Daily Archives: Mar 27, 2012

To drop in on this year’s Tianguis Turístico in the Pacific-coast resort of Puerto Vallarta is to witness the growth, and growing diversity, of Mexico’s tourism sector.

Even one full day before it concludes on Wednesday, the annual tourism trade fair has surpassed expectations, with 7,000 businesses and travel associations in attendance compared with about 4,000 last year. Read more

As if Venezuelans weren’t uncertain enough about their political future, with a president who some think may not even be well enough to contest elections in October, the pollsters are just adding to the confusion.

The most recent round of polls released over the last few weeks has produced radically differing results, with some putting Hugo Chávez 20 to 30 points ahead of his rival, while one out last week found that they were neck and neck. Read more

Czech investment firm PPF has never seen eye-to-eye with Oleg Deripaska – its co-investor in Russian insurance group Ingosstrakh. The two sides have now been embroiled in conflict since PPF became a shareholder in the group in 2007, with Deripaska arguing that PPF’s purchase of 38.5 per cent of the company – without Deripaska’s prior approval – had ended up hurting the value of the oligarch’s own stake.

Now it seems that a solution to their problems could be close at hand. Read more

Russian steelmakers may have bounced back from the 2008 financial meltdown, but one appears to be heading into fresh trouble as a new wave of the crisis envelops Europe.

Novolipetsk Steel, Russia’s fourth biggest steel producer, said the deterioration in the global steel market and a 20 per cent rise in costs at its Russian operations caused a drop in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in the fourth quarter of the year. Ebitda declined to $383m from $478m in the previous quarter. Read more

Every now and then something crystallises how rapidly the world is changing. Last week’s nomination by President Barack Obama of Jim Yong Kim as the next president of the World Bank presents one such moment. The story ought to proceed by tradition – a US president chooses an American for the top job and the other big shareholders fall into line. The chances are that the gentleman’s agreement will be upheld: the Europeans have even more to lose than the US by ending their duopoly over Bretton Woods (France – oops, Europe – gets to appoint the head of the IMF). It would take an unlikely rupture to embolden the Europeans to vote against Dr Kim’s candidacy next month.

 Read more

Hungary’s central bank held interest rates unchanged on Tuesday, making three straight months at 7 per cent, the highest among central European currencies. The move was more bland than buzz – fully in line with market expectations – and the forint remained unchanged after the announcement, at around 291.5 to the euro.

Instead, the buzz in Budapest is whether the government is serious about getting an EU-IMF credit line or, given the improved international sentiment, will go it alone and successfully tap the markets with a foreign currency bond issue. Read more

How do you get to investment grade? It’s a question that interests many developing economies. Handily, credit rating agency Fitch has just published a few pointers for Nigeria, a country that is three notches below the magic level.

The research compares Nigeria to seven other emerging countries that have made the step up. So what are the key areas that Nigeria needs to improve? Read more

With so much to worry about in the global economy, here’s a reminder of the expected benefits of Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization, which is due to be ratified this summer.

The World Bank said in a report on Tuesday that in the long run, the country’s annual GDP could be boosted by 11 per cent, increasing incomes by a quarter for almost all households, and creating opportunities for both domestic and foreign investors. Even in the medium term, there should be extra growth of around 3.3 per cent per annum. That’s worth going for, especially for Russia’s stagnant European neighbours. Read more

After a bit of a lull, Mubadala is back.  The announcement of a $2bn investment in Brazil signals a return to big-spending, strategic overseas moves that characterised the Abu Dhabi state investment company until the emirate ran into economic trouble in the last couple of years.

The $46bn diversified group mandated to generate financial and social returns is buying a 5.6 per cent stake in Eike Batista’s Brazilian EBX Group after a bit of a pause in its own operations and in the growth of the Abu Dhabi economy. Read more

Another day, another Indian corruption scandal.

On Monday, the country was set reeling by allegations by the chief of the army that he had been offered a $2.73m bribe by the former head of the Defence Intelligence Agency to approve the purchase of shoddy vehicles.

Less than 24 hours later, Bangalore, home of India’s vaunted IT industry, was rocked by an official report claiming that 27,000 acres of charity-controlled land had been illegally allocated to individuals and companies by politicians, middlemen and the local ‘land mafia’ in a $39bn scandal. Read more

Indonesia’s promotion to investment grade in January has given investors good reason to be optimistic about the country. But lingering problems with issues such as regulation and corporate governance mean the upgrade will benefit local companies “only gradually”.

The authors of this contrarian and bearish view? None other than Moody’s – one of the rating agencies that upgraded the country in the first place. Read more

China dominates the world’s rare earths production, accounting for more than 95 per cent of global supply – a situation that has often sparked complaints from foreign manufacturers who rely on Chinese rare earths.

But some companies are benefitting in a big way: China’s biggest producer of rare earths, the Shanghai-listed Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare Earth Hi-Tech Co, announced on Tuesday that its net profit in 2011 quadrupled from a year earlier, rising to Rmb3.5bn ($552m). The jump in profits, which exceeded Baotou’s earlier guidance, sent the share prices up 8.4 per cent during trading. Read more

* Cussons hit by Nigerian unrest

* Bumi: Tan lays out his plans

* Russia set to sell $7bn of bonds Read more

Tuesday’s reads from the beyondbrics team: how Afghanistan was lost; why Putin and Obama need to talk nukes; how India’s rally has run into politics; and the uneasy relationship between the Vatican and Havana. Plus the FT’s special report on Arab finance. Read more

First cars, now booze. Chinese liquor producers saw their shares tumble on Tuesday after Premier Wen Jaibao vowed to ban government officials from squandering public funds on cigarettes and luxury alcohol.

The move, designed to quell public anger at official excess, comes just a month after Beijing proposed banning the purchase of any car that is foreign, big or extravagant, for official vehicle fleets. Read more

Shares in PZ Cussons, the UK manufacturer of Imperial Leather and other toiletry and household cleaning brands, fell by 10 per cent on Tuesday morning in London after it warned pre-tax profits would be about £10m less than expected this year because of trouble in Nigeria. It cited violent unrest in the north, January’s partial removal of fuel subsidies and the nationwide strike it provoked. Read more

The truce at Bumi, the London-listed Indonesian coal miner, seems to be holding.  As expected, the company on Tuesday announced Indonesian billionaire Samin Tan has taken over as chairman following last year’s boardroom row with British financier Nat Rothschild. Rothschild is giving up his position as co-chairman and becoming a rank-and-file director.

Tan declared that “the management changes” would strengthen the team. But shareholders will want to see the new arrangements work before trusting Bumi again. The shares rose 4 per cent in early trading – but are still down 42 per cent over the past year, including a 10 per cent drop last week. Read more

* Russia set to sell $7bn of bonds

* US World Bank nominee under fire over book

* Abu Dhabi fund to buy into Brazil’s EBX Read more

Few politicians in Latin America have the flair of Colombia’s finance minister, Juan Carlos Echeverry, when it comes to making a point. Opening up an economy is “as painful as giving birth”, Echeverry told Reuters recently.

The fact that Brazil and Argentina remain oblivious to Echeverry’s point, sticking uncompromisingly with protectionism, is an irritation for many in the region. Read more

By Samantha Pearson and Joe Leahy

There’s nothing like a friendly sheikh in the Gulf to solve your money problems.

Brazil’s richest man, Eike Batista, announced on Monday that Mubadala, an investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government, is to invest $2bn in his EBX group. In return Mubadala will get a 5.63 per cent stake in EBX’s investment vehicle. Read more