Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

A bad case of pneumonia for the Mexican economy


                                       At the beginning of 2009, as Mexico felt the pinch of the U.S. meltdown, Finance Minister Agustin Carstens said the country’s economy was much better prepared than before to resist slowing business from its northern neighbor, where it ships about 80 percent of exports. 
    Asked about the possible effects of the U.S. recession in Mexico, he candidly anticipated in a TV interview in February the economy would only “catch a little cold instead of a pneumonia.”
    The phrase has haunted him ever since as mounting bad news — unemployment, inflation, industrial activity — show Mexico is not immune to the U.S. crisis.
    With Mexico officially in recession — GDP contracted 1.6 percent in the first quarter versus the same period of 2008 and could fall further in the current quarter — Carstens now thinks the economy may not grow again until the first quarter of 2010.
    In an affable chat with Reuters during the Latin American Investment Summit, Carstens also talked about measures taken to keep the peso from weakening further against the dollar but shied away from saying if, or when, daily dollar sales could stop.

Islamic finance just one more crisis victim?


It’s not just traditional western banks that are hurting — the recession is hitting Islamic finance hard, too.

The industry, which operates according to Islamic law and hence has an in-built conservative investment strategy, is seen as relatively insulated from the financial crisis. But some executives at the Reuters Islamic Banking and Finance Summit are not so sure.

No LUV for China real estate, SOHO says


China’s real estate sector has a chilly winter ahead, said Pan Shiyi, chairman of Beijing property developer SOHO China Ltd. And he had interesting, alphabetical way of describing it.

“I look at the shape of the real estate market and I imagine it bottoming out as a letter “L”. If after the snows earlier this year, China had loosed up its monetary policy, we would have seen a “V”-shaped market. If they had loosened up before the Olympics, we would have seen a “U”. But for them to release new policies now, like reducing the interest rate, it’s already an “L”. I don’t know when the market will come back up.”

For a banker, no panic in China


“Well insulated” China, though suffering from sharp drops in its own equities markets, doesn’t have the sense of crisis that exists in the U.S., says Philip Partnow, managing director of UBS Securities Ltd in Beijing. UBS, the first Western bank to assume management control of a domestic mainland brokerage, points out the fact that what’s hitting companies is not subprime-related securities gone bad.

“I think there’s nothing here we feel is toxid,” he told Reuters on Wednesday at the Reuters China Summit in Beijing. He goes on:

Audio – Tough ride ahead for Mexico’s biggest retailer


walmex.jpgWalmex, the Mexican arm of U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc., is set for another tough year amid an economic slowdown that is making it more difficult for customers to buy anything from food to clothing.
In 2007, retailers were hurt by a downturn in the Mexican and U.S. economies. However, Walmex hopes that its first-quarter results will be decent. 
Listen to the company’s Chief Executive Eduardo Solorzano talk about the challenges ahead during Reuters Latin America Investment Summit. 

AUDIO-Surprised by US intervention in credit crisis


ruben_iparraguirre.jpgRuben Iparraguirre, Chief Financial Officer at Banco Patagonia in Argentina, expressed his surprise over the U.S. government’s intervention to keep the credit crunch contained.

 During an interview for the Reuters Latin America Investment Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Iparraguirre said the degree of U.S. activism was unexpected.

Audio – Mexico may need new tax reform over long term


finmin.jpgAs Mexico’s oil production gradually declines from peaks in 2004, future governments may need to come up with new ways to tax more products, like food or medicine, to keep healthy coffers, Deputy Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade told the Reuters Latin America Investment Summit.
   Revenues from state oil firm Pemex currently bring government revenue to 20 percent of gross domestic product.

Audio – Against the odds, Mexico’s economy still growing


ortiz.jpgMany thought that with a sick neighbor, Mexico should have caught the blues already, right? Wrong. The Mexican economy looks like it is still growing at a good pace while its No. 1 trade partner, the United States, sails through choppy waters. 
   Central Bank Gov. Guillermo Ortiz told Reuters in an interview during the Third Latin America Summit that recent consumption, investment, industrial output and export data showed Mexico’s economic health appears sound, but inflation remains a concern.
   With Mexico’s average consumer prices currently hovering above the central bank’s comfort zone, Ortiz maintained expectations that inflation could range between 4 and 4.50 percent in the second quarter of this year.

Subprime litigation to take years – plaintiffs’ lawyer


graziano.jpgLawsuits over losses tied to subprime mortgage loans are expected to drag on for years, according to a lawyer representing institutional investors.

Salvatore Graziano, an attorney with Bernstein, Litowitz, Berger and Grossmann, told the Reuters Housing Summit his firm’s volume of cases suggests ligitation will last for a long time.

Audio-Dubai’s Amlak eyes 70 pct profit growth in 2008


Nasser al-Sheikh, chairman of the Dubai-based mortgage lender Amlak Finance, says he is aiming for a 70 percent rise in 2008 profit on increased lending at home and contributions from foreign operations.

Sheikh told Reuters Islamic Finance summit in Dubai that Amlak would be “more aggressive” in its core business.