Daily Archives: Feb 12, 2013

Jamaica might be best known for its sunny beaches, reggae music and world class athletes such as Usain Bolt. But this Caribbean island nation of 2.9m is increasingly garnering international attention for something less boast-worthy : its crippling debt crisis.

In a television address late Monday, the country’s prime minister Portia Simpson Miller said the government will launch a restructuring of its local debt – its second in three years – as it looks to stave off a “serious economic crisis” and secure a credit line from the IMF. Read more

By John Paul Rathbone and Keith Fray

Why did Hugo Chávez win last October’s presidential election so resoundingly? One simple answer is that he spent his way to re-election. In the run-up to the vote, government spending increased by a whopping 25 per cent, and that’s in real terms. No wonder Venezuela is now suffering from a yawning fiscal deficit and has just devalued.

But what about the rest of the region? After so many decades of populist-fuelled booms and busts, has it finally brought the political-cycle to heel? Beyondbrics wrapped a cold towel around its head and examined the statistics. Not every country passed. Read more

Absa Group, the Barclays-owned South African bank, has promised to tread carefully in South Africa’s booming unsecured lending market as it announced an unexpected 9 per cent decline in full-year earnings on Tuesday.

While the drop in earnings was caused by mortgage impairments and bad property loans, the Johannesburg-based bank also said in its 2012 results that it had seen “significant losses in market share” for personal loans, but was “cautious of an aggressive expansion” to win it back. Read more

South African packaging company Nampak is to invest R1.6bn in its bottle and can production, in an ambitious move to grab a bigger chunk of the bottling market from bottling rival Consol and to capitalise on growth in the beverage sector. Read more

Uncertainty about the global economic recovery has left many investors wondering what direction the gold market will take in 2013. Russian gold miners are betting that the bad economic times will continue to roll, boosting the demand for the precious metal. Read more

Olam, the Asian agribusiness, is looking to test out an ambitious diversification plan in Africa. In a way, it shouldn’t be a surprise – Olam started in Africa as part of an Indian conglomerate producing cotton for Nigerian markets, before it began exporting agri-commodities, and eventually morphing into a fully fledged rubber-to-cashews business listed in Singapore.

It is in Africa where the company is looking to branch out into fertiliser plants, plantations and consumer goods, according to Ranveer Chauhan, managing director and regional head for Olam in Africa. Read more

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded Egypt’s government bond rating to B3 from B2 (from five to six notches below investment grade) and kept it on review for a further downgrade.

The move follows fellow rating agency Fitch which downgraded the country on January 30 to B, one notch above Moody’s B3 level. S&P has Egypt on B-, the equivalent level to Moody’s.

Full statement from Moody’s follows. Read more

Poland’s former telephone monopoly, TPSA, has long been a reliable money-spinner for its owners at France Telecom. But awful results for last year released on Tuesday sent the share price plummeting by more than 30 per cent in early trading on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Read more

The cash-strapped Indian government’s plans to sell a chunk of the Steel Authority of India (SAIL) in the next few weeks as part of a fund-raising disposal of state-owned assets is running into headwinds.

The country’s biggest steelmaker, where New Delhi holds an 86-per-cent stake, on Tuesday posted disappointing quarterly results, increasing expectations that the government will have to offer the shares at a chunky discount – or delay the offering. Read more

The global mining industry could hardly be accused of being introspective. It’s a tough business, all about grade, costs and prices. Everything else is secondary. Nowhere has this attitude been more apparent in the past than at the annual Africa Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

This year, the obligations of the industry as a development partner were front and centre in the main auditorium; the debate was as much about people and politics as it was about mining. The agenda has clearly changed. Read more

* G7 seeks to defuse currency tensions

* India’s industrial output falls

* Hungary gears up for bond issue

* S Korea investors shrug off N Korea’s atomic blast Read more

After months of speculation Hungary is at last preparing to issue its first sovereign foreign currency bond in nearly two years, setting aside any chance that Budapest will pursue support from the International Monetary Fund any time soon.

The government, it seems, will grab the chance to stuff its coffers before campaigning begins for next year’s election, unfettered by budgetary constraints that might otherwise have been imposed by the European Union or the IMF. Read more

By Ivan Tchakarov of Renaissance Capital

Despite the chorus of complaint about high interest rates from president Vladimir Putin down, The Central Bank of Russia (CBR) on Tuesday stuck to its guns and left borrowing costs unchanged.

Courage under pressure? Perhaps. The bank’s made no secret about its concerns over inflation, notwithstanding the slowdown in GDP growth. But could the decision have as much to do with politics as economics? After all, Putin is due to nominate a new central bank governor next month. Read more

Tuesday’s picks from the beyondbrics team: currency war will be the hot topic at the Moscow G20 meeting, but should we even be using that phrase? Chinese companies seek to innovate rather than copy; a potential challenger to the ANC’s political dominance; high hopes for the Istanbul Stock Exchange; plus, a currency union for China and Hong Kong – could it happen? Read more

Like the boy who cried “wolf”, it seems North Korea is not getting much attention – at least from investors – by setting off nuclear explosions. The world’s only hereditary Communist dictatorship carried out its third nuclear test on Tuesday to worldwide diplomatic outrage but also to blank stares of indifference from South Korea’s financial markets. Read more