Tuesday 31st March 2015
NEWS TICKER: MONDAY MARCH 30th 2015 : According to LuxCSD several unions in Argentina have called for a strike on tomorrow. It is still not known whether the Central Bank of Argentina, Caja de Valores as Central Depository and/or the Argentine Stock Exchange will adhere to this strike, and of the possible impact on settlement and cash operations. Citi, which is LuxCSD’s custodian, will be keeping the securities depositary updated on developments. LuxCSD says its customers are advised to take into consideration the possibility of disruption and delays in the settlement and cash processes - Capital Intelligence (CI) has affirmed Bahrain's Long-Term Foreign and Local Currency Ratings of 'BBB' and its Short-Term Foreign and Local Currency Ratings of 'A2'. The Outlook for Bahrain's ratings was revised to 'Negative' from 'Stable'.Deterioration in the public finances in view of the country's dependence on declining oil revenues, in addition to continued increase in debt levels. b) Deterioration in current account position in view of the decline in the value of oil exports, which limits the country's shock absorption capacity. Reflecting rising public expenditure and declining international oil prices, the budget deficit is expected to have doubled to 6.8 per cent of GDP in 2014 and is on course to exceed 12 per cent in the coming years, assuming no change in key policies and an average oil price of $50 per barrel in 2015-16. The central government budget structure remains weak in view of the lack of diversification of government revenue (oil accounts for around 88 per cent of central government revenue), and the absence of fiscal consolidation measures in view of the polarised political climate. Spurred by growing deficit, central government debt level continued its increase reaching 47.1 per cent of GDP in 2014, compared to as low as 21.4 per cent of GDP in 2009, while it is expected to top 69.2 per cent of GDP in 2016. Gross financing needs are also expected to increase to a still manageable level of 18.5 per cent of GDP in 2016, compared to 7.5 per cent of GDP in 2013 - French operator Bouygues Telecom says it will roll out one of the first implementations of LoRa low-power WAN technology, designed specifically to support the Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, in France by June. The underlying technology was developed by French company Cycleo. The purpose of an IoT-specific wireless networking technology is primarily to be as low-power as possible. Many IoT implementations will be industrial, embedded use-cases where replacing power sources is expensive and impractical. Bouygues has been trialling LoRa in Grenoble since 2013 and expects 500 towns and cities to be covered by year end. KPN, Swisscom, Belgacom and Fastnet are also reported to be ready to deploy LoRa networks or carrying out large-scale trials. “The Internet of Things is going to transform entire areas of our economy, says Olivier Roussat, Chairman and CEO of Bouygues Telecom in an official statement - Moody's has today assigned a Baa2 long-term rating to the new hybrid securities issued by Bayer AG. The rating outlook is stable. The rating of Baa2 is two notches below Bayer's A3 senior unsecured rating. This reflects the deeply subordinated ranking of the new hybrid securities in relation to the existing senior unsecured obligations of Bayer or those issued by its subsidiaries and guaranteed by Bayer. The new hybrid securities will be senior to common shares - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended +4.16 points higher or +0.12% to 3454.26, taking the year-to-date performance to +2.65%. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained +0.10% while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index gained +0.03%. The top active stocks were SingTel (-1.13%), UOB (-0.13%), DBS (+0.30%), Global Logistic (+0.76%) and CapitaLand (+1.39%). The outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Consumer Goods Index (+0.89%). The two biggest stocks of the FTSE ST Consumer Goods Index are Wilmar International (-0.61%) and Thai Beverage (+3.36%). The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Telecommunications Index, which declined -1.05% with SingTel’s share price declining -1.13% and StarHub’s share price declining-0.23%. The three most active Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) by value today were the DBXT S&P/ASX 200 ETF (unchanged), STI ETF (unchanged), DBXT FTSE Vietnam ETF (+1.19%) – The Singapore Exchange (SGX) says that UOB Bullion and Futures Limited (UOBBF) has joined as a trading member of its securities market. Chew Sutat, head of sales and clients, SGX says the membership enables UOBBF to offer “another product class to their regional clients, thus adding to liquidity in the securities market. We also look forward to working with UOBBF to bring their existing derivatives customers to all our markets. As an SGX Securities Trading Member, UOBBF will be able to offer equity trading services to institutional clients, and accredited and expert investors. SGX now has 27 trading members and 26 clearing members - Taking their cue from the positive tone in Wall Street on Friday, major Asian equity markets were firmer today favoured by market expectations for the adoption of further policy stimulus by Chinese authorities to support domestic economic activity. Elsewhere, US Treasuries were modestly firmer in early trade on Monday while the FOMC Chairman’s mildly hawkish remarks assisted the USD to move higher says Eurobank’s mid-morning markets review. According to the bank discussions between Greek authorities and the Brussels Group on a fully-costed list of reforms the Greek side submitted late last week are reportedly expected to continue on Monday for the third consecutive day. Local press reports suggested today that a number of issues still remain open. On the latter, local newswires quoted an unnamed high level euro area official as saying that the Euro Working Group will likely assess Greece’s reform proposals later this week (reportedly on Wednesday) but euro area finance ministers are not expected to convene before all the details are ironed out. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has reportedly requested an extraordinary plenary session to be held today at 8pm Greek time to inform the Hellenic Parliament about the progress of ongoing discussions with the Institutions - Standard & Poor's revised last Friday the outlook on the Republic of Cyprus sovereign credit rating to positive from stable, affirming the country's B+/B long- and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings - Nearly two thirds (61%) of small and medium sized companies who are yet to undertake auto enrolment say they would welcome the publication of a definitive list of pension providers that accept all firms - regardless of size - to help them comply with their auto enrolment duties, according to new research* by workplace pensions provider NOW: Pensions. Of the SMEs surveyed who are yet to stage, two thirds (66%) don’t have any existing pension arrangements for their staff while 8% have a stakeholder pension scheme set up but don’t have any members of staff in it. A quarter already offer a scheme to a proportion of their workforce. When it comes to selecting a pension provider for auto enrolment, over a quarter (27%) of those who are yet to stage still say they haven’t given any thought to how they’ll go about finding a pension provider, down from 44% in 2014**. One in ten (12%) are going to search the market and do the research themselves, up from just 4% of those firms surveyed in 2014. When it comes to seeking external advice, over a quarter (26%) intend to get help from their accountant up from 14% in 2014. One in six (16%) intend to rely on their existing provider, down from 22% in 2014. Just 6% plan to speak to a financial adviser up from 5% in 2014. Morten Nilsson, CEO of NOW: Pensions said: “As smaller companies begin to tackle auto enrolment, the number planning on choosing their pension provider without any advice is inevitably going to grow. “This is why The Pensions Regulator’s (TPR) decision earlier this month not to publish a list of pensions schemes that are directly available to any employer, was so disappointing. The reality is these firms urgently need help to find high quality, low cost providers that are willing to accept their business, and the regulator needs to hear their pleas before it is too late.” - Harkand has secured a multi-million pound contract with Maersk Oil North Sea Ltd for the provision of DSV services in the North Sea region. The 12-month contract will be serviced by Harkand’s two DSVs, the Harkand Da Vinci and Harkand Atlantis, supported by project management and engineering from the firm’s Aberdeen office. The contract covers well tie-ins, structure installation, piling, flexible flow line lay, flexible riser installation, pre-commissioning, riser recovery, decommissioning and general inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM) work. Harkand Europe managing director, David Kerr explains, “This contract win is a further acknowledgment, not only of the expertise and capacity we have built up within the region, but also the open culture that we have at Harkand. We look forward to delivering a consistent and cost efficient service to Maersk, which is especially critical in today’s business environment. By utilising both our sister DSVs, we will provide a robust and fully flexible approach to executing both planned and unplanned interventions and we will work closely with Maersk to ensure safe and successful campaigns.” The Harkand DaVinci and Harkand Atlantis are both equipped with state-of-the-art saturation diving systems, 140t active heave compensated cranes and Super Mohawk ROV spreads -Alcatel-Lucent has announced a partnership with China Telecom to roll out the operator’s FDD-LTE services to 40 additional cities across 12 Chinese provinces. The French infrastructure vendor said it is one of three suppliers to have been chosen by the telco, and will provide its LTE mobile ultra-broadband access technology to complete the project.

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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