Argentina looks to IMF for more breathing space

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Updated 12 August 2020

Argentina looks to IMF for more breathing space

  • The agreement with creditors gives Argentina much-needed breathing space

NEW YORK: After reaching a $65 billion restructuring agreement in principle with its creditors earlier this month, Argentina must now turn to relief from the International Monetary Fund to free up cash in the near term, the IIF said on Tuesday.

“We think external financing will be comfortable if the IMF rolls over its exposure,” the Institute of International Finance said in a note.

The agreement with creditors gives Argentina much-needed breathing space.

Cash flows into and out of the country have ground to a halt, partly due to capital controls and the nonpayment of obligations during the debt negotiations.

“As long as capital controls remain in place, resident capital flight will not be a source of pressure,” said the IIF.

Payments to the IMF could quickly become unsustainable under the current schedule.

The large payments due to the IMF stem from having received the largest-ever program from the Fund in 2018.

Beyond that new agreement expected with the IMF, investors are focused on Argentina’s medium-term economic plan, according to Sergi Lanau, deputy chief economist at the IIF.

Prudent fiscal policy has been hard to come by for Argentina, Lanau said, adding that the government has done “a lot” on the tax side and now it is “more likely that it’s unavoidable to look for savings on the spending side.

“That’s always politically and socially complicated, but it needs to be done.”


HSBC, StanChart shares fall to 22-year lows

Updated 22 September 2020

HSBC, StanChart shares fall to 22-year lows

  • Falls follow reports on movements of allegedly illicit funds; shares fall amid wider selloff in stocks

LONDON: HSBC’s shares in Hong Kong and Standard Chartered’s in London fell on Monday to their lowest since at least 1998 after media reports that they and other banks, including Barclays and Deutsche Bank, moved large sums of allegedly illicit funds over nearly two decades despite red flags about the origins of the money.

BuzzFeed and other media articles were based on leaked suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by banks and other financial firms with the US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen).

HSBC shares in London fell as much as 5 percent to 288 pence, their lowest intraday level since 2009, after the lender’s Hong Kong shares earlier touched a 25-year low. The stock has now nearly halved since the start of the year.

StanChart dropped as much as 4.6 percent in London to its lowest since 1998, against the backdrop of a broader sell-off in the market with the STOXX European banks index down 4.8 percent.

More than 2,100 SARs, which are in themselves not necessarily proof of wrongdoing, were obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and other media organizations.

In a statement to Reuters on Sunday, HSBC said “all of the information provided by the ICIJ is historical.” The bank said that as of 2012 it had embarked on a “multi-year journey to overhaul its ability to combat financial crime.”

StanChart said in a statement it took its “responsibility to fight financial crime extremely seriously and have invested substantially in our compliance programs.”

Barclays said it believes it has complied with “all its legal and regulatory obligations, including in relation to US sanctions.”

The most number of SARs in the cache related to Deutsche Bank, whose shares fell 5.2 percent on Monday. In a statement on Sunday, Deutsche Bank said the ICIJ had “reported on a number of historic issues.”

“We have devoted significant resources to strengthening our controls and we are very focused on meeting our responsibilities and obligations,” a spokesperson for the bank said.

London-headquartered HSBC and StanChart, among other global banks, have paid billions of dollars in fines in recent years for violating US sanctions on Iran and anti-money laundering rules.

The files contained information about more than $2 trillion worth of transactions between 1999 and 2017, which were flagged by internal compliance departments of financial institutions as suspicious. 

The ICIJ reported the leaked documents were a tiny fraction of the reports filed with FinCEN. HSBC and StanChart were among the five banks that appeared most often in the documents, the ICIJ reported.

“It confirms what we already knew — that there are huge numbers of SARs being filed with relatively low numbers of cases brought through to prosecution,” said Etelka Bogardi, a Hong Kong-based financial services regulatory partner at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.