South America

Less than a month after Argentina’s $65 billion debt restructuring, bond prices show growing concern the government may struggle to pay its obligations, Bloomberg News reported. The country’s yield curve has inverted in the week since officials announced foreign-exchange restrictions to help conserve cash. Investors perceived the move as an act of desperation instead of a workable solution to stem the drain in foreign reserves, and prices for short-term bonds dropped.

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Argentina’s unemployment rate jumped to 13.1% in the second quarter of the year as the country was swiped by the coronavirus pandemic, the official statistics agency said on Wednesday, the highest since 2004 and up from 10.4% in the previous quarter, Reuters reported. Argentina imposed a strict lockdown in mid-March, hitting an already shaky economy in recession since 2018 and leaving many businesses struggling to survive. The country now has over 650,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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Airline Avianca Holdings came under broad criticism in Colombia for paying its top two executives $6 million in bonuses in May, at a time when the carrier had furloughed most of its employees without pay and was preparing a bankruptcy filing, Reuters reported. According to bankruptcy court documents submitted by Avianca itself, the airline paid Chief Executive Anco van der Werff $3.7 million and paid Chief Financial Officer Adrian Neuhauser $2.8 million on May 6. Five days later, the airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

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Avianca Holdings SA, one of Latin America’s largest airlines, lined up a $2 billion bankruptcy-loan package to finance its stay in chapter 11 from a group of investors and lenders including United Airlines Inc. and Chairman Roberto Kriete, The Wall Street Journal reported. Since filing for bankruptcy in May after the coronavirus pandemic curtailed flying, Avianca has been working to raise capital to stay in business as air travel remains deeply depressed world-wide.

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Argentina’s economy contracted a record 19.1% in the second quarter versus the same period a year earlier as the coronavirus pandemic crippled production and demand, though was slightly better than analyst forecasts, Reuters reported. The steep fall, deeper than a 16.3% drop during Argentina’s major 2002 crisis, came as the South American country imposed a strict lockdown in mid-March to stem the virus. The country has over 640,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and nearly 13,500 deaths.

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A group of Venezuela creditors is launching a new fund focused on distressed debt. The Canaima Global Opportunities Fund, named after a Venezuelan national park, will focus on defaulted, U.S.-sanctioned notes from the South American country, said Celestino, Bloomberg News reported. Amore, the managing director of IlliquidX, a London-based distressed-debt brokerage firm that will advise the fund. Amore said they intend to reach out to Venezuelan authorities “immediately” to discuss an accord with bondholders.

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Argentina’s new dollar bonds have plunged back into distressed territory just two weeks after the nation restructured almost $65 billion in debt. The securities fell for the fourth consecutive day Monday to an average 39 cents on the dollar, Bloomberg News reported. The $16.1 billion in bonds maturing 2030 tumbled 3.1 cents to 40.3 cents, the lowest since they began trading on Sept. 8 at about 50 cents. The bonds have a spread of around 1,300 basis points over U.S. Treasuries, well above the 1,000 points many investors consider to be the threshold for debt to be classified as distressed.

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Argentina’s honeymoon with the International Monetary Fund is about to be tested as it looks to update a $57 billion agreement struck two years ago that failed to prevent a slide into recession and the country’s ninth sovereign default, Reuters reported. The IMF, often the target of angry protests in the streets of Buenos Aires, has looked to soften its tone with Argentina as the center-left Peronist government has restructured over $100 billion with private creditors this year. Now it is IMF money on the table.

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LATAM Airlines has presented a new $2.45 billion financing proposal in the middle of its bankruptcy protection process in the United States, replacing a proposed debtor-in-possession loan that prompted the judge to reject the original plan earlier this month, Reuters reported. LATAM, the largest air transport company in Latin America, told the Chilean securities regulator in a letter on Wednesday night that the new debtor-in-possession loan maintained “basically” the structure presented in July.

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Argentina’s standing in global markets is at risk once again after it moved this week to further restrict access to dollars as foreign reserves dry, a move analysts say will hit its much-needed economic revival and investor sentiment, Reuters reported. The central bank on Tuesday tightened the noose for dollar purchases, adding a 35% tax on people who tap a $200 monthly quota, and said card payments abroad would be included in the allowance. It also limited corporate access to foreign currency.

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