Daily Archives: Nov 20, 2012

There are only ten days left now until Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, has to decide whether to approve one of the country’s most controversial pieces of legislation – the oil and gas royalties bill.

And she is still sticking to her guns, it seems. 

If Venezuela’s finance minister Jorge Giordani is to be taken at his word, the OPEC country has entered a “new phase” of “stable and sustainable” growth.

Certainly, the economy’s 5.2 per cent growth in the third quarter announced by the government on Tuesday is not to be sniffed at, but there is a growing chorus of voices that suggest that Giordani’s projection of 6 per cent GDP growth for 2013 is at the very least optimistic. 

Mexico’s trust-busters are sometimes regarded as a rather toothless bunch. The concentration of markets as disparate as beer, television and telephony appears to prove the thesis. But the problem often lies not with the trust-busters – officially known as the Federal Competition Commission – but with a legal system that makes prevarication into a fine art.

That the commission does have real teeth was shown on Tuesday by its decision to reject Nestlé´s takeover of Pfizer’s baby foods business in Mexico because it would give it too big a share of the nation’s market, hence giving it a free hand to raise prices. 

Cristina Fernández, Argentina’s president, faced her first general strike on Tuesday. She must be getting used to protests by now, after big anti-government rallies on November 8 (dubbed 8N) and September 13 (13S).

While previous protests were the middle classes who took to the streets, this time it was workers, the bedrock of the ruling Peronist movement. For a president who is flattered by comparisons with Evita, the darling of the working-class in late 1940s and early 1950s Argentina, it must have been a painful sight. 

Frothy consumer spending has helped insulate Russia against the external headwinds that are cramping economic growth. But as a three-month slowdown in retail sales growth deepens, it appears that even stoic Russian shoppers are beginning to feel the pinch. 

Ever since the Zimbabwe government published its plans to localise majority ownership of the country’s mines, mixed messages have dominated the debate over investment and growth.

Last week was no different, with the finance minster, Tendai Biti, and miner Amplats making positive noises about investment which seem rather optimistic, to put it mildly. 

A cautious move, or a nervous one? Turkey’s central bank cut its overnight lending rate from 9.5 per cent a year to 9 per cent on Tuesday while keeping its policy rate (the one-week repo) and its overnight borrowing rate unchanged at 5.75 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively.

As Capital Economics noted, in recent months the bank has provided liquidity exclusively at the policy rate, so Tuesday’s cut is a signal rather than a practical move. But what does it tell us? 

African sovereign debt has quadrupled in the last decade, but compared to other regions still has a long way to go. As Eleanor Whitehead of This is Africa explains to Rob Minto of beyondbrics, investor appetite for African bonds is growing – so which countries are next?

By Nicholas Watson of bne

The Czech authorities have temporarily blocked the state power company CEZ from signing a contract to build two nuclear reactors while they consider an appeal from France’s Areva against its disqualification from the tender

Egypt has finally reached a long-awaited preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a $4.8bn loan.

The deal, made public on Tuesday, is designed to help Cairo reinforce its finances, stabilise its reserves, and restore investor confidence. But the announcement leaves some key details unclear, notably the fate of the currency, widely seen as overvalued. 

The phrases “south Balkan nation” and “ease of doing business” are mutually exclusive in the minds of many western business leaders. But in case you hadn’t noticed, Macedonia, the most southerly of the former Yugoslavia successor states, came in at number 23 in the latest World Bank Doing Business rankings.

Unsurprisingly, it was something Nikola Gruevski, Macedonia’s prime minister (pictured), was keen to emphasise during an official visit Budapest. 

Croatia’s efforts to attack corruption in advance of its imminent accession into the EU have claimed the scalp of former prime minister Ivo Sanader, who on Tuesday was found guilty of taking bribes and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The judgement could help Zagreb persuade Brussels that it is serious about cleaning up public life. But it could create difficulties with two EU members, Austria and Hungary, as the companies which allegedly bribed Sanader were the Austrian-controlled Bank Hypo-Alpe-Adria and the Hungarian oil giant MOL

* Glencore investors support Xstrata merger

* Asian stocks rise for third day; euro falls on France downgrade

* Regional tensions flare at Asean summit 

As the seven men who will lead China for the next five years walked out onto the stage of the Great Hall of the People last Thursday, stock market traders with a sense for politics swung into action.

Less than two hours after Zhang Gaoli, the new seventh-ranked member of the Communist Party of China’s Politburo Standing Committee, stood in front of the popping of flash bulbs, Hong Kong-listed shares of Xinyi Glass had leapt more than six per cent. 

Chinese investment in Australia raises concerns, not least in agriculture: there are few inward investments anywhere that generate as much controversy as foreigners buying control of land.

But these worries haven’t stopped the authorities in Western Australia from going ahead with a US$728m Chinese-backed project to develop a sugar industry – even though there was a big local bidder in the shape of the Australian Agricultural Company, with plans to grow cotton. It’s easy to see why Perth prefers the Chinese proposal – 350 jobs in the construction phase and 400 in production afterwards.