Monthly Archives: January 2013

Why Argentina’s Debt Problems Could Become An Investing Opportunity

Forbes.com – by Sara Zervos, OppenheimerFunds

As late as the early 20th century, angry investors sent warships to block the harbors of countries who had defaulted on their sovereign bond payments. That particular tactic is now behind us, butArgentina’s 2002 sovereign debt default has created a contentious game of chicken that continues even today. The decade-long saga is rife with legal twists and turns, and once again investors and rating agencies are bracing themselves for a possible Argentine default. An Appeals Court ruling on Nov. 28 delayed the day of reckoning, but come March 2013, Argentina could choose a path of technical default. Because Argentina has both the ability and willingness to repay its debt,  I will be monitoring conditions closely over the next few months for attractive Argentine investment opportunities.

The Battle Continues – But Its Effects Won’t Be Felt Globally

In the debt restructuring following the 2002 default, approximately 7% of the original bondholders remained “holdouts” – investors like hedge funds NML Capital Ltd. and Aurelius Capital Managementwho have not agreed to restructuring. Recent legal judgments have instructed Argentina to pay back –in full – these holdout investors, before the sovereign can pay any more coupons on the restructured debt (which it has been doing for years).

But who will be the first to swerve in this game of chicken? Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has claimed that paying 100% to these holdouts would violate Argentine law, which states that no holders of the defaulted bonds can be offered better terms than those accepted by 93% of investors in 2005 and 2010. The holdouts refuse to accept anything less than 100% repayment. The legal rulings are making it increasingly difficult for Argentina to find a way to continue to service debt without ceding to the holdouts.

The most likely conclusion to the drama will be a technical default that should not have widespread implications for the emerging market debt market. Emerging market countries have evolved far beyond the point where they can be considered one homogenous unit. Additionally, since the 2002 default, Argentina has been effectively shut out of the international debt market and currently makes up a mere 1.15% of the J.P. Morgan EmergingMarkets Bond Index Global.1  Argentina has stated numerous times that it wants to repay its creditors, and it has the cash to do so. The amount of money needed for holdouts is a mere $1.33 billion compared to Argentina’s current $45+ billion in international reserves. 2

Fears of Default Could Create Opportunity

This heated standoff will eventually subside, though Argentina faces serious economic pressures. Kirchner’s popularity is at a low. Domestic unions, a key support group, staged a general strike on Nov. 20 protesting low wages and insufficient retirement pensions. The International Monetary Fund recently issued a strong warning that the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Argentina should take greater care in calculating its inflation figures, which tend to vary greatly from third-party calculations.

We currently have no exposure to Argentina’s sovereign debt. However, we see global growth recovering in the coming quarters, which, in the past, has been a positive driver for Argentina’s outlook. If Argentine assets continue to cheapen due to the fear of a technical default (spreads of Argentine debt over U.S. Treasuries were near 1,200 basis points on Nov. 26)3, we believe that investors could be adequately compensated for investing in some particular bonds. Over the next few months, I will be keeping a close eye on the conditions in Argentina to identify potential investing opportunities.

The proven Buenos Aires – Argentina lawyer professionals at the Kier Joffe law firm have experience working with foreign clients involved in all kind of cases in Argentina. Buenos Aires Argentina attorney professionals are knowledgeable in almost all the practice areas of law, to service its international cases in Buenos Aires Argentina. International clients will have the confidence of knowing that the case is being handled by an experienced and knowledgeable Buenos Aires  lawyer in Argentina.

www.kierjoffe.com

 

Argentina Just Might Get Its Act Together

Forbes.com – by Lawrence Goodman

Argentina seems to be on a collision course of its own making.  Inflation is soaring and investment is on the wane.  Despite being the third largest economy in Latin America with abundant resources, Argentina no longer has access to voluntary capital inflows and the growth that funding affords.

The republic faces the threat of a currency crisis that could readily spiral to high double-digit inflation.  In years past, excessive inflation eroded incomes and wiped out the savings of individuals.  Despite intentions to benefit the poor, an unsustainable macro mix, difficult dealings with the private sector, and increasing international isolation promises to again diminish living standards.

Argentina’s foreign exchange policy and breach of international contracts represent obstacles to attracting financing for many worthy projects.  Currency is now rationed by the government.  So, an insufficient supply of available dollars threatens to stymie economic activity in the private and public sectors.  These barriers also incent foreign and local participants to move funds from Buenos Aires toMiami, Zurich or London rather than putting them to work in Argentina.

To circumvent currency limits, the private sector deftly employs a shadow exchange rate called the “blue chip swap.”  Yet, the costs of doing business via the Blue chip exchange rate are high – as securities priced in U.S. dollars must be purchased and exchanged to obtain scarce foreign currency.  In other words, there are two separate exchange rates in Argentina.

Memories of dual or multi-tiered exchange systems are limited, as they are fortunately relics of the distant past.  However, previous experiments – stretching from Argentina (1978-81 and 2001-02),Jamaica (1970-78 and 1987-94), Mexico (1982-85), and Venezuela (1984-89) – all ended poorly with a surge of inflation and shortages of basic goods and necessities.

At present, the “blue chip swap” strongly signals the risk of a roughly 40% devaluation of the peso.  So, this cumbersome and costly exchange rate management system either keeps investors sidelined or requires them to attach a hefty premium to any new undertaking.

Investment confidence is also vitally linked to adherence to the rule of law.  Unfortunately, Argentina has racked up lawsuits by individuals and institutions, and many settlements remain outstanding.  For instance, Argentina has not complied with any judgments brought by ICSID, the World Bank’s arbitral body for settling disputes.  Similarly, Argentina has refused to comply with more than 100 judgments in New York State alone ordering it to pay its creditors – including a high profile dispute with holdout creditors.

Fortunately, the government possesses the power to engineer a dramatic turnaround.

Argentina is rich in human and natural resource. Moreover, it has nurtured human resources by implementing policies dedicated to social inclusion.   It is the sixth most literate nation among the top 24 emerging markets in the world today.  On the financial front, the nation sports a strong balance sheet.  Debt is a scant 40% of GDP, well below the safe threshold of 60%.  Similarly, Argentina has grown the economy by an average 7.7% per year since the 2001/02 crisis, while widening its social safety net.

A reversal of rogue behavior on the legal front would free access to capital and help Argentina lower borrowing costs.  For instance, if Argentina’s perceived adherence to the rule of law converged with Brazil’s, as measured by theCenter for Financial Stability’s Rule of Law Index, Argentina could reduce future borrowing costs by a minimum of 735 basis points per year over ten years and open the nation to new sources of funding and growth.

Given the political will, Argentina can engineer a recovery and regain its prominence as a leading G-20 nation by fortifying its social programs through sound fiscal management; moving away from distortionary exchange rate policies; and honoring contracts.  How the Kirchner administration develops the nation’s human and natural resources will either accelerate its downward descent or set the stage for prosperity.

The proven Buenos Aires – Argentina lawyer professionals at the Kier Joffe law firm have experience working with foreign clients involved in all kind of cases in Argentina. Buenos Aires Argentina attorney professionals are knowledgeable in almost all the practice areas of law, to service its international cases in Buenos Aires Argentina. International clients will have the confidence of knowing that the case is being handled by an experienced and knowledgeable Buenos Aires  lawyer in Argentina.

www.kierjoffe.com