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WesBruin Capital

A Leader in Emerging, Pioneer, and Frontier Financial Markets Advisory for More Than Two Decades.

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WesBruin Services

Discover Our Unique Expertise

WesBruin Capital offers a significant range of financial advisory services focused on alternative investment and trading opportunities in emerging, pioneer, and frontier markets/economies.  We provide high value-added financial and socio-economic guidance to a broad variety of domestic and international entities ranging from specialized boutique trading firms to global investment enterprises. Our distinctive analytical approach to developing and less-advanced markets uniquely combines financial, behavioral economic, and anthropological acumen.  We can assist you in calibrating your decision-making calculus to attain higher levels of success through targeted, forward-thinking research, creative risk management, and highly effective out-of-the-box global investment strategies. Contact us today to learn more about WesBruin services and what our specialized expertise can achieve for you.

CORE SERVICES

- Sovereign Debt Advisory -

- Exotic Debt Valuations -

- Exotic Debt Placement -

- Exotic / Impaired Debt Conversion Advisory -

- Exotic Debt Arbitrage Strategies -

- Exotic Debt Pricing Analysis and Historical Tracking -


- Trade-related Alternative Finance Advisory and Placement -

- Pioneer Market Sovereign Bond Analysis -


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Debt Advisory - Sovereign, Impaired / Defaulted and Trade Finance Origin Assets

With over twenty years of specialization in emerging, pioneer, and frontier markets, WesBruin has the capacity to effectively research and target exceptional, less conventional investment and trading occasions that can offer high-yield outcomes, both short and long-term. WesBruin is also well-skilled in the valuation, placement, and conversion (primarily, but not exclusively, debt-for-equity and debt-for-trade structures) of complex, exotic sovereign, trade, and corporate debt. Additionally, the firm is exploring ways of utilizing distressed sovereign debt to encourage the pursuit of environmentally-friendly projects (Green Finance) in a number of select economies, producing beneficial outcomes for both creditors and debtors.

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Alternative Investment and Risk Management Consultation

WesBruin's long experience as a skilled identifier of unique, alternative investment opportunities in highly specialized debt markets can facilitate the generation of more positive portfolio results for clients pursuing enhanced yield scenarios. Our firm's concentration is on the discovery and analysis of extraordinary hidden value in less-orthodox assets while mitigating risk exposure.

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Refined Investment Stratagems for Emerging, Pioneer, and Frontier Markets

Through finely targeted research, exclusive tactical mechanisms and direct access to high-level local government, financial and business networks in a variety of developing and less-developed economies, WesBruin is able to pinpoint uncommon, higher-return assets that other more traditionally driven firms oftentimes fail to properly identify and evaluate.

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Historical Pricing Research and Tracking for Sovereign debt - Emerging, Pioneer, and Frontier Markets

WesBruin Capital is well-known for its historical sovereign debt price tracking and analysis, particularly involving countries with less advanced economies that evince substantial growth potential.  WesBruin covers select performing as well as impaired debt issues.  Our pricing services (The WesBruin Tables) have a wide audience and subscribers range from large multinational hedge funds to niche investors.  Please contact us for subscription rates.

A small sample of recently posted WesBruin INDICATIVE* debt prices is provided below:

ALBANIA 2025 BOND

106.016 bid - 106.062 ask

ANGOLA 2025 BOND

105.625 bid - 105.718 ask 

BELIZE 2038 BOND (defaulted)

45.00 bid - 55.00 ask

BENIN 2026 EUROBOND 

107.362 bid - 107.500 ask

COMORO ISLANDS (defaulted trade-related debt)

1.00 bid - 3.00 ask

ERITREA (judgment debt)

9.00 bid - 12.00 ask

IRAQ PARIS CLUB LOANS (partially performing)

60.00 bid - 80.00 ask

LEBANON 2021 BOND (defaulted)

14.00 bid - 14.50 ask


MONGOLIA (past-due trade-related debt)

27.00 bid - 38.00 ask

MOZAMBIQUE 2031 BOND

83.500 bid - 83.625 ask

PERU 2026 BOND

111.516 bid 111.531 ask

ZIMBABWE (defaulted trade-related debt)

3.00 bid - 8.00 ask

*NOT a solicitation to buy or sell ANY of the listed assets.  Price listings are for research purposes only.

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Emerging, Pioneer, and Frontier Markets Blog

WesBruin publishes a twice-monthly blog (WesBruin Worlds) that examines key economic, political, and socio-cultural developments in targeted emerging, pioneer, and frontier markets.

 
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WesBruin Worlds

Perspectives on Emerging, Pioneer, and Frontier Markets


14th July 2021 - Approximate reading time, 8 minutes.

MONGOLIA:

A New Global Metals Giant in the Making?

Mongolia, a vast Asian land with an economy that ranks as underdeveloped may soon blossom into the world's next big industrial and precious metals producer.  Often referred to as the last frontier in extensive mining ventures, Mongolia holds a wealth of mineral resources that is helping to create a pathway for brisk, extended economic growth and social advancement.  The country, beginning in the last decade, has largely moved away from an agriculturally based economy (nearly seven decades in duration) to one which has focused increasingly on mining; with copper and gold production prioritized.


One prime example of this effort is the Oyu Tolgoi Underground Project (OTUP), deemed to be a top-tier mining producer and among the largest copper and gold deposits globally.  By all  professional mining industry accounts, the operation has been decidedly successful thus far.  According to long-term scenario analyses, when fully operational, Oyu Tolgoi is projected to generate approximately 30 percent of Mongolia's GDP.

Faith in the long-term promise of the Oyu Tolgoi project was recently bolstered by the announcement of a AUS dollar 2.3 billion funding agreement between Rio Tinto and Turquoise Hill Resources (TRQ), expanding and replacing their original Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) executed in September of 2020 (www.blobalminingreview.com - Rio Tinto Concludes Agreement with TRQ - 13th April 2021).  Both are major participants in Mongolia's industrial metals arena and, together with Erdenet Mining Corporation (a Mongolian Russian joint venture), account for the largest percentage of mining production in the country.

Over the past few years, the Mongolian government through cross-border partnership pacts has made significant progress in protecting and promoting its emerging mining industries.  The China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor (CMREC), for instance, is structured to boost trade between Mongolia and its immediate neighbors - stressing mineral transactions - while accelerating infrastructural synergies and building integrative, efficient economic strategies.  Once wholly agreed, CMREC will result in Mongolia becoming the principal link in reinforced east / west trade networks, reducing freight delivery times and establishing additional exportation routes.

As recently as the early 1990s, industrialized mining in Mongolia was very minimal.  However, following the loss of economic support from the former Soviet Union the country transitioned to a market economy and, in 1997, passed the Minerals Law, principally for purposes of drawing in private investment.  Mining sector growth transformed the nation in rapid fashion and at the start of 2011 Mongolia was measured as the world's fastest expanding economy, manifesting impressive production gains in copper, coal, uranium, gold, silver and a number of other minerals.  The government agency that has been most responsible for managing the mining sector's exceptional development is the Mineral Resource Authority of Mongolia (MRAM).

Mineral extraction corporations are well-aware of Mongolia's precious metals potential (chiefly gold and silver) and the government through its long-term Gold 2 program has initiated strategies geared to pursuing sustainable gold / silver sector mining.  This ambitious undertaking is supported by several government agencies which includes the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Mongolia, the Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry, and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. 

The company that currently appears to have the largest precious mining presence in Mongolia is Stepp Gold, being the first organization to venture into that domain.  As of mid-2020 Stepp Gold had recorded gold production figures exceeding 15,300 ounces.  Silver output came in at approximately 5,500 ounces (Investing News Network - Mongolia:  A Fast-growing Economy with Unique Mining Opportunities - 15th March 2021).  These totals are but a small indicator of the country's extraordinary precious metals potential.

All signs point to Mongolia having a highly promising future in metals extraction, but there are a number of serious issues that may compromise its near-to-medium-term prospects.  One major concern is lack of economic diversification, making it similar to most other natural resource rich lesser developed countries.  Outside of mining, the only other industry of note that contributes appreciably to GDP and generates a reasonable level of foreign exchange is cashmere wool manufacturing - Mongolia is currently close to being the world's biggest producer of cashmere.  Secondly, budgetary difficulties have intensified with the revised 2020 deficit figure projected to reach 3 percent of GDP.  The rise stems essentially from a decline in exports, impacting growth and tax revenues.  Critically, the Covid-19 pandemic markedly hurt exports and foreign direct investment (FDI), with the former decreasing by USD 2.1 billion and the latter dropping USD 300 million.  Finally, Mongolia's external debt burden is problematic, registering at USD 30.7 billion for year-end 2019, which equates to about 221 percent of GDP (IMF Country Report No. 20/205 - Mongolia - Request for Purchase Under the Rapid Finance Instrument - Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement of the Executive Director for Mongolia - June 2020).  However, in fairness, these figures merit some qualification; nearly one half of the nation's external debt total is comprised of FDI and a quarter pertains to general government long-term liabilities.

Mongolia has some other notable base vulnerabilities, in large part because of its limited economic capacity and inadequate foreign exchange levels.  This makes the country susceptible to any extended degrading in external economic and financial environments, potentially affecting proposed new bond issuances - this past June Fitch assigned a B rating to near-future Mongolian bond issues - purposed for the repurchasing of a considerable portion of external repayment obligations that are scheduled to mature during the next few years.  Additionally, the banking system lacks adequate capital supports and the deficiency may eventually lead to difficulties in effectively navigating the effects of Covid-19.

Although developing country analysts generally categorize Mongolia's external debt as higher risk, it is considered sustainable under current and planned administrative frameworks.  Ongoing efforts to preserve debt sustainability are concentrated on the re-prioritization of capital expenditures.  Stronger evaluation and selection criteria will serve as the predominate template for the central government's capital expenditure objectives going forward.  The primary macroeconomic motivations are: acceleration of economic growth and expansion of export streams while avoiding new imbalances and boosting foreign direct investment inflows significantly.

Mongolia has several USD high-yielding medium and long-term bond / note issues (final maturities range from 2022 to 2026), all trading at modest volumes and frequencies.  Basic information on such is a follows:

- MONGOLIAN MORTGAGE COMPANY -

medium-term notes, final maturity in 2022, coupon: 9.750%.

- MONGOLEIDL -

medium-term notes, final maturity in 2022, coupon 5.125%.

- MONGOLEIDL -

medium-term notes. final maturity in 2023, coupon 5.6250%.

- MONGOLEIDL -

long-term notes, final maturity in 2026, coupon 5.125%.

As alluded to earlier in this presentation, the expectation is that a portion of the above bonds / notes maturing in 2022 and 2023 will be repurchased through a new USD bond issue currently in negotiation.  A cash tender offer is planned (Fitch Ratings - Fitch Assigns Mongolia's Proposed USD Bond a 'B' Rating - 21st June 2021).

Additionally, a small number of old impaired supplier credits (loans) - some may be in dispute due to exporter performance matters - are owed by quasi-sovereign entities.  Ostensibly, Chinese and Japanese trading companies hold the bulk of this debt.  Speculated totals fall in the range of USD 20 to 50 million.  These loans have occasionally been offered for sale (not over the last twelve quarters, given accumulated distressed debt market trading intelligence) in specialized secondary markets that deal regularly in various forms of exotic sovereign debt.

WesBruin Capital

14th July 2021

 

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28th April 2021 - Approximate reading time, 7 minutes.

MONTENEGRO:

The Curious Case of the "Highway to Nowhere"

A small mountainous Balkan country with a population of just over 600,000 owes China approximately USD 1 billion for a highly controversial and technically complex highway project that has brought with it looming financial peril.

Montenegro sometime during the past two weeks reportedly asked the European Union for assistance in repaying its huge Chinese obligation - the first highway loan payment comes due in July.  China presently holds about one quarter of Montenegro's debt total with much of it resulting from throughway financing.  Fears of Montenegro possibly defaulting on the road construction loan (owed to China's Import-Export Bank) and / or other external debt triggered a market sell-off of its two eurobond issues, with the 2029 maturity in particular dropping dramatically (from the low 90s to near 80 in just a matter of days).  The country's bonds have since recovered somewhat but market sentiment remains clearly negative, particularly since the EU has stated that it does not get involved in repaying loans to third parties, although some notable figures in Brussels have expressed concerns about "the socioeconomic and financial effects some of China's investments can have [on Montenegro]", along with economic imbalance risks and "debt dependency."

China sees Montenegro as pragmatically attractive because it gives Beijing a European presence in the Adriatic and closer political ties, and heightened influence in the country may prove beneficial if Podgorica gains European Union membership.

Montenegrin officials deny that a "formal request" for assistance was ever communicated to the E.U. and they claim that the country has the capacity to service all its debts "without unusual difficulty."  A rather bold statement given that, according to recent Standard and Poor's projections, Montenegro's debt-to-GDP metric will exceed 82 percent by end 2021.  Balance of payments pressures also remain seriously high with the current account deficit standing at 26 percent of of GDP, at the present time (SeeNews: S&P downgrades Montenegro to B, outlook stable.  10th March 2021).  Moreover, the tourism-reliant Montenegrin economy has been especially hard hit by Covid-19.  All things considered, the former Yugoslav state is hardly in a position to assume any further borrowings to complete the last three stages of its problematic highway venture (in actuality, the first stage has yet to be finished.  "Official first-stage completion" was recently rescheduled for end 2021).  The IMF in a recent Montenegro economic assessment estimated that at least an additional USD 1.2 billion will be needed to complete all four highway stages (International Monetary Fund, Montenegro: Request for Purchase Under the Rapid Financing Agreement - Press Release Staff Report, and Statement by the Executive Director for Montenegro.  June, 2020).

The country had been fast-tracked for European Union membership in 2022.  However, during 2018, growing unease regarding the pace of social and fiscal reforms plus the government's ineffectiveness in tackling widespread corruption pushed Montenegro's approximate accession date to 2025, at the earliest.

Montenegro's massive highway undertaking was substantially troublesome from origination and it has suffered extended delays with no fixed timetable for completion.  "The Highway to Nowhere", as the venture is commonly referred to nowadays, was conceptually billed by the government as a critical part of Montenegro's modernization program, emphasizing that the roadway offered a rapid, more direct connection to neighboring Serbia, facilitating commerce, diplomacy and socio-cultural exchanges.  The inceptive project blueprint was designed to link Montenegro's Adriatic port of Bar to landlocked Serbia.  However, studies conducted as far back as 2006 (and again in 2012) reached the conclusion that the roadway was not economically feasible, and it was only after European sources refused to provide financing that the powers in Podgorica approached China - the highway construction loan was executed in 2014.  "There is a big question of how they complete it", voiced an anonymous E.U. official sometime around the loan's official signing.  "[Montenegro's] fiscal space has shrunk enormously.  They have strangled themselves [with the highway financing]." (Reuters: Chinese highway to nowhere haunts Montenegro.  16th July 2018).

In 2014, shortly before Chinese funding was secured, an E.U. anti-corruption monitor, MANS, repeatedly requested that the central government provide legislators with data buttressing the project's early period income generation forecasts.  But Podgorica was not forthcoming and numerous details regarding accounting procedures, technical aspects of the project and a variety of loan agreement elements remain off limits.

The "Highway to Nowhere" is at the center of a vigorous debate concerning Chinese influence in the European Union as well as some eastern neighbors with ambitions of joining the E.U. - Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia.  There is growing disquiet that, potentially, China's footprint could expand throughout the Balkans via its aggressive infrastructure and energy lending programs, giving rise to unwanted regional financial dependence on Beijing.

So, how can Montenegro navigate its way out of this "nowhere highway" financial quandary?  Its options are rather unclear as of now but two possibilities - although far from certain or ideal - come to mind:

1) Podgorica could appeal to the E.U. as a NATO member and the Balkan region's dominant investor for assistance through its multi-billion euro Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.

The E.U. investment plan might also encourage funding from other investors - both public and private - including the European Investment Bank - at favorable rates.  The problem is that this particular tactic is unlikely to quickly bring about a satisfactory solution.  Unfortunately, the reality is that Montenegro's need is most immediate since, as mentioned, the initial payment on the highway loan comes due in July.

2) Another approach would be for Montenegro to leverage its historical relationship with Russia and negotiate a financing structure designed to cover the highway loan payments that fall in the short-term, allowing it additional time to arrange a more long-term solution through the E.U. or possibly other avenues.  However, any deal with Moscow would, in all probability, not sit well with Brussels primarily for geopolitical reasons.

Examining things strictly from an investment perspective. going forward, volatility in Montenegro's eurobonds is to be expected, especially as we move closer to the first highway loan payment date.  In the coming weeks, we are likely to encounter a slew of both positive and negative news concerning Podgrocia's maneuvers to achieve a satisfactory resolution to the Chinese loan quagmire.  Surely, its bond prices will be moved by developments.

Possible Market Plays:*

Surveying the current Montenegro bond trading landscape for possible opportunities (with volatility in mind), one quick profit gambit could be to buy into Montenegro debt (bonds) when there are major price dips and cash out at the first sign of upward movement - a pure, very short-term capital gains play.  Rinse and repeat at the next chance.

A second strategy entails taking a more medium-to-long-term view: Buy on a pronounced price drop and take a calculated risk that the Balkans are too politically and economically important to the E.U. for it to not pursue timely action against a potential Montenegrin default.  A greater temporal risk to be sure but, at the right purchase price, yields in the short-term could be highly attractive and, if default is avoided, one will be in a position to accomplish some solid capital gains down the road.

WesBruin Capital

28th April 2021

*DISCLAIMER:

Must not be construed in any way as a recommendation to buy, sell or trade any Montenegrin bonds or other assets.  Comments are opinions, not advice, and provided strictly for research purposes.

 

Contact Us

Contact us and discover how our services can benefit your company.

WesBruin Capital, Inc.

Alexandria, Virginia 


1 (703) 474.4061 (global)

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