Chile

Chile is on the brink of losing its hard-won reputation as the safest bet in Latin America following the biggest social upheaval in a generation. One month into a wave of mass protests Chile’s credit-default swaps are near those of the region’s other most stable countries, Bloomberg News reported. The gap between the spread on its five-year CDS and Peru’s has narrowed 21 basis points to two basis points. The gap with Panama has disappeared over the same period, with the Central American nation now 0.6 basis point below Chile.

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At least two died and dozens were injured from looting and riots this weekend in Santiago and other major Chilean cities as protests against income equality intensified and spread across the country, Bloomberg News reported. The government has declared a state of emergency in the capital and four other regions in central Chile, giving it broader powers to enact security measures like curfews, for the first time since Augusto Pinochet was dictator. President Sebastian Pinera announced Saturday night that he would suspend the hike in subway fares that initially sparked the protests.

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A stalled solar-thermal project in northern Chile backed by a U.S. private equity investor is seeking about $800 million in debt to resume construction, according to people familiar with the deal, Bloomberg News reported. EIG Global Energy Partners, the U.S. private equity investor that took over the $1 billion Cerro Dominador solar plant last year, has received interest from “several international banks,” Fernando Gonzalez, the project’s chief executive officer, said in an email Monday. He started pursuing project-finance debt about three weeks ago, and declined to say how much he’s seeking.
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The man who masterminded Chile’s world-famous privatised pension system still calls it the “Mercedes-Benz” of retirement systems, but that has proved an enraging comparison when the average pensioner is eking out an income that turned out to be less than the minimum wage, the Financial Times reported. José Piñera created the scheme as social security minister 35 years ago when Chile, under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, was the world’s free-market laboratory.
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Thousands of Chileans took to the streets nationwide on Sunday to demand a dismantling of a private pension system criticized for providing retirees with low payouts, The Wall Street Journal reported. The backlash against the system follows years of accolades by multilateral organizations such as the World Bank, which held up Chile’s pioneering use of individual savings accounts as an alternative for countries with costly state pensions considered unsustainable because of aging populations.
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Automotores Gildemeister SA, a Chilean car dealer, agreed to cede options to buy 40 percent of the company to its bondholders as part of a restructuring of debt. The company failed to pay a coupon on its 2021 bonds that was due Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported. Gildemeister reached a preliminary agreement with holders of about 70 percent of its $700 million in dollar bonds due in 2021 and 2023 to swap the notes for new bonds guaranteed by real estate and other assets, according to an e-mailed statement.
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Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s president, swept back to power in 2013 on the back of pledges to fight inequality and put an end to the deeply entrenched privileges enjoyed by the country’s traditional elite, the Financial Times reported. So her government’s credibility took a serious blow when the single mother’s eldest son, Sebastián Dávalos, was earlier this month accused of using his influence to secure a bank loan. The ensuing uproar was such that he was forced to resign last week as head of a charitable foundation normally run by Chile’s first lady.
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Empresas La Polar SA, Chile’s fourth-biggest department store operator, said it is planning to restructure debt for a second time following its 2011 default. La Polar, which defaulted on 493 billion pesos ($1.1 billion) of debt after revealing accounting irregularities at its in-house credit card operation, said in a filing to regulators that it will seek to meet with creditors as soon as possible. It had total debt of 207 billion pesos at the end of 2013, including 189 billion pesos of bonds, according to company financial statements.
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Holders of Empresas La Polar SA series A and B bonds agreed to back a debt restructuring plan that aims to avert the department store operator’s second bankruptcy in 12 years, said Nelson Contador, a legal adviser to the company, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. All of La Polar’s creditors will vote on the plan on Nov. 7, Contador told reporters during a meeting of bondholders Friday. Debt will be divided into two parts, La Polar chairman Cesar Barros told reporters at the same meeting.
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A high-level executive at Latin America's largest shipping company in terms of revenue, Chile's Compania Sudamericana de Vapores SA, said the company won't go bankrupt despite recent financial troubles that have led to market speculation it could fail, Dow Jones Daily Bankruptcy Review reported. Vapores, whose finances have been weighed down by hefty ship and container leasing fees, as well as rising international crude oil prices, is looking to stanch its financial hemorrhaging through a $500 million capital increase and the listing of up to 49% of its SAAM ports unit.
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