Monthly Archives: August 2011

You don’t often hear much about Paraguay, but its economy is doing surprisingly well – it grew by a staggering 13 per cent last year, boosted by a bounce from 2009 and a record soya harvest, and is on track for growth of 3.7 per cent this year, according to ratings agency Standard & Poor’s.

Now, it has been rewarded with a upgrade by the agency, which on Tuesday lifted its long-term sovereign rating to BB- from B+. Read more

Shanghai securities exchange officeOne of the bigger bulls in emerging market equities has had to eat a bit of humble pie – or, as he puts it,  reset the compass, in light of the precipitous drop in prices in the past month.

But the experience has not persuaded Geoffrey Dennis, EM equity strategist at Citigroup, to abandon his underlying optimism. Quite the contrary – he sees the sell-off as a buying opportunity – predicting a 22 per cent gain from August 30 levels in the MSCI emerging markets index by the end of 2011 – and a 6.5 per cent increase over the year as a whole, as the chart below shows. That’s a brave call, for sure. But is it right? Read more

Nowhere is looking good as important as in Brazil. Whether it be the media images of supermodels like Gisele Bundchen, the sexy clothes and tiny bikinis, or the hot and sultry climate that serves as an open invitation to strip off, the body beautiful (and not so beautiful) is constantly on display.

That’s a powerful incentive to stay in shape and gyms are taking note. Over the last 10 years, bigger and more professional gyms have muscled in on the smaller neighbourhood academias, as they are known here. Read more

Filipinos abroadBenigno Aquino III, the popular Philippine president, should begin to worry about his country’s disappointing GDP growth of 3.4 per cent in the quarter ending June, among the lowest in the region. And it’s not just because the economy has progressively slowed down in the past four quarters that he’s been in power.

Rather, the Philippines is losing one of its main growth drivers: remittances from Filipino contractual workers abroad that boost domestic spending. Read more

‘What’s in a name?’ was Shakespeare’s Juliet’s call to her forsaken lover. Well quite alot, especially when that name happens to be Muammer Gaddafi.

One of the many unforeseen consequences of the deposition of the Libyan leader is the spate of re-namings that are hurriedly taking place in countries that boasted close bilateral ties with the fallen regime. Read more

Igor Sechin, Russia's deputy prime ministerExxonMobil’s planned strategic alliance with Rosneft clearly gives the US super major a lead over it peers in exploring the Russian Arctic.  But what does the deal mean for Russia’s state oil company? Read more

Apple attacked over pollution in China

Dispute over control of $65bn Libya fund

Reliance Industries, BP complete $7.2bn deal

Aquino seeks $60bn, oil resolution on China trip

Exxon and Rosneft sign Arctic deal Read more

Bob Dudley, BP chief executiveBP’s Russian headache just got worse. On Wednesday, the company office in Moscow was raided by bailiffs acting for minority shareholders in TNK-BP Holding (TNBP:MCX),  the listed group that is the core asset of TNK-BP, the joint venture between the UK group and three Russian oligarchs.

The minority shareholders are suing BP (BP:NYQ) in a $3bn dispute over the failure of BP’s planned alliance with Rosneft (ROSN:MCX), the state-run oil group.  To add insult to injury, the raid comes the day after Rosneft announced a replacement alliance with ExxonMobilRead more

Wednesday’s top picks from the beyondbrics team: Lex column on why Exxon did and BP didn’t (get the deal with Rosneft), what to expect from Royal Bank of India’s new rules on bank licensing and India’s cricket towns.  Read more

In our latest special series, beyondbrics looks at health. We’ll write about everything from body-beautiful gyms in Brazil to concerns about skin-whiteners in India and the state of hopitals in Vietnam.

To start, we have Patti Waldmeir, the FT’s Shanghai correspondent, on what happened when China’s health inspectors turned their attention to mooncakes, the traditional food of this month’s autumn festival. Her story starts below the break. Read more

Cosco’s contract dispute with a number of international shipping companies over unpaid rates has an air of déjà vu to it. In the autumn of 2008, Chinese state-owned steel mills walked away from iron ore contracts after prices plunged amid the global economic slowdown.

In China, a contract, as the old line goes, is merely a pause in the negotiations. Read more

 * Dispute over control of $65bn Libya fund

* Reliance Industries, BP complete $7.2bn deal

* Aquino seeks $60bn, oil resolution on China trip

* Exxon and Rosneft sign Arctic deal Read more

Filling up your car in Brazil can be a little complicated.

About 90 per cent of all new cars are built with “flex-fuel” engines that can run on both petrol and ethanol. So when you get to the petrol station, the attendant (no self-respecting Brazilian ever fills up their own car) will ask you which one you want.

Given that ethanol is less efficient than petrol, the price per litre needs to be about 30 per cent cheaper or more than that of petrol to make it worth it. Read more

According to US Energy Information Administration, Argentina has the third biggest unconventional oil and gas resources in the world. And since new hydrocarbons discoveries can qualify for higher prices in Argentina’s highly regulated market, plus the fact that domestic energy market leader YPF has made a couple of major announcements and said there is much more out there to discover, it follows that this is a sector where interest could take off.

Indeed, ExxonMobil of the US believes the next big shale frontier is in Argentina. It has signed a deal with Canada’s Americas Petrogas and is spending up to $76m to take a stake of 45 per cent in the Los Toldos blocks in the Argentine province of Neuquén – believed to be one of the richest and most promising of all shale regions in the country. Read more

Will the emerging markets keep the global economy afloat if the developed world is hit by a double dip? Since the financial crisis, the shift in economic power from the developed to the developing world has been palpable. Such is the dynamism of the larger emerging market economies that many people appear to think that they could indeed come to the rescue. Yet this optimism is sadly misplaced.

That is not to say the dynamism is illusory. The story of the recovery from the recent recession is a remarkable one. While the developed world has been struggling to return to pre-crisis output levels, the International Monetary Fund estimated earlier this year that the output of developing Asia and Latin America was 7 per cent and 2 per cent above 1997-2006 trends respectively.

 Read more

It’s official: Gennady Melikyan will step down as head of bank supervision at Russia’s central bank on September 9, after a tumultuous five years in office. Over the past year Melikyan has been in the unfortunate position of presiding over a series of surprise events, such as the bankruptcy of Mezhprombank, the lender of industrial tycoon and former senator Sergei Pugachyov, and the discovery of a $9bn hole on Bank of Moscow’s balance sheet.

Yet according to Melikyan, neither of those events had any impact on his decision to resign. As the soon-to-be ex-central banker tells Russian daily Kommersant, he’s just “psychologically tired”. Read more

Rosneft has wasted no time in finding a strategic partner to replace BP following the acrimonious collapse of their accord three months ago. And ExxonMobil doesn’t seem to have hesitated about taking the British group’s position as Moscow’s favourite oily sister.

Rosneft and Exxon announced plans on Tuesday for a multi-year accord under which Exxon will cooperate with Rosneft in developing the Russian Arctic and Black Seas, while Rosneft will have the chance to work with ExxonMobil in the Gulf of Mexico and Texas. Read more

Something’s up in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. According to Bloomberg and Reuters, Exxon Mobil executives, headed by ceo Rex Tillerson are in town for meetings with prime minister Vladimir Putin, his officials and and top managers of Rosneft, the state-controlled oil producer.

Exxon and Rosneft signed a $1bn Black Sea exploration project in January.  But you wouldn’t need all these dignatories around just to discuss that. It seems Exxon and Rosneft are on the verge of announcing a wide-ranging cooperation pact on the lines of the failed BP-Rosneft accord. Read more

Belarus currency exchangeBelarus will allow its rouble to float freely from the middle of September, president Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday in a surprise announcement.

But, there is a “but”: the exchange rate for energy payments will stay “preferential” and export-focused companies will have to convert 30 per cent of their revenues back to roubles.  Read more

The foreign assets of Saudi Arabia’s central bank have crossed $500bn for the first time.

Measured on a per capita basis or as a percentage of gross domestic product the kingdom’s foreign asset holdings are substantially higher than China’s, according to research from HSBC in Dubai. Read more