The best news in Latin America business in 2023.
BY LATINVEX EDITORS
The best events in Latin American business this year, according to Latinvex editors.
#1 ARGENTINA HOPE
Investors are reacting positively to the key appointments made by Argentina’s president Javier Milei, including his new economy minister Luis Caputo, who has close ties to Wall Street.
Jeff Grills, head of emerging markets debt at Aegon Asset Management said the new government has taken “all the right steps” so far and was making all the necessary noises, Reuters reports.
If everything went perfectly for Milei, a healthier-looking Argentina could potentially regain “moderate” access to global borrowing markets in 2025, said Riccardo Grassi, Head of Risk Management at hedge fund Mangart Advisors, which was involved in Argentina’s last restructuring in 2020 and holds its bonds.
Key businesspeople – including Techint owner Paolo Rocca and MercadoLibre founder Marcos Galperin – are also praising Milei.
Although Milei’s proposals and personality caused plenty of nervousness before the election, he has impressed by pivoting to a more pragmatist role, appointing seasoned people from previous governments – especially the administration of business-friendly president Mauricio Macri (2015 to 2019), but also moderate Peronists. (See Team Milei)
While he remains committed to dollarizing the economy and closing the central bank, he won’t rush the process and is now focusing on first putting out the fire the previous government left (massive debt and sky-high inflation).
In a region dominated by leftist presidents hurting business, Milei presents welcome news for investors.
#2 OIL: MASSIVE INVESTMENTS
This year also saw massive investments announced in Latin America’s oil sector.
Mexico Pacific is set to build a natural gas pipeline and liquefaction plant in the northern state of Sonora for an investment of up to $14 billion, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced, Reuters reported in May.
Less than a week later, Norway’s Equinor and its partners — Repsol Sinopec Brasil and Petrobras — announced they were moving forward with plans to invest about $9 billion in oil and gas discoveries in Brazil’s Campos Basin, Bloomberg reported..
Meanwhile, in August Australia’s Woodside Energy said its $4.8 Bln Trion deepwater oil project in Mexico had received an approval from the country’s oil and gas exploration regulator, Reuters reported.
#3 BRAZIL APPROVES TAX REFORM
Brazil passed a historic constitutional amendment on tax reform this year, which will simplify and modernize one of the world’s worst tax regimes.
“After decades of failed attempts, consensus was reached to streamline tax collection, end the fiscal war, attract investment, and spur economic growth,” Valor Economico said.
The reform could also boost growth, adding as much as 2.39 per cent to gross domestic product over the next eight years, according to estimates from the Institute for Applied Economic Research quoted by the Financial Times.
It was was originally passed by the Lower House in July, then the Senate in November and back for final approval in the Lower House on Friday, where it passed by a wide margin.
Finance Minister Fernando Haddad lauded the outcome, emphasizing that the country has upgraded its tax system from a level of 2 to a “commendable 7.5.”
While a clear victory for President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, political analysts credit the previous rightwing Jair Bolsonaro administration with laying the groundwork to pass the current amendment, the Financial Times reports. The administration of Michel Temer (2016 to 2018) also tried to pass tax reform.
#4 BRAZIL PRIVATIZATIONS
Despite the anti-privatization stance of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the country is going ahead with key selloffs.
Copel, the Paraná-based power utility, was privatized in August through a secondary offering of shares that raised 5.21 billion reais (US$1.1 billion). Investors included Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, GQG Partners LLC, Zimmer Partners, SPX Capital and Radar, Bloomberg reported.
Next up: Sabesp, Latin America’s largest water utility, which is woned by Sao Paulo state. Earlier this month, state legislators approved a public share sale of Sabesp. The privatization – which should be complete by July 2024 – is expected to attract large investment management firms, including Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and those that participated in the Copel and Eletrobras privatizations, Valor Economico reports.
Lula has said he would like to renationalize Eletrobras, which was sold off in June last year for $6.9 billion, but experts say it will be very difficult due to legal hurdles. Brazil’s Supreme Court is expected to reject any request from Lula, Reuters reported earlier this year.
Dominican Tourism Minister David Collado. (Photo: Dominican Tourism Ministry)
#5 DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: RECORD TOURISM
The Dominican Republic, Latin America’s top tourism market after Mexico, is having yet another banner year in visitors.
A campaign to reach 10 million visitors this year looks likely after the country received 9.1 million tourists through November. That compares with 7.1 million for all of last year, which itself was a record year. December 2022 was the best ever month for Dominican tourism.
President Luis Abinader and Tourism Minister David Collado are credited with proactively working to boost tourism through increased air and cruise connections and hotel investments.
According to Spain-based travel intelligence company ForwardKeys, the Dominican Republic is the fastest growing post-pandemic tourism destination in the world thanks to growth of 14% between 2019 and this year. By comparison, Mexico grew 5%.
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