Daily Archives: Jan 23, 2012

The drought sweeping swathes of South America’s prime farmland is really starting to bite in Argentina now as farmers count the cost of irrevocably lost crops.

Farmers themselves are looking at losses of $2.5bn – or $94 per hectare for soya and $167 per hectare for corn, according to this report in La Nación newspaper. El Cronista Comercial business paper reckons losses in export revenue for Argentina, one of the world’s major farm export nations, could be as much as $6bn. 

Saudi Arabia will allow foreign companies to list securities on its stock exchange for the first time, as the kingdom inches toward opening its bourse to full foreign investment, according to Camilla Hall on FT.com. There is also mounting speculation that Saudi Arabia, home to the Arab world’s largest stock market, will soon allow foreigners to buy shares directly in the kingdom. 

Russia’s biggest bank just got bigger. Sberbank, the number one lender, on Monday completed its planned $1.4bn takeover investment bank Troika Dialog. Given the political and financial clout of state-controlled Sberbank, the deal was never in any doubt.

It should put Sberbank (SBER03:MCX) in a better position to compete with VTB, the country’s second largest bank, which has in recent years expanded rapidly – and overshadowed its bigger brother in investment banking. But much depends on how well the managers of Sberbank, an ex-Soviet institution, cope with with their dynamic new partner. 

Photo: US Steel

Serbia’s government is ready to buy back US Steel’s Serbian operations if the Pittsburgh-based company cannot find another buyer and opts to shut them down, say political and business sources in the Balkan country.

The question is whether in the current climate, and with IMF reduction targets to meet, the government can afford to take the steel plant on. 

By Péter Oszkó, former finance minister of Hungary

Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, appeared unusually flexible and conciliatory in the European Parliament last week.

But, true to form, he still came up with some well-worn excuses for his government’s performance since taking office. His opponents exposed a few, but missed others – a number of which are demonstrably false. 

It looks like Lot, the Polish state-owned airline, may finally enter private hands.

Magdalena Kobos, a spokeswoman from the Polish treasury, told Bloomberg the government was in talks with two potential buyers: Turkish Airlines, Turkey’s national flag carrier, and a publicly listed company which was not named. 

When the US Justice Department shut down Megaupload.com on January 19, it must have expected a furious reaction. Under the banner of hacker collective Anonymous and using the slogan Mega Tango Down, global attacks were launched almost immediately that, among other things, briefly removed all content from the website of CBS, the US network, on Sunday.

A lot of the hacker action happened in Brazil, where more than 100 government sites were blocked over the weekend along with the Brazilian sites of Visa, Mastercard, and singer songwriter Paula Fernandes, a rising pop phenomenon. 

* Arab League calls for Syria regime shift

* Saudi Arabia’s listing rules may boost Persian Gulf markets

* Maruti Suzuki Q3 profit slumps, says worst over

* Saudi says no cash from emerging economies until given more 

As promsed back on January 5, beyondbrics is pleased to bring you footage of Warren Buffett singing on Chinese broadcaster CCTV as part of the Chinese new year celebrations.

The 81-year-old so-called sage of Omaha played the ukulele and sang “I’ve been working on the railroad” – perhaps an apt choice given his large investment in US rail in 2009 (a $26.6bn purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe), and China’s huge high-speed rail roll-out. Buffett signed off with the Chinese greeting “Xie, xie”, which means “thank you”. 

India’s largest carmaker reported dismal results for the second quarter in a row, as the residual effects of industrial action at its north Indian plant last September continued to affect sales and profits. Investors, however, didn’t seem to mind. 

Looking for a clue showing where emerging markets might go next? Read the Bible.

That’s the advice of Jeffrey Frankel, who is no preacher but professor of capital formation and growth at Harvard University. And his advice is anything but good news: after seven years of fat, investors should prepare for seven years of lean. 

Monday’s picks from the beyondbrics team: how Egypt’s business community can broker a new social contract; the wild allegations aimed at the Georgian President; what drives Boko Haram in Nigeria, and how can the group be defeated?;  neither Iran nor the US can afford confrontation just yet; and how critics of China’s latest GDP figures exaggerate their case. 

Not quite everything in Chinese business has come to a halt for the New Year holiday.  It was announced on the Australian Stock Exchange on Monday that state-controlled Sinopec is to spend $1.1 bn increasing its stake in Australia-Pacific LNG, an Australian development led by ConocoPhillips of the US and and Australia’s Origin Energy. 

Tony Lo, chief executive of Giant, the world’s biggest bicycle maker, says higher wages present no threat to China’s status as the world’s factory. He is interviewed here by Robin Kwong for the FT video series View from the Top.

* Ikea shelves Indian retail market move

* Sierra Leone diamond miner set for HK listing

* Arab League calls for Syria regime shift

* China’s oil imports from Iran jump