By Russ Dallen, Caracas Capital Markets
Trying to predict what will happen in South America’s wildest emerging markets in 2015 has the degree of difficulty of trying to compute pi to the 100th digit in your head.
With Venezuela, in particular, the range of options of what could happen next year is almost as infinite – ranging from more of the same and muddling through, to default, violence, coup, civil war and international brigades. On the economic front, whether Venezuela survives 2015 will depend almost purely on the price of oil, however. Read more
Last week, Cleary Gottlieb – the US law firm representing Argentina in its debt negotiations – held a packed closed-door session on Venezuela. The question of the day was: what if Venezuela defaults? This week, the US Senate passed a bill that seeks to sanction Venezuelan officials for alleged human rights violations. Although these two events are not obviously related — and the sanctions bill still has to be approved by Congress, and signed into law by Barack Obama — they could become so. They both also illuminate the horrible mess that Venezuela could be heading into. Read more
Argentina's economy minister Axel Kicillof
If there’s anything certain about investing in Argentina at the moment, it’s that there is an unusually high degree of uncertainty over the outcome an investment.
As a result, investors were delighted when the economy minister Axel Kicillof said on Thursday that he wanted to “put an end to all speculation” and provide “certainty” about whether the government will be able to pay its bondholders next year.
The government will give holders of the $6.7bn Boden 2015 bond the option next week to collect their payment early, swap the local-law dollar-denominated bond for another one (the Bonar) that matures in 2024, or simply wait until the Boden bond matures next year. Read more
Argentines who can remember their last bout of hyperinflation in the late 1980s might have been bemused had they witnessed what was happening this week on Florida street in downtown Buenos Aires.
Despite inflation of around 40 per cent, the value of the dollar on the unofficial market (known as the “blue” dollar) was falling so fast on Monday that beyondbrics came across one currency exchange that refused to tell customers queuing to buy pesos what the price was, as it might have changed by the time they reached the counter.
The drop in the “blue” dollar on Monday was the biggest in months, however, it had been falling steadily ever since Alejandro Vanoli took over the central bank six weeks ago, when the dollar fetched nearly 16 pesos. On Monday it was selling at 12 pesos on Florida street – compared with the official rate of 8.5, which has remained fairly stable.
Who ever said that Argentina’s battle with the holdouts was getting boring? It may have been dragging on for an awfully long time now, but American Task Force Argentina (ATFA) is doing its bit to keep things spicy.
Today ATFA, which lobbies on behalf of what Argentina calls the “vulture funds”, released a limited edition of virtual player cards, each one dedicated to “individuals that have been reported as facilitating corruption and illicit money laundering in Argentina”. Read more
By Marcos Buscaglia of BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research
In a recent article in Project Syndicate titled Should Venezuela Default?, Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard University argued Venezuela’s government is facing a difficult trade-off between providing basic goods to its people and paying Wall Street. So far, Venezuela has opted for the latter. My BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research colleague Francisco Rodriguez argued in an FT beyondbrics column that this is a false dichotomy, as there is another policy solution to Venezuela’s dilemma: fix relative prices.
We argue that Argentina’s situation is analogous to that of Venezuela’s. Its government has also faced a dilemma, between preserving international reserves to service local law public debt, particularly the Boden 2015, or giving them to importers. Like Venezuela, Argentina has decided in favour of Wall Street thus far, at the expense of its population. This is also a false dilemma, in our view. We believe Argentina needs instead to implement a sustainable macroeconomic adjustment and act to reopen capital markets. Read more
Argentina’s energy sector is a constant headache for the government – the fact that there are tankers charging hefty daily fees as they queue up offshore to unload liquefied natural gas because there is nowhere to store it is just the most recent example.
But YPF, Argentina’s biggest energy company, has been a beacon of light in the gloom, with the country’s energy deficit being the single biggest reason why it is running out of dollars.
YPF has notched up a string of achievements since the state took back a majority stake in 2012, most recently announcing on Wednesday a $170m deal with Ecuador’s Petroamazonas to optimise production in the mature Yuralpa oilfield. Read more
By Arturo Porzecanski of American University
José Antonio Ocampo, a former United Nations official and co-president with Prof. Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University’s Initiative for Policy Dialogue, which promotes the adoption of heterodox economic policies in developing countries, recently wrote a guest post welcoming a UN General Assembly resolution calling for the launch of negotiations on a multilateral framework for sovereign debt restructuring. The resolution was Argentina’s initiative and it passed with the backing of a coalition of developing countries (the so-called G-77 plus China) in the wake of, as Ocampo put it, “the absurd decisions of a New York judge on Argentine debt.” Read more
By José Antonio Ocampo of Columbia University
On September 9, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution to launch negotiations on a multilateral framework for sovereign debt restructuring. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the resolution: 124 in favour vs 11 against with 41 abstentions. But it was a deeply divided one. It was essentially approved with the votes of developing countries, but the no votes included the US, Japan, Germany and the UK; the remaining European Union members abstained.
This is, of course, a continuation of the saga of the absurd decisions of a New York judge on Argentine debt: the decision to force the country to pay on the original terms to holders of bonds not tendered at the 2005 and 2010 renegotiations, the ratification of this verdict by the New York Court of Appeals, and the decision of the US Supreme Court not to consider an appeal by Argentina against the latter decision. Read more
The bust-up between Argentina and its holdout creditors is getting uglier by the day. As the “vulture funds” do their best to prove that there is corruption at the highest levels of government, President Cristina Fernandez responded yesterday by accusing them of engaging in terrorism.
The increasingly dirty fight comes as the holdouts disdainfully reject the possibility that a deal with the private sector might materialise, so rescuing Argentina from its default situation. Aurelius Capital Management said on Wednesday that none of the offers presented by a group of Wall Street banks were even “remotely acceptable.” Read more
Argentina’s debt default at the end of last month might have been expected to plunge emerging markets into a new paroxysm of panic. But the saga has for the most part been brushed off by fixed income fund managers.
True, prices of Argentine bonds have fallen, but not by very much. An issue due in 2033 actually gained slightly last week to close on Friday at 84 cents on the dollar, down from 96 cents two weeks ago but well above its 2014 low of 65 cents, let alone the 20-30 cents in the dollar level to where defaulted Latin American paper might have been expected to sink.
What’s more, demand for new high yield Latin American paper continues to surge. Read more
By Mark Stefanini of Mayer Brown
While global markets watched the clock tick down on Argentina’s default this week, the holdout creditors’ camp would have already started considering redoubling their efforts to extract payment from Argentina. The potential for NML to target Argentina’s overseas assets could provide the next twist in the tale – and set a precedent for exposing previously hidden transactions and assets in other emerging markets and worldwide. Read more
Argentina’s national motto is En unión y libertad (In Union and Liberty). Should it, perhaps, consider changing it to Sui Generis?
Having found a variety of ways throughout its history to break new ground in macroeconomic and sovereign debt mismanagement, Buenos Aires this week may be forced into a new one.
It may be difficult to argue convincingly that a default could be anything but bad for Argentina’s economy – the real question is just how bad – but it is less clear what it means for politics.
You might think that little could be of greater importance for leaders of a country in very serious danger of falling into default in a matter of hours than to be doing their utmost to prevent this from happening. Read more
Who will jump first in Argentina’s game of chicken with its holdout creditors as they race towards the abyss of sovereign debt default? Or will both drive off the edge?
Although just a few days remain until Argentina’s July 30 deadline to make bond interest payments – a failure to do so would result in default – it is still possible that one of the two parties will make a last-minute concession that would allow a deal to be made. Indeed, if a compromise is made, it is most likely to come at the eleventh hour. Read more
As Argentina comes to terms with its 1-0 defeat by Germany, it is already half time in a critical showdown with so-called “holdout” creditors.
Two weeks have elapsed since Argentina entered a month-long grace period after failing to make interest payments to bondholders on June 30, and two weeks remain until it will default for a second time in a dozen years if those payments have still not been made by July 30. Yet talks with the holdouts appear to have made precious little progress so far. Read more
It hasn’t been a good few days for Argentina’s government. First, a New York court ruled to block payments on its restructured debt, leaving the country teetering on the brink of its second default in 13 years. Then, in another judicial blow – this time from Buenos Aires – vice president Amado Boudou was formally charged in a corruption scandal.
Boudou heard about the decision late on Friday evening when in Cuba. The charge is the culmination of an investigation into Ciccone, a printing company rescued from bankruptcy and awarded a government contract to produce pesos. The vice president, charged alongside five other defendants, is accused of using middlemen to gain a 70 per cent stake in return for favours. Read more
The most casual followers of the Argentine debt saga will be familiar with the Latin term pari passu, or “equal footing” – or, in this case, equal payment to all holders of Argentine bonds, whether or not those holders took part in the country’s two restructuring programmes in 2005 and 2010 following its 2001 default.
Now Russ Dallen of Caracas Capital Markets, a veteran commentator on and broker in Latin America’s most exotic bond markets, has introduced another smattering of Latin to the story: pacta sunt servanda, or “contracts are for keeping”. Read more
Imagine an Argentina without holdouts – “it isn’t hard to do”, as John Lennon might sing. Investors are already doing so. The Buenos Aires stock market has soared 9 per cent since Cristina Fernández said last week that her country would negotiate with the holdouts, led by NML Capital. Argentine bonds have also rallied. Meanwhile, the economy has slipped into recession, partly because a shortage of foreign exchange has compressed imports.
Yet if the holdout issue was resolved, credit markets would re-open, foreign investment might soar, and currency shortages would no longer be a binding problem. Just imagine! Then the real economy would grow again, too. Read more
By José Antonio Ocampo of Columbia University
The US Supreme Court decision not to review the prior findings of New York courts on Argentina’s dispute with non-participants in the 2005 and 2010 debt renegotiations (the so-called holdouts) has major implications for Argentina and for those who did take part in the renegotiations. But beyond that it has a paradoxical effect: it makes the negotiation of an international bankruptcy regime inevitable. Read more