South America

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is joining a fund managed by Banco BTG Pactual SA to make a binding offer for the fiber unit of Brazilian telecom carrier Oi SA, Bloomberg News reported. The bid is expected Jan. 22, along with two other binding offers. Highline do Brasil, part of Digital Colony, and Ufinet, which is backed by Italy’s Enel SpA, both plan to make bids for the business. Oi is planning to sell as much as 51% of its subsidiary, known as InfraCo, with a value for the whole company of at least 20 billion reais ($3.6 billion).
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Costa Rica built Latin America’s model society, enacting universal health care and spending its way to one of the Western Hemisphere’s highest literacy rates. Now, it’s reeling from the financially crushing side effects of the coronavirus, as cratering revenue and crisis spending force a reckoning over a massive pile of government debt, the Washington Post reported. The pandemic is hurtling heavily leveraged nations into an economic danger zone, threatening to bankrupt the worst-affected.

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Severe coronavirus restrictions around the world to contain surging infection rates weighed on fuel sales, weakening the prospect of energy demand recovery in the first half of 2021, Reuters reported. Most of Europe is now under the strictest restrictions, according to the Oxford stringency index, which assesses indicators such as travel bans and the closure of schools and workplaces. The United Kingdom’s new national lockdown is expected to last until mid-February at least.

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The European Union can no longer legally recognise Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate head of state after he lost his position as head of parliament, the bloc's 27 governments said on Wednesday, Reuters reported. Guaido is still seen by the United States and Britain as Venezuela's rightful leader following the disputed 2018 re-election of President Nicolas Maduro, and two EU diplomats stressed the EU still did not recognise Maduro as president.

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The Brazilian state of Minas Gerais is hoping to win at least 28 billion reais ($5.3 billion) from a compensation deal with miner Vale SA after the 2019 Brumadinho deadly dam burst, a senior state official said on Wednesday, Reuters reported. State and Vale officials will meet on Thursday, when it is expected talks on compensation will begin, ahead of a court-mediated hearing expected in January, said state secretary general Mateus Simões. “The idea is that we end the text discussion tomorrow and start the value discussion,” he told Reuters.

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Even before Covid-19, the World Bank had lowered its projections for global growth in the 10 years that began in 2020. The pandemic is exacerbating that trend, raising the prospect of a “lost decade” ahead, the World Bank said Tuesday, as it also cut its forecasts for the coming year, the Wall Street Journal reported. The bank’s semiannual Global Economic Prospects report attributes the long-term downgrade to lower trade and investment caused by uncertainty over the pandemic, along with disruptions in education that will hamper gains in labor productivity.
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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro installed a new National Assembly filled with regime loyalists, consolidating his power over key institutions in the crisis-torn nation despite mounting U.S. sanctions, Bloomberg News reported. Lawmakers on Tuesday elected former Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez as the new president of the legislative body.

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Shunned in global financial markets, Argentina is seeking about US$5 billion for next year from multilateral organisations other than the International Monetary Fund as it negotiates a larger refinancing programme with the Washington-based lender, according to three people familiar with the plans, the Buenos Aires Times reported. Alberto Fernández’s administration is looking to institutions including the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, said the people, who asked not to be named because discussions are private.

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Latin America’s luck will change. Pandemic lockdowns caused more regional corporations to default between early May and June. But yield-starved investors will ignore some of these risks, Reuters reported. There’s a lot of bad news to ignore. The International Monetary Fund expects Latin American and Caribbean economies to contract by more than 8% in 2020, the most of any region, with only a 3.6% improvement in 2021. And non-financial companies with foreign debt have seen revenue dented by a combined $200 billion due to the pandemic, Fitch Ratings estimates.

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The drop in the amount of distressed debt across emerging markets has been a barely anticipated bonus for many countries this year. But it’s scant comfort for those nations still struggling with mounting obligations, Bloomberg News reported. The number of emerging- and frontier-market nations with debt trading at distressed levels -- yields more than 10 percentage points above those on U.S. Treasuries -- has tumbled from as many as 19 at the height of the coronavirus selloff in March to about a half-dozen now.

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