Archive for the ‘business’ Category

Venezuela: Get ready for $10 oil?

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Gary Shilling at Bloomberg is saying, Get ready for $10 oil It has to do with the marginal cost of production,

or the additional costs after the wells are drilled and the pipes are laid. Another way to think of it: It’s the price at which cash flow for an additional barrel falls to zero.

Last month, Wood Mackenzie, an energy research organization, found that of 2,222 oil fields surveyed worldwide, only 1.6 percent would have negative cash flow at $40 a barrel. That suggests there won’t be a lot of chickening out at $40. Keep in mind that the marginal cost for efficient U.S. shale-oil producers is about $10 to $20 a barrel in the Permian Basin in Texas and about the same for oil produced in the Persian Gulf.

Also consider the conundrum financially troubled countries such as Russia and Venezuela find themselves in: They desperately need the revenue from oil exports to service foreign debts and fund imports. Yet, the lower the price, the more oil they need to produce and export to earn the same number of dollars, the currency used to price and trade oil.

With the drop in prices,

Among the hardest hit are those nations that rely on oil for much of their government revenue and were in financial trouble before prices plunged. Venezuela along with its state-run oil company issued more debt than any developing country between 2007 and 2011. Venezuela has been downgraded to the bottom of the junk pile — CCC by Fitch — and credit-default swaps on Venezuelan debt recently indicated a 61 percent chance of default in the next year and 90 percent in the next five years. The nosedive in oil prices also is devastating African exporters Ghana, Angola and Nigeria, where oil finances 70 percent of the government’s budget.

How Bad Is Venezuela’s Economic Chaos? Bad enough that

Maduro has yet to fully account for how his government will meet its $10.3 billion debt obligations in 2015. A March 16 payment totally $1.1 billion is fast approaching and Venezuela’s economy is languishing.

I am not optimistic at all; even if Maduro goes, the country can remain under a dictatorship, just as Cuba has, for decades to follow.

And, by the way, even when the minimum monthly wage of 5,600 bolivars ($32 on a new exchange market created last week) is close to useless, the late dictator Hugo Chavez managed to sock away US$12 billion in his HSBC account.

So, all of you who preach that “Chavez immensely decreased inequality” in Venezuela can take that, spread it, and eat it on a cracker.

Venezuela: Persecuting the retailers

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

“Lines at a Government owned supermarket in the middle of Caracas, almost daily now” (click on photo for link)

The latest from the Communist regime? Arresting shop owners:
Venezuela Confronts Retail Sector
Caracas Arrests CEO of Chain Store, Seizes Business, Alleging It Hoarded Goods; 20 Other Executives Held

In the past week, the CEO of supermarket chain Día Día was arrested after a meeting in the presidential palace, two dozen of its store managers brought in for questioning, and all 35 stores taken over by the government.

Behind the Venezuelan government’s moves is its allegation that Día Día and other chains are hoarding food in an attempt to sow instability and overthrow the government.

Worse yet, Día Día Practimercados is a small grocery store chain that caters to Venezuelans living in the country’s slums.

The country’s economic doom can’t be blamed on fallin oil prices, either, since

Venezuela had the institutions it needed to prepare for a fall in oil prices. The main one was called FIEM and it was a Macroeconomic Stabilization Fund designed very specifically to prvent situations like the one we have today, by saving any windfall oil income above the average for the last five years in a rainy-day fund.

Miguel Octavio looks at the chaos,

But we don’t even know whether Maduro is completely in charge or whether others are telling him what to do, including his wife Cilia.

But I am sorry to tell you, the Government is not acting as stupidly as many lead you to believe. To start, they got US 1.9 billion from the Dominican Republic, which purchased its Petrocaribe debt at less than half price. Then Citgo sold US$ 1.5 billion in a 2022 bond at a yield to maturity with a coupon of 11.5% and borrowed an additional US$1 billion from banks by pledging terminals and its shares. Not bad, US$ 4.5 billion at the blink of an eye in Maduro’s coffers. Jamaica could do the same and then Maduro may decide to close his eyes and send the gold to London and problem solved for 2015. Yeap, just like that, we are thinking 2016 and not 2015.

For now, since the regime will never admit that communism doesn’t work, and, unlike Cuba, it doesn’t have an embargo to blame yet, it needs scapegoats.

And now it’s the retailers turn.

RELATED:
Venezuela News and Views posts Patricia Janiot’s documentary for CNN en Español,

I can assure that SHE DOES NOT EXAGGERATE ANYTHING.

Venezuela: Qatar gives a band-aid

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

No specifics, though:
Qatar Helps Venezuela Weather Oil Crisis
Venezuela Will Receive ‘Several Billion Dollars’ in Financing From Qatari banks, President Nicolás Maduro said, as Opposition Members Criticized the Leader’s Economic Stewardship.

“They’re giving us enough oxygen to cover the fall in crude prices,” he said in remarks carried on Venezuelan state television.

An untold amount, in an untold date, by unnamed banks.

Sounds like a deal!

Meanwhile, Venezuelan authorities are doing what they do best:
Over 1.5 Million Diapers Seized from Venezuela Warehouse

A government raid on a warehouse in western Venezuela has resulted in the confiscation of more than 1.5 million diapers along with over 360 tons of detergent and thousands of pounds of food which were being illegally hoarded.

Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Arreaza said on state television Monday that during the raid, 1,523,776 diapers, 360 tons of detergent powder, as well as conditioners, razors and towels, were found.

In the warehouse, situated in Zulia province, there were also 15,000 units with thousands of liters (gallons) of infant milk substitute, 17,076 kilograms (37,646 pounds) of beans, 11,176 liters (2,952 gallons) of milk, 40,250 kilograms (88,736 pounds) of maize flour and 30,000 kilograms (66,139 pounds) of rice, Arreaza said.

They also found sanitary napkins, shampoos of different brands, soap powder, toothpastes, batteries, napkins, food supplements, milk powder, salsas and pet food.

No band-aids there.

And people who photograph the long lines and empty shelves are sent to jail.

Juan Cristobal Nagel posted videos of folks Overcoming capitalist savagery at Farmatodo Bella Vista:

Mexico: Wal-Mart bodegas

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

As a former marketing/economics major, this strikes me as an interesting experiment:
For Wal-Mart in Mexico, Bodega Format Trumps Big Box
Retail Competes Against Street Vendors With New Chain of Mini-Grocers

Few organizations can match Wal-Mart’s in distribution and inventory, and now Wal-Mart is targeting the low-income market:

Since 80% of consumers in Latin America fall somewhere between middle class and poor, retailers who ignore that huge segment of the population aren’t really in the game, said Mr. Barrientos, who previously worked for Wal-Mart in Chile. Small stores, he added, are crucial for attending the lower-income brackets. Wal-Mart operates in nine Latin American countries.

The challenge comes from local open-air markets – the tianguis, possible protectionism measures from the Mexican government, adding locally-grown produce (in a country where cartels interfere in everything), and access to the new stores by customers who have no means of transportation.

However, these new shops offering longer hours may be welcome by slightly more affluent customers.

It’ll be interesting to see how it develops.

Cuba: What is the regime going to do?

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Well, we all heard Obama’s speech yesterday. Some of us also listened to Raul Castro’s speech, which took place at the same time as Obama’s.

It was a study in contrasts.

As The Diplomad puts it (emphasis added),

It [Obama’s speech] was a clever speech designed for people who don’t know the full history of Cuba since 1959 or the nature of US-Cuban relations. The speech gave away the leftist bias of its drafters with the nonsense equating “colonialism” and “Communism.” What colonialism was Castro Communism fighting? Cuba had been independent for sixty years when they took over, and one of their first acts was to turn the country into a colony of the Soviets. Communism and colonialism went hand-in-hand, no opposition, no clash. Obama’s speech sought “balance” by blaming both Cuba and the US for the state of relations. Nonsense. The Castros were and are murdering thugs who have never hesitated to kill anybody in their way whether at home or abroad. Castroite firing squads were operating at full speed even during the honeymoon period with the USA, when the NY Times was writing fawning pieces about Fidel Castro.

My first thought on hearing Obama talk about the need to get past colonialism and Communism was that he was channeling his father’s anti-British obsessions. Cuba as Kenya. Much like Obama’s immigration speech, it is not at all clear what we are getting. Alan Gross, who should never have been detained has been released as has a long-imprisioned intel asset. In exchange we freed the Cuban agents who helped set up the murder of American citizens. There is a further loosening of currency and travel restrictions. The speech, of course, will upend years of established American positions and lead, for example, to the entry of Cuba into the OAS without meeting any of the requirements laboriously worked out, e.g., a functioning democracy with full respect for human rights.

Raul Castro’s speech was very short and to the point. None of the flowery phrases that his older brother would have used. Very business-like. No discussions of colonialism and Communism, and no promises to do anything in particular except to keep talking to the US.

My friend Jazz Shaw mentions my objections to easing up on Cuba, countering with,

I could take the above paragraph and substitute the word China for Cuba and it would remain precisely as true. The major differences between the two are that China is vastly more powerful, more dangerous and more influential. Their human rights record is, if anything, worse than Cuba’s. They can threaten the entire globe with a single move, where the Castros are generally limited to smaller evils and mischief in South America. And yet somehow we have established relations with China. This doesn’t excuse either country for their evil, but only serves to point out some of the harsh realities of foreign policy in the modern era.

But comparisons with China policy fall short on a vital aspect:
I have friends who have operated profitable businesses in China in the past 20 years. Their corporations paid their Chinese employees directly. However, anyone employing Cuban citizens does not pay the employee; they pay the Cuban government a stipulated (by the government) amount per person. The communist regime then pays the employee an amount no higher than the maximum salary (yes, Cuba has maximum salary laws), which is approximately 10% of the amount the communist regime received from the business.

That is the case with any of the hundreds of multinationals that have done business with Cuba in the country, and with the thousands of “doctors” Cuba sends to places like Venezuela and Brazil.

Cuba has defaulted on its obligations to multinationals time and time again.

Additionally, foreign businessmen who have tried to collect monies due by Cuba have been thrown in jail, most recently Alejandro Abood, Cy Tokmakjian, Krikor Bayassalian, Nessin Abadi, Sarkis Yacoubian, and Stephen Purvis.

N-O-T-H-I-N-G, not a thing the USA does is going to change that.

However, as things stand right now, the odds have vastly improved for Cuba to “transition” into a profitable Communist regime, like China’s. Or perhaps, even more likely, the Viet Nam outcome,

The Vietnam outcome is what the Castros are counting on: a flood of U.S. tourists and business investment that will allow the regime to maintain its totalitarian system indefinitely.

As I said yesterday, Obama is trying to cement his legacy. Human rights (and true democracy) be damned.

As an added bonus, OBAMA’S MOVE TO STRENGTHEN CUBA WILL ALSO HELP RUSSIA, IRAN, NORTH KOREA AND VENEZUELA by

providing them with a more economically robust trading partner, a better source of illicit arms, and, most important, naval bases and intelligence outposts just miles from our shores.

What could possibly go wrong?

[Post redacted to include missing paragraphs]

LINKED to by
Memeorandum.
Neoneocon. Thank you!
Doug Ross. Thank you!

UPDATE

UPDATE, Saturday, December 20
Noah Rothman explains the context of China and Viet Nam “normalization.”

Venezuela: Default by September 2015?

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Casey Breznick posts,

A CNBC report on the prospect of a Venezuelan default cited a Capital Economics report stating that a default could be expected by next September or October when $5 billion in debt payments come due. Only an upswing of oil prices to somewhere around $121/barrel would allow Venezuela to balance its budget, according to some estimates. But with OPEC recently slashing its 2015 production levels to a 12-year low in response to decreasing estimated global oil demand and increasing supply via U.S. shale production, a significant oil price increase in the short-term seems highly unlikely. Bloomberg reports that the implied probability of default—derived from complex financial formulas—in the next five years stands at 93%, the highest in the world.

The Devil’s Excrement looks at Maduro’s New Script,

You may laugh all you want at what he says, but I don’t. He is making a very specific narrative out of all this and I am not sure where it is heading. It may be that he just wants to blame  the US for the intensification of the crisis in the next few months or simply, that he is preparing the ground in case there is no money to pay international investors. There is a one billion Euro payment in March, which looks doable, but there are much larger maturities in October 2015. But investors have so far believed that Venezuela had a “willingness” to pay, and the action in the markets today indicated some people were losing faith.

It did not help that Bloomberg reported today on a meeting with investors at a New York law firm, which actually took place like ten days ago. This meeting actually ended in a somewhat positive note, as many suggested that Venezuela and PDVSA could not get away with a restructuring below current prices for most bonds, as the oil cash flow would not justify it.

Francisco Toro:

It’s not the gobs of debt monetization, the billions of make-believe-bolivars the Central Bank loans PDVSA leading to an uncontrolled monetary expansion and the collapse of demand for real money balances.

It’s not the opacity in public accounts, the drop in reserves, the commercial default, the implosion in the goods markets, or the fact that you need your kid’s birth certificate to buy her diapers.

It’s not the fiscal deficit at 17% of GDP, or oil at $58 per barrel, or the tapped-out Fonden “sovereign wealth fund,” or the fact that the Finance Minister gives every possible public sign that he’s an idiot.

It’s not that the one regime official who announced a semi-reasonable reform that might have stanched the flow got shifted sideways to a non-economic job.

It’s not the Central Bank’s scandalous subservience to the Executive branch, or the fact that it won’t even dare publish basic inflation statistics.

It’s not that PDVSA has missed every production increase target it’s set for itself since 2003, it’s not that its refineries are badly maintained and barely functional, much less profitable.

It’s not that labour laws make it insane for a worker to waste his time working, and unreasonable as well as that is time he needs to spend queueing for basic consumption goods.

It’s not that the investment climate has been so shitty for so long, and the profit repatriation picture so bleak, no one sane even considers putting money into Venezuela.

Nope. It’s none of that. According to Maduro, it’s all a conspiracy, led by some flunkie sitting at a cubicle at Moody’s, someone who for some weird reason has decided to mess with his revolution. That’s why it’s expensive for Venezuela to borrow.

PDVSA 2022 bond in the last three months. It was losing 14% of its value today, with a yield to maturity of 31.4%:



Venezuela: Oil break-even price?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Tom Bemis looks at Breakevens for most major oil-producing countries (emphasis added)

A widely used measure of the impact of oil prices on major producers’ governments is the fiscal breakeven price. That’s “the average price at which the budget of an oil-exporting country is balanced in a given year,” according to Standard & Poor’s. Estimates of fiscal breakeven prices can vary considerably based on a variety of factors including actual budget expenditures, and differences in oil production forecasts.

In most cases, the oil price necessary to balance the budgets of major oil producing countries is above $100 a barrel in 2015, according to data from Citi Research’s Edward Morse.

Venezuela, already facing serious fiscal woes and rampant inflation, needs oil at $151 a barrel next year to balance its budget, according to the data.

Iran, which has yet to agree to curb development of nuclear weapons and heavily subsidizes gasoline for its citizens, needs oil at $131 a barrel.

And Russia, whose seizure of Crimea and continuing aggression towards Ukraine has raised tensions throughout Europe and inspired western financial sanctions, needs oil at $107 for a chance of getting its finances in order.

Silvana Ordoñez:

Venezuela’s future? ‘Barbarity and people looting’One analyst at Nomura recently estimated that Venezuela may need oil prices to hit $200 a barrel to balance its budget. (The precise figure is difficult to determine, because Venezuela doesn’t disclose as much economic data as other countries do.)

Will The Minister Come Back Empty Handed From China?

It seems as if President Maduro really believed that OPEC would cut production after he sent Ramirez to visit a few countries, including Russia, who happens not to be a member of OPEC. But as most analysts expected, OPEC did not cut production and scheduled the next meeting for next June, bringing a lot of people back to reality, including Maduro. It was only after Ramirez reportedly left the meeting “red faced”, that it sunk in that maybe Plan A was not going to work. Thus, Maduro switched to Plans B and C. Plan B is to “hope” that oil prices bounce back and plan C was to send Minister of Finance Marco Torres to Beijing to see if he can get some money there. Plan D was to name a commission to cut salaries and luxurious expenses. Yeah, sure!

I have been arguing with a bunch of friends about the probability that Torres will come back with a significant loan, which I peg to be around 0.00001, but they seem to think it is somewhat higher. You see, they actually believe that Venezuela has something to offer the Chinese, like oil or oil fields. But the reality is that Venezuela has little to offer at this time and the Chinese know it, so that Minister Torres is very likely to come back empty handed.

Related:
María Corina, and a unified theory of rationed repression



Venezuela: New deal with China

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

High hopes, we’ve got high hopes . . .

The Chinese pull the chestnuts (temporarily) off the fire:
China Loosens Debt Terms for Venezuela
With Default Threatening the Economy as Oil Prices Tumble, Caracas Gets a Lifeline From Its Biggest Creditor

Not only for Venezuela, but also for Argentina (emphasis added),

Last week the president [Maduro] used a $4 billion Chinese credit, traditionally earmarked by the Chinese government for infrastructure projects and held in off-budget funds, to increase reserves to $23.2 billion. China also recently lent $1.3 billion to help Argentina buoy falling reserves, giving President Cristina Kirchner , a close ally of Mr. Maduro, a cushion to help alleviate that country’s cash crunch.

Beijing’s largess may appear irrational given economic policies in Venezuela and Argentina that do not appear sustainable, said Barbara Kotschwar, a scholar who tracks Chinese investment in Latin America at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“On the other hand,” Ms. Kotschwar said, “they are so invested in Venezuela’s oil industry that they may have calculated that a political crisis would have a negative impact on their return on investment or on Venezuela’s repayment of loans.”

That’s putting it mildly; according to Maduro himself,

Venezuela’s oil revenues, which account for 96% of the country’s dollar income, are down by 35% in the past month

China has risked millions of dollars in Latin America to secure their supply lines, and as analyst Russ Dallen, managing partner at brokerage Caracas Capital Markets, put it, “for the short term, they’re secure.” However, considering that

China last month scrapped the requirement that Venezuela ship at least 330,000 barrels of oil a day as payment for its existing loans

the meaning of “secure” may be more fluid than we believe – and not only for the short term.



Panama: Legal truble for Carlos Slim

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Carlos Slim, best known in the USA for his Obamaphones, and who was bidding for Univision earlier this year, is looking to diversify.

A Panamanian judge, however, is cramping his style:
Panamanian Judge Orders Embargo on Carlos Slim Assets
A Panamanian judge has ordered an embargo on the local assets of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s infrastructure company in a legal dispute over a concession to build and operate a hydroelectric plant.

The decision to embargo 10 properties, including the Bajo de Mina hydro plant, follows a complaint by Panamanian businessman Julio César Lisac, who charges that the Panamanian government unjustly canceled his right to the concession in 2006 and later gave it to Mr. Slim’s company, Panamanian newspaper La Estrella de Panama reported on Sunday

Slim’s Ideal also operates toll roads, water projects and public transport terminals in Mexico.

A commenter at the WSJ mentions that “had the exact same thing happen to him after he bought Comp-USA almost fourteen years ago now.” Here’s a link to that story.

Chile: Blowing up the ATMs

Friday, November 21st, 2014

375 of them:

Crooks Blow Up ATMs in Crimes Leaving Chileans Stuck in Line

The method is simple. Use a hose to inject propane into the machine while being careful to seal all cracks and vents with duct tape, then light the fuel with a spark. The top of the machine explodes, leaving the cash tray almost intact.

And then there’s also robbing the armored trucks delivering the money.