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Posts Tagged ‘credit crunch’

The Seattle Times was yesterday full of praises for Brazil’s leading position as a major economy. Tyler Bridges talks about Saturday’s G-20 summit in Washington and how President Lula is trying to convince G7 countries leaders to give a bigger say to developing countries.  The idea is to create a permanent G14, including Brazil, Russia, China, Mexico and India. It goes on to justify Brazil’s larger ambitions:

With the world’s 10th-biggest economy, Brazil has surpassed the United States as the biggest producer of iron ore and coffee. It’s become the world’s biggest exporter of beef, poultry, biofuels and orange-juice concentrate, and is rapidly gaining in soybeans, corn and pork.

Brazil also has accumulated $200 billion in foreign reserves, almost as much as the rest of Latin America combined. That money will help cushion the global meltdown. Now, Brazil wants to be recognized for its fiscal track record and to avoid the risks that come with a global economic crisis.

“Brazil has new standing in the world,” said Rubens Barbosa, a private consultant in Brazil who’s served as the ambassador to the United States. “We think we can contribute more.” Quietly, Brazil already has become the most powerful country in Latin America.

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Still about the banking situation in Brazil, news come out everyday about new joint-ventures including heavy weights on the public sector – ie. Nossa Caixa and Banco do Brasil. The Financial Times gave a note about the consolidation process running at full throttle in the country.

Brazil’s banks are preparing for a wave of consolidation following this week’s merger of Itaú and Unibanco to create the biggest bank in South America. Brazil has about 150 banks, many of them small players concentrating on a single line of business such as car loans or payroll-linked loans, areas that have grown quickly in line with rising employment and wages.

“Smaller banks have been seeing growth of 30 or 40 per cent a year,” says Ceres Lisboa, banking sector analyst in São Paulo at Moody’s, the international credit rating agency. “That’s over. They’ll have to reinvent themselves.”

Dozens of these smaller banks will be snapped up or forced to retreat into niche markets. Banco do Brasil, the federally-owned bank that was Brazil’s biggest before the latest merger, and Bradesco, formerly the biggest private-sector bank, are expected to scurry for acquisitions as they try to regain their dominance.

Consolidation will be helped by recent government measures to inject liquidity into the banking system as the global financial crisis has unfolded. The process should also be orderly as Brazil’s banking system remains solid, thanks to relatively low levels of lending and the fact little credit is sourced overseas.

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Here’s a quick news round up, about the largest merger in the Brazilian banking history. Itau and Unibanco have announced a joint-venture yesterday creating the largest bank in Latin America – arguably the first major banking player in Latin America – combining about $260 billion in assets. The new Itau-Unibanco has also already announced investments in Mexico, Colombia and Peru. The press in Brazil has welcomed the merger, seen as a good timing to make the country’s financial system more solid to face tough times.

From The Wall Street Journal: “Brazil’s central bank recently announced a $50 billion program of currency swaps to keep financial institutions operating amid the credit squeeze. “This concentration will help strengthen the local financial system,” Finance Minister Guido Mantega told reporters in Brasilia.”

Washington Post: The banks did not give a value for their all-stock transaction, but Sao Paulo-based consultancy Economatica estimated the combined banks would have a market value of $41.3 billion, eclipsing Brazil’s state-owned Banco Brasil and the publicly traded Banco Bradesco.

Financial Times: “This operation takes place at a time of great changes and opportunities in the world, particularly in the financial sector,” they said, adding that Brazil’s banking industry was “in a privileged position, with enormous potential to improve its situation even more in relation to the rest of the world”.

The New York Times: “Whoever says the entire world needs to deleverage hasn’t paid attention to what’s happening in Brazil. Banco Itaú’s $15 billion takeover of a rival, Unibanco, should change that. The deal, announced Monday, creates Latin America’s biggest financial institution, which may become one of the few bright spots in the global banking firmament.”

AFP: “Together, Itau and Unibanco will have assets of 575 billion reais (265 billion dollars) and account for around 20 percent of Brazil’s savings accounts and credit. According to Fortune magazine, Itau made two billion dollars in profits last year from 29 billion dollars in revenues and 168.6 billion dollars in assets. Itau Unibanco would have a “strong international presence,” notably in the countries in the Mercosur trade bloc that comprises Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, it said.

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Brazil is perhaps one of the few countries in the world that hasn’t been talking about recession. The R word is not being mentioned in any of the large newspapers in the country. Moreover, Brazil’s economic team will unveil new credit measures for exporters suffering the consequences of the liquidity crunch. “For now, activity levels haven’t come down,” said Finance Minister Guido Mantega. “I believe there will be a slowdown in consumption and in activity level in Brazil. But we will not have a recession.” The main news agencies in Brazil have also reported that the series of measures the central bank has taken to minimize the impact of the crisis in the South American giant and to ease the liquidity crunch started by  investors not willing to take too much risks at the moment. This latest move is aimed at Brazilian exporters.

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“There are good reasons (…) to believe that Brazil’s economy is resilient to the global financial crisis”. This was the conclusion of Mauricio Cárdenas, Senior Fellow and Director of the Latin America Initiative at Brookings Institution, in an articled published on RGE Monitor. Holding a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, the analyst has also expressed great optismism for the perspectives of the Brazilian re-industrialization strategy, much due to increasing investment in steel, petrochemicals and defense equipment.

Brazil’s foreign reserves are now $205 billion, four times higher than in 2004. Financial intermediation, though low for developed country standards, is conducted primarily by domestic institutions. Only 30 percent of bank assets are foreign-owned, compared to over 80 percent in Mexico. To the extent that Brazilian banks also have very low foreign liabilities, the economy is somewhat protected from a major credit contraction in international financial markets.

The article is concluded by the assurance that the Brazilian government has learned from mistakes committed in the past.

In fact, the government is launching a re-industrialization strategy, with high investment in steel, petrochemicals, and defense equipment (including construction of its first atomic submarine). Is this going to revive the white elephants of the 1960s and 70s? Probably not. This time around the development strategy in Brazil is carried out by the private sector, with limited support from the government, and much better governance structures than in the past. If these fundamentals can remain strong, Brazil may yet dodge the current global economic bullet.

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Excellente article from the Financial Times:

At Fábio Marangoni’s printing works in São Paulo, pages of glossy magazines emerge almost silently from modern printing presses imported from Germany.

Asked how much he borrowed to install the presses, Mr Marangoni replies with an air of self-satisfaction.

“Nothing,” he says. “We used our own capital.” His family-owned business will be 50 years old next year. “During that time we’ve seen the currency go wildly up and down. Our raw materials and machinery are priced in dollars, so we’ve always taken care to use our own money. It means we have grown more slowly than otherwise. But it’s worth it. Look what’s happening now.”

Mr Marangoni’s caution has not shielded him entirely from the chaos in the world’s financial system. Credit conditions have tightened and consumers and businesses are putting spending plans on hold.

Nevertheless, Brazil should emerge relatively unscathed. Economists who previously expected growth of between 4.5 and 5.5 per cent next year now expect between 2.5 and 3.5 per cent – by no means bad compared with the global outlook.

Not all companies have been as conservative as Mr Marangoni’s. Grupo Votorantim, an industrial conglomerate, said on Friday it had paid R$2.2bn ($958m) to liquidate positions in currency derivatives. It was the third large company to announce big losses on currency bets and is unlikely to be the last.

Local media are talking of “the Brazilian subprime”. Some observers expect to see bankruptcies as more exporters are forced to admit that they exposed themselves beyond sensible limits to currency contracts that worked in their favour during the real’s long rally from R$3.95 to the US dollar in October 2002 to R$1.56 in May this year but which turned against them during its subsequent fall.

On the whole, however, Brazilian companies are much less indebted than their foreign competitors. The total amount of credit in Brazil was equal to 38 per cent of gross domestic product in August, much less than in many developed countries. where credit reaches multiples of GDP.

Economists and business leaders have long been calling on the government to enact spending reforms to release more money to finance investment and consumption through credit. There has indeed been a consumer-led acceleration of growth in the past few years, as lower interest rates, rising employment and enduring economic stability have encouraged borrowing.

Read the article in full here.

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