South America

Two major Argentine creditor groups said on Tuesday that there had been “no meaningful engagement” with the country’s government since mid-June, flagging concerns about a deal after talks to restructure $65 billion in debts stalled this month, Reuters reported. Argentina, which defaulted on foreign bond payments in May, is racing to restructure its debts, which have become unsustainable after two straight years of recession, to avoid a messy and protracted legal standoff with creditors.

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Argentina’s economic activity plunged 26.4% in April, the country’s official statistics agency said on Monday, the worst monthly fall on record as the country reeled from the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic and a nationwide lockdown, Reuters reported. The April drop, after the South American grains producer imposed the lockdown in mid-March, was worse than the 21% decline predicted by analysts polled by Reuters, underscoring how badly the pandemic has battered local industry.

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Bankrupt LATAM Airlines and Avianca Holdings are dramatically retrenching their once grand ambitions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing competition in Latin America as they mull once-unthinkable cooperation with rivals, Reuters reported. Since May, LATAM has exited Argentina, partnered with rival Azul SA in Brazil and cut back domestic operations in Chile, while Avianca has departed Peru. LATAM is now open to a deeper alliance with Azul, even as the two airlines usually control a combined 60% of Brazil’s domestic market.

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Argentina is still working with its creditors to reach a debt restructuring deal after talks stalled, though there is still distance to cover in economic and legal terms, Economy Minister Martin Guzman said on Thursday, Reuters reported. Guzman said the government is in negotiations with two main creditor groups, though the “biggest differences” remain with the Ad Hoc Bondholder Group, which includes AllianceBernstein, BlackRock, Ashmore and others.

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Argentina was facing a third year of recession in 2020 even before the coronavirus hit. Now with the pandemic’s economic shock, some analysts foresee a record contraction in the crisis-prone country, Bloomberg News reported. One of the most pessimistic estimates is from Marcos Buscaglia, co-founder of Buenos Aires-based consulting firm Alberdi Partners and former chief Latin America economist at Bank of America Corp, who sees activity shrinking 13%. Yet, forecasts for a near double-digit decline aren’t outliers.

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The fiscal fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices could affect Colombia for several years, Richard Francis, director of sovereign ratings at ratings agency Fitch, said on Tuesday, Reuters reported. Colombia’s government predicts the usually healthy economy will contract 5.5% this year. The country has suspended its fiscal deficit limits for 2020 and 2021 and issued billions in bonds as unemployment rises and businesses close during a months-long quarantine.

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Argentina will release its first quarter GDP and unemployment figures today, amid the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty produced by debt restructuring negotiations, Foreign Brief reported. The COVID-19 crisis has ravaged Argentina’s already ailing economy. After a 1.1% year-on-year contraction in the fourth quarter of 2019 and declining economic activity during the first two months of 2020, the pandemic has deepened the country’s recession and exacerbated its troubled fiscal position.

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Argentina extended a deadline for bondholders to accept a debt restructuring proposal for a fifth time as creditors blamed the government for “walking away” from talks, Bloomberg News reported. Bondholders now have until 5 p.m. New York time on July 24 to accept Argentina’s debt proposal, according to a government statement. It said officials plan to use the extension to keep talking with investors.

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Argentina’s dollar-denominated bonds slipped to their lowest level in three weeks after restructuring talks stalled amid growing animosity between officials and some of the country’s top creditors, Bloomberg News reported. The bonds, which had rallied over the past month on optimism creditors and the government were nearing a deal, fell after the two sides said they were at an impasse. Dollar bonds due 2026 dropped 2 cents to 37.7 cents on the dollar as of 8:49 am New York time, their lowest level since May 28.

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Argentina’s debt restructuring talks, in a tense final stretch, hit a roadblock on Wednesday with the government determined not to cede further ground after making an improved offer and a key creditor group warning that negotiations had failed, Reuters reported. An Economy Ministry source told Reuters the country was sticking by its latest proposal with a net present value of around 50 cents on the dollar and warrants linked to Argentina’s farm-driven exports. The offer was shared with creditors during recent talks.

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