Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Argentina Prepares to Grab All Corporate Oil/Mineral Profits - Can Outright Nationalization Be Far Off?

Mommy Wants to Go on a Shopping Spree...
from Bloomberg News
Argentina ordered oil, gas and mining companies to repatriate all export revenue as the government struggles to stem accelerating capital flight from South America’s second-biggest economy.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, in her first move since winning re-election on Oct. 23, changed a 2002 decree requiring companies such as Repsol YPF SA and Pan American Energy LLC to keep at least 30 percent of their export revenue in the country. Today’s decree, published in the official gazette, applies to future sales.

The decision by Fernandez, who nationalized the $24 billion pension fund industry and called for a limit on purchases of farmland by foreigners, is part of an effort to slow capital flight estimated at $3 billion per month that is draining central banks reserves. The policy may make it harder to attract foreign direct investment to Argentina that the United Nations estimates fell 30 percent in the first half of the year.

“These types of controls only discourage investment and thus hurt exports,” said Juan Pablo Fuentes, a Latin America economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “The oil sector is already hampered by controls and regulations. This will only add to those problems.”

Tumbling Investment
Foreign direct investment in Argentina fell to $2.4 billion from $3.5 billion in the first half, while increasing 54 percent to $83 billion for Latin America as a whole, according to a UN report published yesterday. Faced with inflation economists estimate at 24 percent, Argentines pulled $9.8 billion out of the economy in the first half of this year, compared with $11.4 billion in all of 2010.

Export sales from oil, gas, petrochemicals, gold and copper in Argentina totaled $10.7 billion in 2010, or 16 percent of total exports, according to the national statistics agency. Argentina places a 100 percent tax on oil exports above about $45 per barrel, compared with a global price that has ranged from $75 to $114 per barrel this year.

The move ensures “equal treatment to all production activities,” according to a statement in today’s official gazette. Mining companies had been exempt from the policy requiring that 30 percent of export revenue be repatriated since 2004.

Falling Reserves
Capital flight prompted the central bank to sell $2.7 billion of reserves in August and September to curb a depreciation in the peso, which has weakened 6.1 percent this year. Reserves have fallen to $47.8 billion this year from a record $52.6 billion while central banks in Brazil, Mexico and Chile build up savings.

"This shows the problems the government is having in trying to stop capital flight,’’ said Walter Molano, an emerging markets analyst with BCP Securities. "The government is willing to take strong measures to stop it."

The yield on Argentina’s peso bonds due in 2033 rose 4 basis points to 11.83 percent. The benchmark Merval index rose 0.3 percent to 2,857.89 at 10:32 a.m. New York time.

Kristian Rix, a spokesman for Repsol YPF, Spain’s biggest oil company, said in an e-mailed statement the company will “respect the law.”

Company Reaction
Jorge Palmes, chief executive officer of AngloGold Ashanti Ltd’s Argentine unit, said in an e-mailed response to questions the company wasn’t aware of the measure.

A Vale SA official in Rio de Janeiro, who declined to be named citing corporate policy, said the company didn’t have an immediate comment.

E-mails to Goldcorp Inc, Pan American Energy, Pan American Silver Corp. weren’t immediately returned today. Officials at YPF SA, Argentina’s biggest energy company, Xstrata Plc, Chile’s state-oil refiner Enap and Petroleo Brasileiro SA weren’t immediately able to comment.

Fernandez, 58, has tapped central bank reserves to pay debt and steady the peso, nationalized carrier Aerolineas Argentinas SA and fined economists who question official inflation reports since taking office in 2007. She has also kept caps on utility prices, causing Berkshire, U.K.-based BG Group Plc and France’s GDF Suez to leave the country. Metrogas SA, Argentina’s largest natural-gas distributor, filed for bankruptcy.

Delayed Deals
BP Plc, the U.K.’s second-biggest oil company, said yesterday it may delay completion of its sale of a $7.1 billion stake in Pan American Energy to Bridas Corp., co-owned by Cnooc Ltd, until next year as it doesn’t yet have the necessary Argentine antitrust and Chinese regulatory approvals.

Bridas, also owned by Argentina’s billionaire Bulgheroni family, agreed in November to buy BP’s 60 percent stake in Pan American that it doesn’t already own. The deal can be terminated by either party if the approvals aren’t received by Nov. 1, unless both sides agree to an extension.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chavez, Quien lo Seguira?

from Fox News
HAVANA – Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez likely has less than two years to live, his former doctor said, as the ailing firebrand traveled to Cuba for a checkup following cancer treatment.

Chavez, 57, has been through four rounds of chemotherapy in Cuba since revealing he had a cancerous tumor removed in June. But Venezuela has provided few details about the exact nature of the cancer, aside from that it was in the pelvic area.

Salvador Navarrete, his former personal surgeon, told Mexican newspaper Milenio Semanal on Sunday that the leader's condition likely was worse than publicly admitted.

The doctor described the prognosis as "not good." He added, "When I say this, I mean that he has no more than two years to live."

Navarrete said Chavez likely was suffering from either a tumor in his pelvis or a sarcoma, which would explain the intensive course of treatment.

Navarrete was the personal surgeon for Chavez from 2002 until earlier this year, when Chavez changed his medical staff to exclusively Cuban doctors.

Before departing for Havana, Chavez told Venezuelan TV that the visit was routine, but he did not disclose any details of his condition. Earlier reports said the visit was for a checkup, to see whether there were any malignant cells in his body, AFP reported.

Chavez has been in power since 1999 and has maintained that he will recover in time to win re-election in 2012.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chavez to Venezuelans - What's Was Yours is Now Mine - But In the Name of the Poor, of Course!

from The Independent
Venezuela president Hugo Chavez's policy of nationalising strategic private businesses has taken a new twist with his announcement that his government will expropriate hotels and holiday homes at an upmarket Caribbean resort.

The president plans to turn Los Roques, an idyllic archipelago of deserted beaches of perfect white sand with swaying palms and dazzling coral reefs, into a state-run getaway for his country's urban poor.

Speaking on national television, he said that yachts and speedboats confiscated from fugitive bankers would be used to transport holidaymakers from the mainland. "There are some houses there that were illegally built. We are going to expropriate them." Talking by phone link rather than appearing in person – a tactic the president has increasingly used since starting chemotherapy for cancer – he added that the archipelago, a national park, had in effect been privatised by Venezuelan and foreign members of "the upper bourgeoisie".

The measure may turn out to be one of Mr Chavez's least controversial nationalisations. Los Roques was declared a protected area in 1972 and it is unclear why local authorities permitted any private properties on the islands, effectively allowing the archipelago to become one of Latin America's most exclusive beach destinations. Lying 95 miles off Venezuela's northern coast, Los Roques is a paradise for bird watchers, snorkellers and scuba-divers. Since assuming office in 1999, Mr Chavez has overseen widescale nationalisations in Venezuela, including cement makers, steel mills and large swathes of land belonging to international corporations but deemed idle by the government.

He has also forced some of the world's largest energy companies to renegotiate drilling contracts for the country's highly-prized oil fields. Venezuela now has the largest crude reserves in the world, according to the president.

However, this would be the first time that Mr Chavez has targeted private homes. Not all the nationalisations have gone smoothly. Mr Chavez's government took over several supermarket chains, justifying the move by saying they were not catering to the country's poor. The stores now sell food at heavily-subsidised prices but often lack basic staples, and shoppers frequently have to queue for hours.

Expropriating Los Roques could help position Mr Chavez, 57, who had surgery to remove a malignant tumour from his pelvis in June, for presidential elections next year. He is massively popular with Venezuela's poor but his poll ratings, now hovering around 40 per cent, are some 30 per cent below their historic high.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Canta Pa' Mi

We’ll make love
Three in the sky and two in the sun
We’ll make love
In the sea and in the bread
In the mouth and in the eyes
Making love in hands
And in kisses and in hearts
Flowers doing it that way

Remember the love
That light of love!

And yes and no, oh oh oh
We gotta make it together oh oh oh
The love which eh eh eh
Consumes us and binds us together

We’ll make love
Two in the sky and three in the sun
With the mouth and with the heart
Flower, do it that way

Remember the love,
That smell of love!

And yes and no, oh oh oh
We gotta make it together oh oh oh
The love which eh eh eh
Consumes us and folds us

Well I,
Down there, down there,
As a boy I knew more about it
More, more
Love was
A kick in the backside
And so many stars up there
Love that
I don’t know who you are,
What 7,8,9,10 you’ll be
You know I miss you
The ciocabeck, the ciocabeck

And yes and no, oh oh oh
We gotta make it together oh oh oh
The love which eh eh eh
Consumes us and tricks us

Well I,
Down there down there,
As a boy I knew more about it
More, more
Love was
A band in your head
And so many stars up there
Now that
I don’t know who you are
What 7,8,9,10 you’ll be
You know I miss you
The ciocabeck, the ciocabeck

Monday, October 3, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Is this the Long Awaited Energy Storage Breakthrough?

Researchers from the NUS Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Initiative (NUSNNI) have developed the world's first energy-storage membrane, answering the need for cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy storage and delivery solutions.

The research team, led by Principal Investigator Dr Xie Xian Ning, used a polystyrene-based polymer to deposit the soft, foldable membrane converted from organic waste which, when sandwiched between and charged by two graphite plates, can store charge at 0.2 farads per square centimetre. This capability was well above the typical upper limit of 1 microfarad per square centimetre for a standard capacitor. The cost involved in energy storage is also drastically reduced with this invention, from about US$7 to store each farad using existing technologies based on liquid electrolytes to about US$0.62 per farad.

Dr Xie said: "Compared to rechargeable batteries and supercapacitors, the proprietary membrane allows for very simple device configuration and low fabrication cost. Moreover, the performance of the membrane surpasses those of rechargeable batteries, such as lithium ion and lead-acid batteries, and supercapacitors."

Supported by grants from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research & Technology (SMART) and the National Research Foundation, the research took about one and a half years to reach its current status and the team has also successfully filed a US patent for this novel invention.

The discovery has also attracted the attention of scientific journals worldwide, and was featured in Energy & Environmental Science and highlighted by renowned international journal Nature.

"With the advent of our novel membrane, energy storage technology will be more accessible, affordable, and producible on a large scale. It is also environmentally-friendly and could change the current status of energy technology," Dr Xie said.

Going forward, the team will explore more applications for this efficient energy storage solution. It is also looking into opportunities to work with venture capitalists to commercialise the invention.