South America

British emerging markets investor Ashmore Group is betting that Argentina’s current crisis, that has seen the country veer toward default, is not as bad as it looks, Reuters reported. The investment manager is buying Argentina’s dollar bonds in the belief the clear favorite to win next month’s general election, Alberto Fernandez, will be less radical in overhauling the government’s debt than markets now expect, one of its executives said on Wednesday.

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Argentina’s financial program with the International Monetary Fund will be on hold for some time as the nation grapples with severe political and economic uncertainty, the Fund’s Acting Managing Director David Lipton said an interview, Bloomberg News reported. “Our job in this setting is to help them get through this period, give them advice, work toward an eventual resumption of a relationship -- some kind of financial relationship with them -- which may have to wait awhile,” Lipton told Bloomberg Radio on Wednesday.

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President Jair Bolsonaro ’s administration is opening up one of the world’s most closed big economies, slashing import tariffs on more than 2,300 products and exposing local industries long accustomed to protectionism to the challenges of free trade, The Wall Street Journal reported. With little fanfare, the conservative government has since taking office in January eased the entry of ultrasonic scalpels, cancer drugs, heavy machinery and more, in some cases with tariffs reduced to zero from as much as 20%.

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Western Hemisphere nations voted Monday to employ a regional treaty to impose sanctions against embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, accusing his regime of criminal activity including drug trafficking and money laundering, The Wall Street Journal reported. In a meeting convened by the Organization of American States, 16 of the 19 states party to the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, a 1947 pact known as the Rio Treaty, backed using the pact to collaborate on law-enforcement operations and economic sanctions against Mr. Maduro and his associates.

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Argentina’s government can’t resolve growing investor concern over the ability to repay its debt alone and will require consensus with the opposition to reach an orderly reprofiling of its obligations, Economy Minister Hernan Lacunza said, Bloomberg News reported. With just a month before general elections and the handover for the next administration slated for Dec.

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The board of Brazilian phone carrier Oi, currently under bankruptcy protection, has named Rodrigo Abreu as its new Chief Operating Officer, the company said in a securities filing on Friday, Reuters reported. Abreu was previously a member of Oi’s board, where he headed a committee that was advising the company’s senior management on the recovery plan. Oi said that Abreu, as COO, will oversee key areas for the company such as engineering, systems and operational performance.

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Brazilian telecommunications firm Oi SA is in talks with Spain’s Telefonica SA and Italy’s Telecom Italia SpA to sell its mobile network to avoid insolvency, five people with knowledge of the matter said, Reuters reported. Oi has been struggling to turn around its business since filing for bankruptcy protection in June 2016 to restructure approximately 65 billion reais of debt.

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Brazilian sugar and ethanol maker Grupo Moreno, which operates three plants in the heart of Brazil’s sugarcane belt, has filed for bankruptcy protection, the law firm advising the company told Reuters on Thursday. The move underscores problems caused by poor margins in the sugar business in recent years and a depressed domestic ethanol market between 2011 and 2015, when the Brazilian government kept gasoline prices artificially low to fight inflation, turning ethanol margins negative, Reuters reported.

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The International Monetary Fund has a tough choice to make in Argentina: Unlock over $5 billion in funds under the country’s loan deal as the government strains to stave off default, or hold the money back and risk sparking more market panic, Reuters reported. The IMF, which agreed a $57 billion line of credit with the South American nation last year, needs to make a decision on releasing the latest tranche of those funds. The disbursement was originally set to be made this month.

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Argentina is, by nearly all accounts, catapulting toward default after running up more than $100 billion of debt. Some say it’s just months away. Others say it’s actually already happened on a small portion of bonds, Bloomberg News reported. For even the casual observer, the whole thing has a certain feeling of deja vu. The South American nation is a defaulting machine with few peers in the world. The first episode came in 1827, just 11 years after independence. The most recent one came in 2014.

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