown, have blunted demand for consumer products in Colombia. Since the passage of the trade pact is a situation in flux, I want to wait and see right now.

    I will not go into the economies of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, which, with massive intervention by their governments and advances against property rights, are experiencing severe economic and political stress, and which do not offer the guarantees needed for foreign investment.

    Source: Money Morning, by Horacio Marquez, 15.12.2008

    Filed under: Argentina, Banking, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Energy & Environment, Exchanges, Mexico, News, Peru, Venezuela, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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