South America

Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht SA’s construction unit expects to speed up talks with Petroleo Brasileiro SA to resume providing services to the state-run oil company and participate in its public auctions in the second half of 2019, an Odebrecht executive said on Thursday, Reuters reported. Olga Pontes, Odebrecht’s compliance director, says Odebrecht Engenharia e Construcao (OEC) should be able to resume its relationship with Petrobras because of steps taken by the conglomerate to improve governance and compliance in the wake of a 2016 leniency deal tied to a corruption scandal.

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Brazilian drugstore operator Brasil Pharma said on Tuesday a Sao Paulo court judge had approved the bankruptcy request it filed on June 6, when the company warned it could no longer obtain the resources to execute a restructuring plan, Reuters reported. According to a securities filing, the bankruptcy court has named Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Consultores as judicial administrator of Brasil Pharma’s in-court restructuring and ordered the sale of all of its brands. Brasil Pharma owns three different drugstore chains: Big Ben, Farmais and Farmacia Sant’anna.

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Prosecutors for the Brazilian northeastern state of Alagoas filed a lawsuit against the country’s largest petrochemical company, Braskem SA, seeking to guarantee compensation for damages caused by the firm, the Alagoas government said on Friday, Reuters reported. In the lawsuit, the state asks a local court to block any attempt from Braskem’s controlling shareholder, the Odebrecht conglomerate, to spin off the business based in Alagoas to facilitate a possible deal to sell the petrochemical company.

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Billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s mining company sought bankruptcy protection in the U.S., two months after losing a $2 billion arbitration award to Brazilian mining giant Vale SA, Bloomberg News reported. The court filing by BSG Resources Ltd. on Monday could stymie Vale’s effort to enforce the award, which stems from an ill-fated joint venture with BSGR at the Simandou iron ore mine in Guinea. The government stripped their venture of its rights to Simandou following a probe that found licenses were obtained through corruption. BSGR lists its only U.S.

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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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