South America

Venezuela has defaulted on a gold swap agreement valued at $750 million with Deutsche Bank AG, prompting the lender to take control of the precious metal used as collateral and close out the contract, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter, Bloomberg News reported. As part of a financing agreement signed in 2016, Venezuela received a cash loan from Deutsche Bank and put up 20 tons of gold as collateral.

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Odebrecht SA’s failure to sell its controlling stake in petrochemical company Braskem SA to LyondellBasell Industries NV and lack of cash are complicating the task of restructuring 80 billion reais ($20.67 billion) in debt owed by the corruption-ensnared conglomerate, three sources with knowledge of the matter said, Reuters reported. The three people requested anonymity to disclose private discussions. The conglomerate was counting on Braskem dividends to service its debt.

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Argentine opposition candidate Alberto Fernandez said he won’t lead the country into default if he wins the presidential election in October, seeking to reassure investors who fear a new government might renege on its borrowings, Bloomberg News reported. “What we can guarantee is that we aren’t going to fall into a new default. I received an Argentina in default. I don’t want Argentina to fall back into that," Fernandez, 60, said in reference to his stint in Nestor Kirchner’s government at the beginning of the century when the country was emerging from a devastating debt default.

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The surprising announcement that Brazil chicken producer BRF SA is in talks to take over beef giant Marfrig Global Foods SA was met with mixed responses from analysts. Investors didn’t seem too excited either, with moves on the stocks somewhat muted as the expected reduction in the debt burden at the resulting company is met with uncertainties about scale gains and corporate governance, Bloomberg News reported. BRF fell 1.2% at 11:23 a.m. in Sao Paulo, while Marfrig rose 3.1%. Competitor JBS SA dropped 2.8%.

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A Brazilian judge has named restructuring firm Alvarez & Marsal as judicial administrator of ethanol company Atvos’ in-court restructuring, according to a document seen by Reuters. Atvos, a unit of industrial conglomerate Odebrecht SA, filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday after creditor Lone Star Funds got a court decision blocking its cash position, Reuters reported. The company, which has nearly 12 billion reais ($3 billion) in debt, had offered creditors a debt-for-equity swap in the beginning of the year, but failed to reach an agreement.

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Latin America is on the verge of suffering another lost decade. The region, still struggling to cope with the end of the commodities boom, has expanded only 0.7% a year on average during the past few years, Bloomberg News reported. That’s hardly enough to keep up with population growth, meaning that people are poorer today than they were in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund. Now its biggest economies -- Brazil, Mexico and Argentina -- have contracted simultaneously for the second time in just over three years, causing yet another headache for policy makers.

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Brazil’s civil aviation regulator ANAC said on Friday it had suspended all flights and operations of carrier Avianca Brasil in the country as a precautionary measure, following the company’s filing for bankruptcy late last year, Reuters reported. “All the flights are suspended until the company proves it has the capacity to maintain operations safely,” ANAC said in a statement. Avianca Brasil has filed for bankruptcy protection and lost most of its fleet after lessors obtained favorable court decisions to take aircraft back for lack of payments.

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Avianca was a failing airline with 37 outdated planes when German Efromovich purchased it out of bankruptcy in 2004. Over 15 years the Bolivian businessman built it into a regional powerhouse as Latin America’s second-largest carrier. But for all its success, the Bogota-based company is now back on a rocky foundation, Bloomberg News reported. Its stock price is down by almost 75% since it went public in 2011 and its bonds are trading in distressed territory amid concerns it will struggle to refinance debt. Avianca’s first-quarter loss was the biggest since 2015.

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Samarco Mineracao SA, the Brazilian mining venture that hasn’t operated since a deadly dam collapse in 2015, is postponing restructuring talks for $3.8 billion of debt until at least November, according to three people with knowledge of the plan, Bloomberg News reported. Creditors of the company’s $2.2 billion in defaulted bonds and $1.6 billion in loans and other obligations are agreeing to the delay given the uncertainty around liabilities and fines the company may be subject to, said the people, who asked not to be named as talks are private.

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A spate of farmer defaults in Brazil’s top grain-producing state is creating headaches for global traders who are among their main creditors and posing challenges to the widespread use of barter in the world’s largest soybean exporter, Reuters reported. The battles in Mato Grosso bankruptcy courts pit farmers against international trading houses, such as France’s Louis Dreyfus Corp (LDC) and U.S.-based Bunge Ltd, which have been lending aggressively to producers through Brazil’s unique barter system to protect profit margins from newer traders in China.

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