Roberto Lampl

By Roberto Lampl

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Argentina: Macri, the “Messi” of the Argentine economy?

A two-week trip to Latin America, travelling through Argentina, Chile and Peru, gives our fund management team food for thought as change is underway in the region.

 

Touring the Bohemian area of Palermo Soho in Buenos Aires, with its eclectic collection of trendy shops and restaurants, it doesn’t feel as though the country is in a recession. It’s been over one year since Mauricio Macri was elected president of Argentina and we came to meet with industrial and consumer companies to gauge the position of Argentina’s economic recovery.

buenos aires
The view over Buenos Aires

Since Macri took power he has reached an agreement with sovereign bond holdouts, removed capital controls and amended the regulated tariffs. This has allowed institutions to regain trust and begin to act responsibly, by being transparent about fiscal challenges and the real economy.

This move away from the farcical “Kirchner” economic model is increasing business confidence and  willingness to invest in growth. For example, the country’s largest mall operator is looking to finally receive municipal approval for a 10 million square meter residential project, for which they’ve been waiting more than 10 years.

The economic adjustment is well underway and was further confirmed by meeting with our holding Pampa Energia, whose electricity distributor Edenor, saw its electricity tariffs increase allowing them to capture a proper return on assets and invest to expand. The average household’s electricity bill in northern Buenos Aires rose from US$3/month to US$16/month, but is still among the lowest in Latin America. We hold 4.5% of the fund in Pampa Energia, and its value has climbed 350% since we initiated our investment.

The consumer sector in Argentina is not doing well, in large part due to the high level of unemployment (8.5%), and a still high, though declining, level of inflation.

Both these factors are symptoms of an economy going through its cyclical adjustment. The main factor to follow, which will over time improve both employment and consumption, is a resumption of infrastructure investment. This is crystal clear to Macri and will be the pathway to prosperity.

The economic adjustment is well underway and was further confirmed by meeting with our holding Pampa Energia, whose electricity distributor Edenor, saw its electricity tariffs increase allowing them to capture a proper return on assets and invest to expand. The average household’s electricity bill in northern Buenos Aires rose from US$3/month to US$16/month, but is still among the lowest in Latin America. We hold 4.5% of the fund in Pampa Energia, and its value has climbed 350% since we initiated our investment.

The consumer sector in Argentina is not doing well, in large part due to the high level of unemployment (8.5%), and a still high, though declining, level of inflation.

Both these factors are symptoms of an economy going through its cyclical adjustment. The main factor to follow, which will over time improve both employment and consumption, is a resumption of infrastructure investment. This is crystal clear to Macri and will be the pathway to prosperity.

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