Sunday 19th April 2015
NEWS TICKER FRIDAY APRIL 17TH 2015: -On June 9, 2015, the Federal Trade Commission will host a workshop to examine competition, consumer protection, and economic issues raised by the proliferation of online and mobile peer-to peer business platforms in certain sectors of the economy, often referred to as the “sharing economy.” The workshop will take place in Washington, D.C., at the FTC’s Constitution Center conference space. Peer-to-peer platforms, which enable suppliers and consumers to connect and do business, have led to the emergence of new business models in industries that have been subject to regulation. The FTC’s sharing economy workshop will explore how regulatory frameworks can accommodate new sharing economy business models while maintaining appropriate consumer protections and a competitive marketplace. “We are seeing a dramatic growth in products and services that are built on peer-to-peer platforms, such as ride-sharing and property rentals, as more entrepreneurs harness the power of technology to reach more consumers,” says FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “The resulting business models have great potential to benefit our economy and consumers. Through our workshop, we want to better understand the competitive impact of these new business models, as well as their interactions with existing regulatory frameworks.” - he Straits Times Index (STI) ended 6.42 points or 0.18% lower to 3525.19, taking the year-to-date performance to +4.76%. The top active stocks today were Keppel Corp, which declined 2.01%, DBS, which gained 0.91%, SingTel, which gained 0.23%, UOB, which gained 0.38% and ComfortDelGro, with a 1.70% advance. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index fell 0.30%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index rose 0.06%. The outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Utilities Index, which rose 1.60%. The two biggest stocks of the Index - United Envirotech and Hyflux – ended 5.12% higher and 2.09% lower respectively. The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Basic Materials Index, which slipped 1.82%. Midas Holdings shares declined 2.56% and Geo Energy Resources remained unchanged - It has been a testing day in the markets, with most stock markets reporting substantial losses. The spectre of another crisis in Greece as the IMF talked tough on the country adhering to its repayment schedule, a terminal outage at Bloomberg and a clampdown on OTC and short selling in China combined to test investor sentiment. The FTSE 100, fell briefly below 7000 to end up finding support at 7007; however Spain's Ibex and Italy's FTSE MIB were both 2% down while the German DAX 30 slid 1.8% and France's CAC 40 fell 1.2% - The outage impacted the UK DMO’s offer of £300m 1 month bill, due 18-May-2015(ISIN GB00BDNKWT09); the £1,000m 3-months bill due 20-Jul-2015 (ISIN GB00BDNLZ833), and the £1,500m 6-months bill due 19-Oct-2015 (ISIN GB00BDNNDG38) was conducted between midday and14.30 today. Any bids submitted in the aborted operation earlier this morning were deemed null and void - Catastrophe bond issuance is forecast to have risen almost 30% so far this year, though the size of the market remains modest. The increase in demand for cat bonds means that some bonds are now trading at a discount to their original issue price for the first time in years. Issuance for the year through to mid-April is predicted to be up 27% on 2014, at around $2.1bn, The full-year trend also looks positive, following on from a record cat bond issuance of $8.4bn in 2014 - Moody's Investors Service has described in detail the approach it takes to allocating expected credit losses across the various classes of debt issued by banks in the US, the EU and Switzerland. The liability hierarchy or "waterfall" that Moody's employs to allocate estimated losses to debt classes in these three jurisdictions incorporates the implications of key structural differences in their bank resolution and bail-in frameworks. In this way, the liability hierarchy aims to capture the prioritisation authorities will give different debt classes when apportioning losses to creditors in the event of a bank's failure. The construction of a given bank's liability structure at failure serves as the starting point of Moody's Loss Given Failure (LGF) analysis, instituted as part of its new bank rating methodology. The LGF framework is used to assess and differentiate creditor risk across banks' liability structures, as detailed in Moody's report "How Resolution Frameworks Drive Our Creditor Hierarchies." The bank resolution and bail-in frameworks in the US, EU, and Switzerland all aim to limit the use of public funds in bank resolutions while mitigating risks to financial stability. Important differences in these frameworks include the degree of power authorities have to write down or convert capital instruments, differences in depositor preference, and variations in the obligations of holding companies to their operating companies - Close Brothers has reportedly acquired advisory firm Mackay Stewart & Brown for an undisclosed amount. Andy Cumming, head of advice at Close Brothers Asset Management, said the acquisition would strengthen the national advice firm’s Scottish operation.

Argentina - Ten years on from the default

Friday, 15 June 2012
Argentina - Ten years on from the default In the hubble and bubble in the press around Greece and Spain, some commentators have lately drawn comparisons with Argentina, suggesting that is the way forward. Humbly, we suggest they might be wide of the mark. Greece will exit from a currency union; Argentina has its own currency and can set its own interest rates. In other ways too, the countries are way different and drawing comparisons between them is not helpful to Greece or Greek bondholders. Vanja Dragomanovich explains the long term impact on Argentina of its latest default (back in 2001) and what, if any, lessons might be drawn from that debacle and the long term impact on the Argentine financial markets. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

In the hubble and bubble in the press around Greece and Spain, some commentators have lately drawn comparisons with Argentina, suggesting that is the way forward. Humbly, we suggest they might be wide of the mark. Greece will exit from a currency union; Argentina has its own currency and can set its own interest rates. In other ways too, the countries are way different and drawing comparisons between them is not helpful to Greece or Greek bondholders. Vanja Dragomanovich explains the long term impact on Argentina of its latest default (back in 2001) and what, if any, lessons might be drawn from that debacle and the long term impact on the Argentine financial markets.

In the hubble and bubble in the press around Greece and Spain, some commentators have lately drawn comparisons with Argentina, suggesting that is the way forward. Humbly, we suggest they might be wide of the mark. Greece will exit from a currency union; Argentina has its own currency and can set its own interest rates. In other ways too, the countries are way different and drawing comparisons between them is not helpful to Greece or Greek bondholders. Vanja Dragomanovich explains the long term impact on Argentina of its latest default (back in 2001) and what, if any, lessons might be drawn from that debacle and the long term impact on the Argentine financial markets.

As Greece edges closer to political and economic immolation, market watchers have been in a flurry, casting around for examples of how a country could survive leaving the eurozone and a hard default. One example being touted around the markets is Argentina, which went through a spectacular default ten years ago but managed to follow it up with a decade of fast growth, a boom in commodity exports and a golden period in banking. Argentina’s finances are in relatively good shape. At $185bn, the country’s total debt load last year equated to just 41.3% of GDP. That’s better than both Spain, whose debt-to-GDP ratio stands at 70%, and Italy, which is saddled with an ­eye-popping 120% burden. Moreover, with GDP growth at 4% and funds available from central bank reserves, pension funds and YPF’s coffers, Argentina has ample cash.



Argentina’s expansion was fuelled by two things: liberal policies and a sharp rise in the prices of com­modities. Argentina is one of the world’s largest exporters of wine, soy, corn and wheat and China is its enthusiastic buyer. And while Greece may try to emulate the policies component of the Argentina story, unless the Chinese take to drinking retsina and cooking with olive oil it will have difficulty replicating the Latin American country’s recovery.

Argentina has also come good on almost 93% of its initial debt obligations, but to this day has not been able to return to international financial markets. In large part this is because of an ongoing dispute with two hedge funds. The bulk of the outstanding amount is owed to the Paris Club, a total of $6.4bn. “Technically, Argentina is not locked out of international markets the way it was in 2001 and 2002 when nobody would lend them money. In theory they could try to raise money but in practice they can’t go back because they would risk a seizure of assets while the [legal] cases are pending,” explains Michael Henderson, emerg­ing markets economist at Capital Economics in London

In 2001 the country defaulted on $100bn of its sovereign debt. Four years later, Argentina’s president at the time, Nestor Kirchner, offered to swap the defaulted bonds for new ones worth 70% less, in a similar deal to what Greece is hoping for. Around three quarters of the bondholders agreed. The process was repeated in 2010 by current president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner who said at the time that this was the final deal being offered to remaining bondholders.

Two distressed-debt hedge funds opted for litigation in US courts while a group of Italian bondholders asked for an arbitration award at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

The US courts are still pondering the issue. Initially the courts ruled that NML Capital Fund, one of the funds suing Argentina, was entitled to a repayment of $1.6bn, including the payment of interest, only for this to be overruled this spring. Now the remaining debt holders are collectively appealing to the US Court of Appeal with the case due to be heard in mid-June.

While this is going on, not only is Argentina not in a position to issue bonds, it has also little hope  of raising loans from major international institutions as the United States is actively blocking the country’s loan applications on the grounds that it is a recalcitrant debtor. In September last year the US, which holds a 30% voting share in Inter-American Development Bank, voted against a $230m loan to the country.

 Of the remaining debt, $6.4 billion is still owed to the Paris Club of official creditors and Argentina has yet to reach agreement with the Club on how to reschedule the repayments. “For that Argentina would need to get the approval from the IMF and that is not likely to happen as they have a strained relationship,” says Henderson. He argues that that would mean that Argentina would have to let the IMF carry out a health check on its economy and in the process the government would have to admit that the country’s official statistics have been doctored. Just how far the country’s figures have been massaged was made clear by Carlos Maria Regunaga, a former adviser-in-chief to the Argentina’s secretary of commerce and a director at Menas Argentina. Regunaga cites the fact that although consumer price inflation in 2011 was around 22%, “the government denies this and insists that inflation is only 9.5%.”

So where does this all leave Argentina? Over the years it has been turning increasingly inwards for solutions. The government’s tactical arsenal has included printing money, dipping into central bank reserves, seizing the assets of pension funds, controlling imports and exports to tweak its trade balance and privatising pension funds. Moreover, both Kirchner presidents have been fuelling growth by heavy public spending. Despite some questionable actions, the economy has grown. Again, according to official statistics, economic growth came in at over 8% in 2010 and 9% last year. 

Even so, growth has come at a price and the high public expenditure is now a major problem, says Regunaga.  “Historically, the public sector represented an average of 30% of GDP. The Kirchners have increased it to a level of 45% of GDP,” leading to a financial shortage in the public sector, he says. In 2011, for instance, 70% of public sector spending has been financed by printing more pesos and reaching into central bank reserves.

Government raids

The government has been raiding what there is to raid in the country. In April it said it would borrow almost $3bn from the state-run bank Banco de La Nación to cover its funding needs, $2.36bn in 12 instalments and the rest as a lump sum. Argentina also regularly issues bonds directly to pension fund agency Anses, which operates the bulk of Argentina’s pension money after the government nationalised all private pension funds in 2008.“There are no signs that the government will go back any time soon on the nationalisation of pension funds. Why would it?” says a Buenos Aires banker who did not want to be named. “The move has achieved two major objectives: not only did it give the government access to a large sum of money but also major stakes in top companies and seats on their boards of directors,” the banker adds.

This and other political decisions such as strict exchange controls, import and export restrictions and the recent nationalisation of oil company YPF, formerly majority owned by Spanish oil producer Repsol has alienated Argentina from foreign mutual funds and private equity investors. Julio Lastres, managing director at Darby Private Equity, part of Franklin Templeton Investments, explains: “In order to make an investment you have to see how the local capital market has been developing, to see if you can fund the company in the local market and exit through an IPO. And then you typically have the growth of local pension funds that fuel the growth of the local market. But what we hear in Argentina makes it challenging to take a long term view and invest there. You have better places to invest in Latin America.”

Argentina has some presence in the international financial markets through GDP warrants, which were issued as part of two debt restructuring instalments (one in 2005, the other in 2010) to sweeten the deal for bond holders caught out by the country’s default on $100bn of debt in 2001.

The warrants are structured in such a way that the government will pay investors as long as the GDP grows by 3.3% per year, based on the annual GDP. Although initially there was little appetite for these GDP warrants in the open market, as the country’s economy grew so did niche investors’ interest. “We had very good volumes on Argentina’s GDP warrants, hedge funds in particular like them,” says Gabriel Sterne, director at frontier markets investment banking boutique Exotix.

This is also about to change as falling commodity prices and heavy government spending are catching up with Argentina’s economy. While the government predicts that growth this year will be 6% Henderson at Capital Economics forecast that the number will be closer to 2.5%. “Our belief is that Argentina is headed for a recession, most likely next year,” says Henderson, particularly if the global economic backdrop deteriorates over the next year, which could possibly lead to a more disorderly adjustment. With Argentine state accounts under pressure, it would be handy not to have to pay warrant holders. But that might do no favours to Argentina’s already rocky investment reputation. For now, warrant payments are hanging in the balance. Ultimately though, while Argentina has some mounting troubles, it is a story of rich resource management and a deep economy; very different from that of Greece. 

Greece’s economic recovery may also not be as certain as in Argentina’s case as it cannot devalue and does not have such a strong export market to boost its coffers. So if Greece is looking for a blueprint for the exit from the euro and a default it might be better looking somewhere other than Argentina. Or perhaps better yet, try and avoid the default in the first place. n

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