Daily Archives: Feb 21, 2013

On the homepage of Banco do Brasil, Brazil’s largest bank, you can take out a loan to buy a car, renovate your house or buy electronics and home appliances. Indeed, never before in Brazil has it been so easy to borrow money from a bank. Record-low interest rates are expected to make things even more attractive for borrowers.

Tipping things even further in favour of borrowers is a push by President Dilma Rousseff to encourage banks, all of them but especially those controlled by the government like Banco do Brasil, to reduce borrowing costs to further fuel lending and get the economy moving. 

Argentina has an impressive ability, it seems, to bite the hand that feeds it: farming.

It’s an impression reinforced by Rabobank’s latest Argentine agribusiness outlook. Argentina’s farming sector, which makes up nearly 60 per cent of total exports ($47bn in 2012, and that was a bad year because of drought), is a key economic breadwinner, bringing home the dollars that are essential to an economically choppy country still with debt in default and cut off from international capital markets. 

Mobile phones have transformed banking in Africa and now they might do the same for insurance. That’s the hope of BIMA, a micro-insurance company providing low-price cover via mobile networks to 4m customers in Africa and Asia, and adding 400,000 new subscribers a month.

Founded 18 months ago, the Swedish company on Thursday announced $4.25m of new investment from the Mauritius-headquartered LeapFrog Investments, which calls itself the world’s largest investor in insurance for emerging market consumers. 

While Rosneft is busy raising billions of dollars to pay for the take over of TNK-BP, the Anglo-Russian oil major is carrying on in its own sweet way and planning, among other things, a five-fold increase in production from foreign oil projects. Don’t expect any objections from Rosneft. Russia’s state oil company has its own far greater global ambitions. 

In 2005 Henry Lin, a young professor at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, was working with a scientist from mobile maker Nokia when they discovered something unusual. It was malware, on the Symbian platform that powered most of Nokia’s smartphones at the time; the first known instance of malicious software appearing on a smartphone. And to Lin, it was an opportunity.

Lin, his colleague Vincent Shi and five graduate students cobbled together $15,000 from their families and set up NQ Mobile on the premise that mobile phone security was going to become every bit as important as personal computer security. Eight years on, the company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has 242m users in 150 countries. 

It is the second day of a bandh, a general strike in India triggered by rising prices and economic reforms that are seen as “anti-labour”.

And in the middle of all this, new data has been released predicting that wage growth in 2013 will be the slowest India has seen in a decade – excluding 2009, the height of the sub-prime crisis. 

Bulgaria took a step into the political unknown on Thursday as parliament confirmed the resignation of the government. A caretaker administration will probably be formed following constitutional niceties, and hotly-contested early elections are expected within three months.

On Thursday, parliamentarians from the ruling GERB party voted to accept their own government’s offer to quit, announced on television the previous day by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. 

It’s been billed Africa’s “best airline” for a good ten years running now but South Africa’s troubled SA Airways (SAA) has little to celebrate nowadays, with news that it could slash more flight routes to save money. 

On the face of it, Hong Kong’s market for new equity listings has perked up. Deal volume in the year to date is at its highest since 2010, while retail investors have finally returned. But, with many of the recent deals faring poorly in secondary trading, and China’s equity rally losing steam, the market for new offerings may stall before it gets out of first gear.

So far this year, Hong Kong has seen six deals, which have together raised $788m, compared with $452m by this time last year and $256m in 2011, according to Dealogic. Retail activity has also picked up, with heavy oversubscription in a number of this year’s offerings.

 

* Biggest emerging stock slump in seven months wipes out 2013 gain

* Bulgarian parliament accepts government’s resignation

* Fed comments rattle markets 

Bulgaria’s parliament accepted the resignation on Thursday of right-of-centre Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s government, which stepped down after a series of nationwide protests over high energy prices turned violent. 

Is Ashmore running out of road? The emerging markets fund manager, which on Thursday posted a 7.4 per cent drop in interim pre-tax profits, says not. But investors aren’t so sure. The shares dipped 1 per cent the news, which is nothing given the general flight out of EMs on the day.

But after doubling in 2009-10, in the recovery from the 2008 crisis, Ashmore shares have gained very little in the past two years. Clearly, investors need to be convinced that the group can find new ways of profiting from EM in the face of growing low-cost competition from index-tracking rivals. 

Thursday’s picks from the beyondbrics team: new mining bosses have more modest ambitions; could Apple take on HTC and Huawei in the cheap smartphone market? Vietnam’s zombie economy; Egypt’s policing problems; plus, weighing up the impacts of shale gas. 

By Otilia Simkova, Europe analyst, Eurasia Group

Bulgaria faces snap elections after Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s 20 February resignation spurred by ten days of protests against electricity bills, which in January averaged €100. That is a significant portion of monthly income in a country where average monthly wages are just €387 and the average pension is just €150. Despite Borisov’s decision to step down, protestors will not be appeased and are likely to turn the heat up on the energy sector.