Argentina expands China currency swap as Beijing eyes Latin America

China has used currency deals, financing for infrastructure projects and other investments to expand its influence in Argentina and across Latin America. (File/AP)
Updated 09 November 2018

Argentina expands China currency swap as Beijing eyes Latin America

  • The agreement is practically done, minus some formal details to finalize the process: Central Bank President Guido Sandleris
  • Argentina and China first agreed to a currency swap program to boost its dwindling reserves in 2009

Argentina’s central bank said on Thursday it would nearly double its currency swap deal with China, bringing the total to 130 billion yuan ($18.7 billion), as Beijing looks to expand its influence in the recession-struck Latin American country.
Central Bank President Guido Sandleris, who was in China finalizing the agreement, said that the deal for 70 billion yuan would be expanded by 60 billion yuan, according to a bank spokesman.
“The agreement is practically done, minus some formal details to finalize the process,” Sandleris said.
Argentina and China first agreed to a currency swap program to boost its dwindling reserves in 2009 under former President Cristina Fernandez. Last year, under President Mauricio Macri, they agreed to extend the program for three more years.
China has used currency deals, financing for infrastructure projects and other investments to expand its influence in Argentina and across Latin America.
“As the US is looking inward, China is continuing to invest in the region. Between currency swaps and tech investments, China is filling the gap in Latin America,” said Nathan Lustig, managing partner at Magma Partners, a Chilean-based startup investment firm.
The swap agreement comes ahead of the high-profile G20 summit of the world’s major economies to be held in Buenos Aires at the end of November, which Argentina will host.
Argentina’s central bank has approximately $54.25 billion in reserves, after the country firmed up a financing agreement with the International Monetary Fund last month.
Argentina turned to external sources of financing after a bad drought and a run on the peso currency earlier this year sparked investor jitters over whether the country could service its international debts in 2019.
Sandleris assumed the role of central bank president in September after his predecessor unexpectedly resigned amid negotiations to expand the IMF agreement to $56.3 billion, the largest in the fund’s history.
Under Sandleris, the peso has stabilized after the central bank initiated a policy to limit growth in the country’s monetary base. The policy aims to control inflation as the country struggles to pull itself out of recession.
“During the first month of our new monetary policy, we met the goal of zero growth in the monetary base, and we will continue to meet that goal in the coming months,” Sandleris said.
Sandleris added that the impact of the policy on inflation would not be immediate.
Argentina’s inflation in 2018 is forecast at 47.5 percent, according to the latest central bank poll.
The peso has lost almost half of its value against the dollar so far this year.


Oman said to mull new regional airline

Updated 22 October 2019

Oman said to mull new regional airline

DUBAI: Oman is considering setting up a new regional airline that could take over domestic operations from state carrier Oman Air, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

A request for proposal was issued this month by state entity Oman Aviation Group for a feasibility study into operating the new airline, “Oman Link,” the sources said.

Setting up a new airline for domestic flights would allow Oman Air to focus on its international network where it competes with large Gulf carriers Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad Airways.

The new airline could partner with Oman Air with both carriers connecting passengers to each other but would have its own independent management, the sources said on the condition of anonymity because the details are private.

Proposals are to be submitted by Nov. 11, one of the sources said.

The new airline would use regional jets for domestic flights and potentially later to other cities in the region where there is not enough demand to fill the larger single aisle jets used by other airlines in Oman.

FASTFACT

Oman Air operates flights to four airports in the country, including the main Muscat International.

Oman Aviation Group and its unit Oman Air did not respond to separate emailed requests for comment.

Oman Air operates flights to four airports in the country, including the main Muscat International, according to its website.

The airline uses 166-seat Boeing 737 jets and 71-seat Embraer E175 aircraft on domestic and regional flights.

Both aircraft types are too costly to consistently operate domestic routes at a profit, according to industry sources.

Oman has been restructuring its aviation sector in recent years. Oman Aviation Group was formed in 2018 and includes Oman Air, Oman Airports and Oman Aviation Services.

A budget, second airline, Salam Air, was launched in 2017. It is owned by Omani government pension funds and the Muscat municipality.

Last week, Eithad and Air Arabia said they were jointly setting up a low cost carrier in Abu Dhabi.