Daily Archives: Mar 13, 2012

No one is revelling more in Hugo Chavez’s struggle with cancer than investors in Venezuelan bonds, which have rallied a remarkable 35 per cent in the past four months.

This may seem morbid, but never let it be said that Venezuela’s canny leader doesn’t know how to make the best out of a bad situation.

 

Import substitution. If you’re the Argentine government, this means substituting locally-made things for imports. If you’re a foreign exporter, this means substituting countries where it’s easier to do business for Argentina.

Chilean forestry company CMPC is one. 

Poland’s centre-right government and right-wing opposition usually find very little to agree on, which is what makes this week’s race to deregulate the economy noteworthy.

The first shot was fired by Jaroslaw Gowin, the justice minister, who has embarked on a crusade to slash the number of regulated professions in Poland. The 380 protected trades is the highest number of such jobs in the EU. 

Cameras set up at polling booths provided endless hours of amusement on Russian election day earlier this month. Now Rostelecom, the Russian phone company, is looking to get more mileage out of the video surveillance system it helped install.

As Rostelecom announced today, the Rb13bn ($440m) video surveillance project will live on, helping to transmit classroom lessons via the web and provide more security in schools. 

Football is normally a source of great pride for most Brazilians but the events of the past few weeks have made the sporting industry look more like one of the country’s farcical ‘telenovelas’.

On Monday, Ricardo Teixeira, the boss of Brazil’s Football Confederation and the man in charge of preparations to host the 2014 World Cup, quit. It brings a rather colourful tenure to an untimely end. 

Tourism in Egypt and Tunisia was battered by last year’s Arab Spring: but could the North African countries’ loss be Oman’s gain?

It seems so, according to a report released on Tuesday by Hotels.com. A survey of more than 140,000 properties worldwide found that Luxor and Sharm El Sheikh, the popular Egyptian destinations, and Tunis, the Tunisan Capital, were the regions in which hotel prices fell the most over 2011. Oman, however, was an altogether different story. Prices there rose by nearly a fifth – thanks largely to a growing number of visitors. 

The OECD published a 150-page report on Hungary on Tuesday, part wish-list, part gripe. The country must take “swift action” to stabilise its economy and put growth on a sound footing.

This on the same day that the EU suspended some of Hungary’s infrastructure subsidies unless the deficit isn’t cut by June 22. But will the Orbán government take heed? 

A wake-up call for complacent corporate India from The Children’s Investment Fund, the UK-based activist hedge fund. It sent a letter on Monday to Coal India – in which TCI’s 2 per cent stake makes it the biggest shareholder after the Indian government, with 90 per cent – accusing it of committing a “breach of fiduciary duties” to minority shareholders by reversing an earlier steep increase in the price it charges for coal. 

Shares in SKS Microfinance, India’s only listed microfinance company, rose 10 per cent on Tuesday to Rs143 ($2.86) as investors bet new regulations would help it build business.

But the price rise doesn’t do enough to recover steep losses over the past month, after a widely-distributed Associated Press story revived accusations of involvement of SKS employees in a wave of suicides among insolvent borrowers. And the shares are at barely more than a tenth of the Rs1,400 they hit on a wave of investor confidence that followed the company’s IPO in 2010. SKS said the AP story was “baseless”. 

China is understandably proud of Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, its imposing parliament building. But there’s one rather embarrassing problem with the magnificent structure’s interior. Its two 108-inch LCD screens, pictured after the break, were not made in China – but in Japan.

Not for much longer, though. According to Reuters, two new screens, made by Chinese electronics brand TCL, are set to replace the current ones. And naturally, they’re bigger than the outdated Toshiba models. By two inches. 

* US, EU, Japan battle China on rare earths

* Nigeria economy picks up on non-oil sector growth

* China hints at halt to renminbi rise

* Brazil extends tax on foreign loans 

Russian oligarchs make uneasy partners – both for each other and for other shareholders. The falling out at Rusal, the world’s largest aluminium group, isn’t the first such row, and it won’t be the last.

Viktor Vekselberg resigned as Rusal chairman late on Monday, declaring that the company was in “deep crisis” because of bad management and heavy debt. On Tuesday, Oleg Deripaska, Rusal’s dominant shareholder, hit back: the company announced that Vekselberg had “failed to perform his functions”, and not turned up to a live board meeting for a year. 

During the second half of 2011, Chinese property developers were pariahs of global bond markets. As fears mounted about the prospect of a Chinese property crash, mainland developers discovered that they were no longer able to sell bonds to foreign investors.

In recent weeks, however, the market appears to have reopened – at least for some of the stronger developers. 

Tuesday’s picks from the beyondbrics team: to engage modern China, foreigners should understand the country’s past; Lex on the mergers of Chinese video websites and European airports; why India’s forthcoming Union budget must focus on stoking domestic demand; and Nouriel Roubini and Ian Bremmer voice concerns about Moscow and Beijing. 

Equity analysts in the United Arab Emirates are puzzling over some unusual trading patterns in the Abu Dhabi stock market this week – and over a curious response to the affair from ADX, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.