Monthly Archives: February 2012

By Richard Lapper of FT Brazil Confidential

A half-completed bridge, railway lines heading into empty space and laid-off construction workers kicking their heels in desolate north eastern towns. The images – captured earlier this month by reporters from the O Estado de S. Paulo, Brazil’s conservative daily newspaper – suggest Brazil’s infrastructure build-up is in trouble, a victim – like so many other public works projects in Latin America – of corruption, bureaucracy and incompetence.

The truth, though, is more complex. Read more

Punchy stuff. The chairman of Tesco in South Korea – the retailer’s largest market outside the UK – has accused the country of being “red” after it introduced laws to protect small shopkeepers. While globalisation creates opportunities for multinationals, it also fosters hostility. But responding in kind, as Lee Seung-han has done, is rarely wise.

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Russians vote in presidential elections on March 4, and few doubt the return of prime minister Vladimir Putin to the job he last held in 2008. The main question is whether Putin will win outright in the first round or in a run-off.

But there is another intruiging element to the contest – the rise in popularity of Mikhail Prokhorov, billionaire steel tycoon. Stooge or principled industrialist? As the FT’s Catherine Belton reports from her time with him on the road, beyondbrics brings you some of the pictures and video from his campaign. Read more

Repsol’s elation at another seriously big discovery in Brazil this week was short-lived.

Mounting fears that Cristina Fernández, Argentina’s president, could announce greater intervention in Repsol’s Argentine subsidiary, YPF, on Thursday at the annual opening of Congress have caused its shares to fall off a cliff, wiping more than $4bn off YPF’s value in less than a week. Antonio Brufau, Repsol-YPF’s CEO, is currently in Argentina waiting – like the market – for news. Read more

A traffic jam clogged the express roads running along the Vistula River on Wednesday evening as thousands of fans headed to Warsaw’s brand new national stadium to watch a Poland-Portugal football match.

But although the Poland team is lacklustre at best, the fans are still in for a better time than unfortunate investors who hoped to strike it rich on Poland’s infrastructure boom. Read more

It’s ramping up to be the biggest government tender Ukraine has ever held and a potential game-changer for an economy struggling to break its dependency on increasingly expensive imports of Russian natural gas.

People in Ukraine’s government say companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, Russian-British TNK-BP, America’s ExxonMobil and Italy’s Eni are considering participating in  tenders for production sharing agreements for shale gas and other unconventional deposits. Read more

Many politicians and despots agree that democracy can be really annoying. Unfortunately for them, there will be around 60 political transitions of one kind or another in 2012. Happily for investors, markets seem to like the idea.

It is in emerging markets where elections will hit hardest —  if you include China’s transition, nine of the biggest EMs will vote this year. Those nine account for 71 per cent of the GDP of the 21 countries in MSCI global emerging markets (GEMs) index, 78 per cent of population and 73 per cent of market cap.

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Compared with the embarrassment of the 2008 Indian 2G spectrum auction – which resulted in a scam that is alleged to have deprived the government of $39bn2010’s 3G spectrum auction was a wild, lucrative success for the government and, notably, cleanly run.

With his announcement on Wednesday that the government is intent on launching an auction of 4G spectrum sometime this year, telecoms minister Kapil Sibal seems to be hoping to for something along the lines of the latter, rather than the former. Read more

Few escaped the annus horribilis that 2011 was for Indian business, and Standard Chartered doesn’t seem to have made the exit.

Operating profit before tax for the region fell 33 per cent to $804m last year, the bank announced on Wednesday, even as the group’s profit grew 11 per cent on the back of strong performances in greater China and Asean countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. Read more

Car sales in South America are booming. Fuelled by a fast-expanding middle class and growing access to consumer credit, sales of passenger vehicles in the region hit 5.3m unit in 2011 – a 9 per cent increase from the year before. The figure is expected grow another 2 per cent this year to 5.4m units, according to IHS Automotive.

Against this backdrop of soaring demand, car makers should be zooming along with the wind in their hair right? Not so if General Motors‘ performance in the region last year is anything to go by.  Read more

A bit of relief for those involved in central and east European banking. Austria’s Erste Bank, eastern Europe’s second-largest lender after Raiffeisen International Bank, on Wednesday beat analysts’ forecasts for its fourth quarter profits and bad debt charges.

The statement said net profit rose to €254.1m in the three months to December, an increase from the €244.9m recorded in the same period of 2010, and predictions of a €230m profit. Erste shares leapt 4.6 per cent on the news and later traded 3 per cent higher, taking the gain for the year to 37 per cent. As with Raiffeisen, investors have got over the gloomy prognostications about bad debts and credit crunches that spooked the sector late last year. But, as with Raiffeisen, there is still work to be done rebuilding confidence. Read more

* Banks borrow €530bn from ECB scheme

* Indian economic growth slips to 6.1%

* StanChart: east Asia drives record gains

* Hong Kong’s Tsang faces corruption probe Read more

It has become commonplace for recession-savaged western companies to seek fresh fortune in emerging markets – especially in Brazil, the world’s second biggest emerging economy.

But that’s not the case for at least one western multinational wanting to boost its sagging domestic sales. Gap Inc, the US clothes retailer, is eschewing Brazil in its Latin American plans and looking for its retail El Dorado among the smaller but faster-growing economies of Spanish America instead. Read more

The prospect of European Union sanctions against Iran is driving up oil prices and sending buyers looking for cover. But Europe should not assume that Russia, the world’s biggest oil producer, will replace the missing Iranian crude when the embargo kicks in on July 1.

After years of delays and billions of dollars of investment Russia is beginning to redirect its oil trade away from the west towards premium energy markets in China and east Asia. Read more

Wednesday’s picks from the beyondbrics team: Martin Wolf on why China is right to pursue economic reform cautiously; Lex on questionable hopes for China’s second-biggest news portal; why the west is obliged to offer more than just humanitarian assistance to Syria; and the luxury hotel chain with a booming business in some of the world’s most troubled countries. Read more