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Don’t say we didn’t warn you. When El Salvador, a poor Central American country that’s been ranked among the world’s most violent, succeeded in raising $800m from international investors back in November – and at a rate that was more attractive than Portugal’s 10-year notes – beyondbrics wondered whether investors might be getting ahead of themselves.

Well, investors got something of a rude awakening on Tuesday after Fitch cut the country’s credit rating from BB to BB- and warned that it could cut again if the economy deteriorates further. Continue reading »

Mother Nature has dealt Central America a lousy hand. Earthquakes, floods and hurricanes of biblical proportions have battered the isthmus over the years, but the latest natural disaster is a botanical one.

A plague known as “coffee rust” has hit the region’s top-quality arabica crop. Premium blends from coffee grown in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama are much loved by aficionados. Continue reading »

Is El Salvador, a poor Central American country struggling to overcome a violent history, a safer bet than Portugal? And is Mongolia, a country that has been rescued five times in the past 22 years by the International Monetary Fund, a better investment thesis than Spain?

Bond investors seem to think so. Continue reading »

Plucky fellows those market regulators in the small and relatively poor Central American nation of El Salvador. Their opposition has scuppered a deal between two very rich men: one the richest in Ireland, the other the wealthiest in all of the world.

After months of hand-wringing, Digicel, based in Jamaica but controlled by the Irish magnate Denis O’Brien, and Carlos Slim’s América Móvil have renounced plans for a takeover of mobile operator Digicel by the Mexican company, the dominant force in Latin American telecommunications. Continue reading »

When an avalanche of Spanish capital turned up on Latin America’s doorstep over the turn of the century, naysayers shuddered at headlines that welcomed the “New Conquistadors”. Latin America seemed to many to be a risky bet for Spanish banks, energy and telecommunications companies by comparison with the comfort zone provided by European markets.

Instead, the steady growth of Latin America has provided welcome relief for Spanish companies from the financial turmoil at home. But in recent weeks troubles in the old country have appeared to clip the wings of the Spanish companies in LatAm. A weakened Spain, indeed, seems to have lost political clout in the region. Continue reading »

Indigenous Panamanians protest recent changes to the country's mining lawThere’s gold in them thar Central American hills. Gold and several other valuable minerals. Mining companies, especially Canadian, are courting the region yet most of the governments are playing hard to get, if not being openly hostile.

All of which must be pretty perplexing to at least some of the companies. World prices of metals remain high while Central American economies are some of the world’s most vulnerable. Surely a slam-dunk for the miners? Continue reading »

US dollarsLately it seems that stock prices in one emerging market or another are hitting a new record high every day, but the landmarks don’t matter so much to buy-and-hold investors.

More interesting to them is seeing what kind of money they would have made if they’d got into the best EM companies a few years ago, when big success was still ahead of them. That’s what a new study does, and it puts developed world businesses to shame. Continue reading »

By Ronald Buchanan in Mexico City

customers outside a Starbucks storeThe tropical highlands of Central America grow some of the world’s finest Arabica coffee – much of it imported by Starbucks, which accounts for some 20 per cent of the Guatemalan crop alone. Yet the inhabitants of the isthmus have yet to experience a cup of Starbucks coffee, much less an iced caramel macchiato or frappuccino.

But coffee drinkers won’t have to wait much longer; by the end of this year, a franchised Starbucks will open in El Salvador, the first in a chain of stores expected to spread throughout Central America. Continue reading »