Archive | July, 2012

BBC News: amid the Olympic security blunder, who are G4S anyway?

13 Jul This is one of the UK Government's posters to promote tourism in England while the Olympics is on. My self-hatred as an English person requires me to show you. Flickr/The Department for Culture, Media and Sport

I wrote a mini feature for BBC News online (front page for a while!) yesterday as a sort of primer for people reading a lot about how crap G4S are allegedly, but not actually having ever heard of G4S before. In short, G4S is a security firm that has a contract with the British government to train and supply 13,000 security staff to the Games and all the venues it’s being held in. But the scandal is that this week is was revealed they can’t supply all those people in time for the Games, so at the last minute 3,500 British soldiers have been drafted in to do it instead.

A great story to develop while the oncoming traditional summer story drought gets bedded in (only a shame it doesn’t feel like summer) that touches all the live topics in the UK right now: people’s thoughts on the incompetence of government and ministers, political game playing, greedy companies looking to make coin of government incompetence, and the hype from Britain’s biggest international event in decades.

Read on.

This is one of the UK Government's posters to promote tourism in England while the Olympics is on. My self-hatred as an English person requires me to show you. Flickr/The Department for Culture, Media and Sport

This is one of the UK Government’s posters to promote tourism in England while the Olympics is on. My self-hatred as an English person requires me to show you. Flickr/The Department for Culture, Media and Sport

“Securing Your World” is G4S’s maxim. But it looks like the world’s largest security firm has failed to secure its own world, at least as far as London 2012 is concerned.

Just fifteen days before the start of the Olympic Games, it has had to admit that it cannot supply all of the 10,000 security staff to Olympic organiser Locog it is contracted to.

As a result, 3,500 soldiers will stand in for G4S, at a time when the British Army is undergoing large-scale redundancies.

Who is G4S?

G4S has 657,000 employees in over 125 countries and makes its money from companies and governments outsourcing “businesses processes” – placing security staff where there aren’t enough police, for example, or prison officers where those are lacking.

Government contracts accounted for 27% of its £7.5bn turnover in 2011, and it had hoped to have a bumper 2012 as a result of its work on the Olympics.

“We protect rock stars and sports stars, people and property, including some of the world’s most important buildings and events” is how it presents its business – security made sexy, almost.

But G4S has run into difficulty with high-profile contracts before.

Last October inmates in Birmingham Prison, under G4S’s management since it became the first British prison to be transferred into private control, were locked in their cells for almost a day after a set of keys fitting every cell door went missing.

G4S runs seven prisons in England and Wales and is eyeing new business as police forces, under budgetary pressures, are looking to out source to companies like G4S.

Soldiering on

G4S is contracted by London 2012 organisers Locog to supply 13,000 staff to the Olympics.

G4S is not saying why it cannot fulfil the contract. It simply issued a short statement saying that it has almost 4,000 people at work across 100 Olympic venues and another 9,000 going through the final stages of its “extensive” vetting, training and accreditation process.

Now 3,500 British soldiers are to be deployed at two weeks’ notice to fulfil G4S’s pledge to keep the games safe, and during the time many of them had planned to take their summer holidays.

Keith Vaz, Labour MP and chairman of the Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee said G4S had “let the country down and we have literally had to send in the troops”.

The question remains as to whether, or to what extent, the security firm will lose out financially.

Home Secretary Theresa May told the Commons that there was a clause in Locog’s contract with G4S that set out a penalty if they did not fulfil their agreed responsibilities, though she said that was a matter between G4S and Locog.

‘Significant challenge’

G4S shares fell as much as 4% after news of its contract troubles emerged.

But Caroline De La Soeujeole, an analyst at Seymour Pierce who covers G4S, said she did not think G4S would suffer financially.

“The share price reaction is overblown as the Olympics contract is a relatively small part of G4S’s revenues,” she told BBC News. “I don’t think profits at the year-end will be significantly affected by this news.”

G4S says that it experienced delays in processing its Olympic security job applicants that have held many back from completing their final checks and starting work.

BBC News online understands that many thousands of young unemployed people had completed the training but then had problems with incorrect employee system logins, or simply not heard from G4S about when they were supposed to start work.

At the time of writing, G4S’s Olympics homepage still said that there were places waiting to be filled at the Olympics.

Another analyst, who wanted to remain anonymous, suggested the way G4S handled the contract was not unusual, but it should have started the process earlier.

“G4S has managed this too tightly [to the deadline],” he said.

“But the government knew that the company would not hire people months off from the Games, that it would ramp it up much closer to the time they were needed,” the analyst told the BBC. “Any other business would do the same.

“The final part of the accreditation process is done by the government.

“One cannot start work until they have completed that. It’s a bottleneck.”

In March, the Public Accounts Committee said it was “particularly concerned” that Locog had asked G4S in December 2011 to supply twice the number of security staff it originally agreed to, trebling the cost of the contract from £86m to £284m.

It said that Locog and G4S faced a “significant challenge to recruit, train and coordinate all the security guards in time for the Games”.

Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said it was “staggering that the original estimates were so wrong”.

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BBC Business News: Is rain bad for business?

9 Jul Britain's hallowed festival season - a washout from where I'm standing. Flickr/Jim Bob Blann. http://www.flickr.com/photos/meblob/2759899230/sizes/l/in/photostream/

My first feature for BBC News online. I’m proud of it because I co-wrote it with another member of the team, and because it only took me about two hours to make all the calls, do all the research, write and set it up for publication (adding to what Anthony had already done), so it’s definitely the fastest time I’ve ever written a feature of around 1,000 words.

Britain's hallowed festival season - a washout from where I'm standing. Flickr/Jim Bob Blann. http://www.flickr.com/photos/meblob/2759899230/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Britain’s hallowed festival season – a washout from where I’m standing. Flickr/Jim Bob Blann. http://www.flickr.com/photos/meblob/2759899230/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Even by the standards of a British summer, it’s raining cats and dogs out there.

Some parts of the country have received flood warnings when we would normally be readying ourselves for garden parties and barbecues. It is thoroughly depressing.

And British businesses face serious challenges too. Already struggling with a punishing economic downturn, analysts expect many to lose out in July with sales of stocks of summer gear and gardening products hampered by record, unseasonal rainfall.

Retail analysts predict sales of everything from sandals to salads will be hit in the next fortnight by wet weather, and that even deep discounting will not recover sales.

“The hospitality sector is hit by people being discouraged from going out,” says Andy Goodwin, senior economic adviser to Ernst & Young’s Item Club.

“Anything that relies on good weather will be hit: open air festivals, concerts, theatres.”

Staying in

Maureen Hinton, senior retail analyst at Verdict Research, says that even the deep discounts many retailers have started putting on to encourage shoppers – sometimes as much as 70% – don’t make much difference.

“Sales don’t always go up when people discount heavily because often, shoppers just decide they won’t go out and shop, even if lots of bargains are on offer,” says Ms Hinton.

The retail analyst expects a “significant effect” on sales.

Meanwhile some retailers, like furnishings company Dunelm Mill or Topps Tiles, are enjoying stronger sales in the unseasonal rain.

With June a damp squib and July predicted to go the same way, people are feathering their nests and staying indoors.

And retail analysts know department stores do well when the weather turns bad, because shoppers take cover from downpours in them. John Lewis has sold more televisions and cushions of late, for example, says Ms Hinton.

Much of the effect of any weather event is down to timing. The snowfall that arrived in the UK just before Christmas 2010 stopped people getting to the shops to buy their presents, and led to the cancellation of pre-Christmas celebrations.

By contrast, the snow at the start of 2010 simply delayed some economic activity.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, says normally if there is a week of heavy rain, people just do their shopping the following week.

“The problem this year is that we’ve had consistently bad weather, which means people won’t buy a new pair or shorts or some garden furniture at all – they’ll leave it until next year.”

Raincoats and wellies

The problem for shops is that in summer, they do not have enough raincoats or wellies in stock to make up for lost sales of summer items.

They have based the seasonal stock they buy on last year’s weather patterns, assuming the next year will follow.

That short-termism costs when weather patterns for the UK are becoming less predictable.

Planalytics, a company that helps its some High Street retailers prepare for the weather, uses the last ten years of weather data to come up with a baseline for the next year’s weather.

“We find that weather only repeats itself 20% of the time, so if you plan by the year it will lead you in the wrong direction,” says Kristin Boughter, Planalytics’ manager for client services.

“It is a bit more of a conservative way to plan for supply chain and buying,” Ms Boughter adds.

Short-termism

Store managers can work around unexpected weather to an extent, by changing the way their stores are laid out and what they put in the windows.

But others are starting to make more substantial changes.

Some retailers are starting to respond to weather risk by basing some of their supply chain in the UK, rather than importing all their products. That means they do not have to buy so far ahead for seasonal needs and spend the money on importing goods they won’t then shift when the rain falls or the sun shines unexpectedly.

But wages and operational costs in the UK are higher than in other countries companies import from, “so it’s a balancing act – to base too much of your supply chain here would make you uncompetitive,” says Ms Hinton.

She gives Inditex, the Spanish company that owns fashion chains Zara and Mango, as a good example of a company that has some longer-term, in-built ability to deal with unexpected weather. It makes most of its garments in Spain and ships only a few production elements out to South East Asia.

With a shorter supply chain, Zara can quickly change its store offering when sun turns to snow unexpectedly. “I would expect Inditex in the UK to see much less disruption from the wet July weather as a result,” says Ms Hinton.

Financial hedging

The UK’s biggest and richest companies, such as hedge funds, can afford to take out weather derivatives, financial insurance contracts specially created to hedge a specific weather risk that pays out if the risk event occurs.

But so far, retail analysts see no evidence that the Topshops or Sainsbury’s of the world are using those, as they are complex and expensive.

“We’ve certainly seen the effects of the weather in our surveys – I would be surprised if it didn’t get a mention in the official figures,” Chris Williamson says.

Rain may be stopping both work and play this summer.

Financial Director: Falkland Islands’ CEO Keith Padgett on preparing for oil wealth

7 Jul Fires in East Falkland Island. Flickr/By NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. 2007. http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasamarshall/4058290521/

I’m quite proud of my latest work for Financial Director, where I was editor until last May. It intrigued me to learn at the start of 2012 that the finance director for the Falkland Islands had been promoted to its chief executive. Why would a British Overseas Territory need a CEO, I wondered – and do they report to the Queen? I made some enquiries and managed to get in touch with him to organise the interview I turned into this piece, which is a departure from the usual profile style FD magazine runs because, well, the job and the setting are pretty unique. The man, readers would be pleased to know, is an absolutely standard finance man from the grass roots up, but took a life less ordinary. My only question now is: where does the job of Falkland Islands CEO take you for your next job?

I went for the interview because the Falklands and its future is so newsworthy this year, with the anniversary of the Argentine-British conflict and because it is on the brink of becoming an island of the oil rich. It was a real pleasure to explore it – if only FD’s budget could stretch to sending me out there.

I must give some props to Richard Crump, who I hired as my deputy editor and who now acts as my de-facto editor in my freelance life, for succeeding in getting some original photographs of Keith in situ. To see one go here.

Have a read.

Fires in East Falkland Island. Flickr/By NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. 2007. http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasamarshall/4058290521/

Fires in East Falkland Island. Flickr/By NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. 2007. http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasamarshall/4058290521/

LAMENTING THAT Financial Director’s budget won’t accommodate a flight to Port Stanley, I ask Keith Padgett, chief executive of the Falkland Islands Government (FIG) since his promotion from director of finance in March, to paint me a picture of what he sees from his office window: “I can see the bay that is Stanley Harbour; on the other side the rolling hills and mountains beyond it. Straight in front of me is a flagpole with the Union Jack on it.”

Google Maps adds some more: there’s the 1982 Memorial Wood, the Falklands Brasserie, the Victory Bar. Two blocks over is Victory Green. Zoom out of the port inhabited by most of the Islands’ 2,478 residents and suddenly there’s just wilderness – nothing but long, lonely highways crossing vast tracts of land, where half a million sheep graze and where no trees have ever grown.

“It’s a place you either like straightaway, or you don’t. There’s no half measures here,” says Padgett. “Everybody knows who you are; everybody knows what I do. If I go to my local pub, I end up talking about government stuff in some way.”

Padgett arrived in the Falkland Islands in 2001 as its treasurer, fax machine in hand, advised of its perilously slow dialup internet. A Barnsley boy and local government finance careerist, he married in Port Stanley (the Islands’ governor, who acts as the Queen’s representative, gave the bride away), and little more than a decade on, Padgett has the future of his wedding guests in his hands. As for the internet connection, it remains one of their biggest problems, he admits.

Big opportunities

Its biggest opportunity is the quest for oil. As Argentina reignites the Falklands sovereignty debate, Padgett is studying the effect a major oil find could have on the economy, environment and way of life so cherished by locals.

Five exploration companies drilling around the Islands are hoping to find between 8.3 billion and 60 billion barrels of oil, three times what remains of the UK’s North Sea claim. A report published in February by analysts Edison Investment Research suggested FIG could see a $180bn (£116bn) windfall in tax royalties from oil. That compares with its current main source of income, fishing for Illex squid, which brings in $23m annually, demonstrating the pressure under which Padgett currently finds himself.

“I’ve commissioned a study – I call it the ‘ringmaster’ study – and what I want from it is for someone to come and tell us what kind of circus we might have down here,” says Padgett. “There’s going to be rapid expansion of the population and the amount of money in the economy, so it will affect us in all sorts of ways, and we need to be prepared for that.”

The expansion has already started. Padgett reported a million-pound budget surplus last December on the back of drilling income (as well as a bumper Illex squid crop). When the budget was prepared, there weren’t even concrete plans to drill. In the next financial year, Padgett expects another surplus, again from drilling revenues.

While he has received assurances from the industry that onshore effects will be limited by keeping floating extraction platforms and storage kettles, he will spend on readying the Islands to provide a support industry to rigs and vessels. But the tension between the potential for historic economic development and preserving a way of life is palpable.

“We need to spend on dock and port facilities, and short-term accommodation – and we’ll have to look at our immigration policies,” he says.

All this upheaval could change the Falkland Islands to a very different place by the end of his tenure, but Padgett expects the status quo to remain. “People down here are very conscious that they don’t want oil to change the place significantly. That is going to be a difficult challenge. We are not going to allow a free-for-all – it will not just be a case of grabbing every drop as quickly as possible,” he insists.

Having climbed from treasurer to deputy financial secretary and then to financial secretary proper, in 2008 Padgett felt ready for the CEO job and applied. He lost out to Tim Thorogood, but four years later had built the networks to demonstrate his non-financial skill.

“Although I was in charge of treasury, I was spending a lot of time in policy advice in all kinds of areas – running all kinds of things – and other service managers were looking to me for advice. So I had became a sort of de facto CEO some years ago,” he explains. “Everybody knew me and I knew them. I knew what the Islands needed.”

Village green feel

A place where the entire machinery of government is run by 550 people is going to have the village green feel. Padgett and the other members of the Legislative Assembly take on several portfolios at once; the director of education doubles as director of health.

“This place is different in that people expect me, as chief executive, to get involved in all kinds of things you’d employ a specialist to do in a UK organisation,” Padgett admits. “We’re an island that is very resourceful. One body does everything central government, county councils and parish councils do. Everybody turns their hand to all sorts of things, and that applies all the way through our society right up to the top levels of government. It makes life a lot more complicated.”

With the Argentine sovereignty row – which analysts Edison say is the single “proverbial spanner in the works” for FIGs’ oil ambitions – looming large, Padgett could expect a change to his daily life. He is “absolutely positive” that Argentina will increase the pressure, but says it makes little impact on his work.

“It’s frustrating and it’s annoying – we have shortages of things because of political interruptions – but they aren’t things we can’t live without,” he says. “Argentina has reneged on almost every agreement we had with them anyway, so there’s little else that they can actually do. We’re not particularly concerned and our major partners in the oil industry are also not too fussed.”

Padgett even thinks that Argentine president Cristina Kirchner’s provocations on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands are helpful. “The amount of rhetoric Cristina produces gives us a world stage to say our piece. Before that, we had a difficult task getting anyone interested in the Falklands side of the argument,” he concludes.

Campden FO: Can Western family offices find El Dorado in Latin America?

3 Jul A food market in Salta, Argentina. Photo by me, 2007

 

My latest article on Latin America, published by Campden FB, a magazine for super-wealthy business-owning families.

There’s such a delay between when I file the copy, when it is published in print, and then when it goes live online, that some stuff seems out of date: the vagaries of publishing.

Have a read.

Can Western family offices catch a good investment in Latin America? Photo by me, Santa Catarina, Brazil. 2007

Can Western family offices catch a good investment in Latin America? Photo by me, Santa Catarina, Brazil. 2007

It’s accepted investment wisdom that Latin American economies offer spectacular returns for investors. The region’s economies are expected to continue to soar while Europe and North America bump along the bottom, printing more money just to survive. So is Latin America El Dorado for family offices?

Stocks on Mila, a stock market trading Colombian, Chilean and Peruvian companies on a single platform, rose in value by almost 19% in its first 12 months to May 2012, compared with the FTSE 100’s 9% rise and the S&P 500’s 12% in the same period. Brazil’s minimum wage will increase by 14% in 2012 and public expenditure on infrastructure is expected to rise.

Such numbers have the same effect on investors as micro-bikinis on Rio’s Carnival-goers. But Latin America has other attractions. It is in general more stable than it used to be (Argentina notwithstanding, see box). Such horrors as narco-trafficking and corruption are no longer as endemic as they once were in the region. Most pertinently, in many Latin American countries a massive middle class is rapidly emerging, and with that comes demand for better healthcare, retail, banking and other products and services. To meet that need, a Latin Mittelstand of dynamic, fast-growing businesses has begun to emerge; just the sort of businesses that appeal to investors.

The Latin American region still only represents a modest corner of most family office portfolios – usually between 3% and 5% – but it is increasing. Some family offices are taking advantage by buying up direct controlling stakes in growing businesses. Others are allocating capital to funds and funds of funds, channelling into the new area of middle class-targeting businesses.

So where to invest? And how? “The 800-pound gorilla in the room is Brazil,” says Paul Karger, founder of Boston-based multi family office Twin Focus Capital Partners, which invests directly in private equity in the region as well as through funds. “When you’re investing in Brazilian public equities most of that exposure is in the big commodity names – Petrobras [pictured, right] and Vale,” he says. The problem with such investment is that “you’re not really playing this emerging middle class, the 40 or 50 million middle-class consumers coming online needing all different sorts of products, technologies, education, insurance”. Investing in other countries can play into this story more effectively. “If you look at a market like Chile, it’s pretty mature,” Karger says. “Great regulatory system, transparency and so on. There are some incredibly compelling opportunities.”

Colombia is also seeing strong interest from investors in Europe. With more experienced managers who have plenty of experience with North American and European partners – and with Moody’s recently raising the country’s credit rating to investment grade – family offices are keen. “I wouldn’t even have thought about going there 10 years ago, let alone investing there. But if you go to Bogota or Medellin today you’ll see cities that are robust and bustling with commerce; people feel safe there,” says Karger. “I see a couple of private equity opportunities there each month; all they need is the foreign direct investment to provide the next layer of growth.”

Vitally important when moving into a new region is finding the right partners. Investment advisers helping European family offices access the region for the first time say they avoid the global finance names operating there and seek out the local banks, investment managers and local family offices with which to co-invest. Not only are the fees charged by local operators much lower, they are the only partners who really understand the environment, the risks and opportunities on the ground. Plus, the local families have skin in the game and an interest in picking winners.

The best tactic is to look for local managers who have spent time in Europe or North America. They understand the local market, and also the viewpoint of a western investor in Latin America for the first time. “There are groups locally who are well respected but the real problem is finding one who understands the mentality of the investor,” says an experienced Argentinian family office investment adviser, who has worked out of Europe for 20 years and helps European investors find Latin American partners. “In Brazil you’ve got lots; there are a few in Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Chile, but in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay there is only a handful.”

Corinna Traumueller, chief executive of Family Office Management Consulting, which works with families all over the world, says: “Family offices want a partner who can give them a good estimation of the risks in that region, especially political instability, in places like Brazil or Argentina; they’re asking now how Latin America can fit into their portfolio. They’ve done land investments there, they’ve done commodities there, and now they are interested in small businesses where they can invest significantly in a venture opportunity with a local partner.” She says a number of her clients in New York and Miami are particularly keen on Latin America, although the Europeans on her books have so far not taken the plunge.

Traumueller says the private banks, family offices and advisers that have those local contacts, and which host the networking events that bring Latin American families and funds together with potential investors, are the gatekeepers to the region. “More and more investment networks are popping up to bring together co-investing families of a similar size,” she says. “But there is still no one good way to facilitate those meetings.”

Therefore a good, trusted partner is invaluable. Rampart Capital, a London-based multi family office, relies on a principal partner, Brazilian bank BTG Pactual, for its pipeline of local investment opportunities, introductions to local managers and for local due diligence. “Most families are overweight in their own markets, so when you try to go outside it, and try to find a good local partner, you’re starting with a blank sheet of paper asking: ‘Who do I know?’” says Graham Noble, partner at Rampart. “At BTG Pactual I know the principals and most of the senior executives. They still treat their investors as partners, which is a rarity. It’s a question of trust; if they’re doing a proprietary trade I know they’re putting a significant amount of their own cash into it. That sort of relationship is a prerequisite for a lot of families going into Latin America.”

Don’t get hung up on getting a board seat, says Noble. “Good shareholder agreements and the proper paperwork will get you to where you want to be. If you can get the right local partner who is putting their own cash into a deal, and you’re comfortable with their abilities, you don’t need to be that actively involved,” he says. “The hardest bit is to find that good local partner, someone who will enhance your return on capital, and if everything happens to go south they are the same person who will help you to get out of it with a minimal loss.”

Personal contacts can help, of course. When he was looking at the region, Rod Walkey, managing director of Latin America Alternatives Management and formerly chief investment officer at Migration Capital, the family office for the founders of Fortune 500 technology company EMC Corporation, teamed up with a Harvard MBA classmate who used to be the portfolio manager for the Petrobras pension plan’s private equity group.

“I interviewed several private equity managers in Brazil and came to the conclusion that it was going to be difficult to find the best managers on my own,” says Walkey. “You want locals that have done at least one fund and can show a track record. I searched for a fund of funds but there was no good alternative, so I wrote a business plan for one of my own. Through my study at Harvard I met my business partner, who had invested $1.5 billion into just about every local fund manager in Brazil. He had a very deep scorecard system and all the analytical tools that have tracked the market for five years; it shows me who the real players are down there, where the best deals are, and that means we get entry valuations far lower than foreign funds can.” Together Walkey and his partner built a $400 million private equity fund of funds investing into mid-caps in Latin America.

Amid the excitement, a quick reality check. Investing in Latin America is not a sure-fire winner. SAP forecasts growth in Latin America to slow from 4% in 2011 to 3.5% in 2012 and 3.6% in 2013, and believes the region will be prone to shocks as Europe’s economic shifts play out. Emerging markets including Latin America will see more capital inflows from abroad as they post stronger growth than advanced economies, the agency says, but warns “there will be periods of reversal and tighter financing conditions”.

And while there are undoubtedly opportunities, foreign investors might well find it tough to get hold of the real peaches. The very best local investment houses and family offices often don’t need to co-invest with outsiders. “Perhaps they don’t need the capital, or they don’t want to share,” says Rampart’s Noble. Walkey agrees that this can be a problem. “Most of the money going into the local funds is from pension plans,” he says. “In my opinion, the best local managers are the ones who aren’t looking for money outside their market, because they have a sufficient supply from their home market from those pension funds.” The ones who are looking abroad are the ones who have to. El Dorado hasn’t been found just yet.

A food market in Salta, Argentina. Photo by me, 2007

A food market in Salta, Argentina. Photo by me, 2007

Wealth and soberania
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s decision in April to nationalise the 51% stake in Argentinian oil company YPF that Spain’s Repsol owned is a reminder of the risks posed by investing in some Latin American economies. Two weeks later, neighbouring Bolivia – already in The Hague with British utility operator Rurelec over its nationalisation of that company’s Bolivian assets – nationalised the country’s main power grid, owned by Spanish firm Red Eléctrica Corporación.

Repsol says it will pursue compensation; possible tariff punishments are threatened by the European Union, and EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht says it may take the case to the World Trade Organization.

Economic arguments are put forward to explain nationalisation; the pretext that foreign owners had not invested sufficiently to make the assets work for their host countries.

Beneath that is the thorny issue of sovereignty – soberania – and votes. The spectre of colonialism is a common lever among some Latin American governments desperate for the popular vote. As China’s dominance in Latin America grows, there are fears Argentina will write more protectionist investment rules, as did Brazil in 2011 over foreign land ownership. “Argentina is going in the same direction because of Chinese and Middle Eastern investors in the region. Governments want to be careful how much of their resources are owned by foreigners,” says one Argentinian family office investment adviser. “Argentina has fallen off the map as far as investors are concerned.” That said, FOMC’s Traumueller says families she speaks with put Argentina second on their list of interests after Brazil.
The China effect
A sign that growth in Latin America is sure to increase is the Chinese interest in the region. Thirsty for more natural resources to fuel its growth, China has $43.9 billion (¤33.78 billion) invested in Latin American stocks, according to the Latin Business Chronicle, citing data from China’s Ministry of Commerce. Chinese exports to Latin America were valued at $121.7 billion in 2011 while the value of its imports from the region reached $119.8 billion. FOMC’s Traumueller, who has some new family office clients in China, says while they have made no investments in the region yet, they are enquiring about it. “They are part of an emerging market themselves and operate businesses taking risks every day in those markets, so they are now looking for a safe haven for their money further afield than their usual favourites in Europe, such as Germany,” she says. “As Europe has become unstable, they’ve started looking elsewhere.”