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Opportunities in Peru

Opportunities in Peru

Global Strategist Jacek Dzierwa has just returned from another research trip to Latin America where he visited Peru, Chile and Brazil. Travel is important for our tacit knowledge because many of the world best opportunities aren discovered behind a Bloomberg terminal or an earnings report. We venture to visit as many companies as possible before investing in them.

This was Jacek first trip to Peru and the country to the upside. Another beneficiary of higher commodity prices, Peru has seen a massive improvement in its standard of living in recent years.

The poverty level has declined from a staggering 55 percent in 2001 to 35 percent this year and is expected to fall to 25 percent by 2015. However, there is still much progress to be made. Roughly 71 percent of Peru population works in an informal economy, which means they pay no taxes, have no bank accounts and have no access to credit. The size of this informal economy is second only to Bolivia (80 percent) in Latin America.

Peru progress is on display in Lima, the country capital and largest city. The bustling metropolitan city is home to South America main Pacific port (Port of Callao) and several thousand factories and manufacturing plants. Recent growth has pushed the greater Lima population over 9 million people.

One annoying side effect of this progress is heavy traffic. According to some estimates, the number of vehicles in Peru today is five times greater than it was a decade ago. That means that there are now 10 cars vying for space on the same roadways where there used to be two. Numerous Asian manufacturers from Korea and China have been big beneficiaries of this growth in demand for cars.

But there is relief on the way. The Peruvian government recently announced a $24 billion infrastructure overhaul over the next three years that should help the country meet its rapidly growing demand. One beneficiary of this infrastructure spending is likely to be Grana y Montero a Peru based construction and engineering company that Jacek uncovered during the trip. The firm is highly profitable with its EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) margin in the last three years ranging from 16 20 percent. This is way above average for construction projects where EBITDA margins of 6 8 percent are considered good. Much of Peru retail market is dominated by Chilean owned companies such as Cencosud (OTC:CSUDF), which purchased the popular Wong (pictured) chain of stores back in 2008. The Wong family started the company, which is a supermarket grocery story, in their garage and developed it into a great retail business. Many Chinese emigrated from Macau as laborers in the 19th Century and today Peru boasts a one million Chinese population (total country population of 28 million) that has been active in its entrepreneurial efforts such as the Wong family.

In Santiago, Jacek met with large retailers Falabella and Cencosud. counterparts, which partly explains their current hefty valuations. Cencosud aims to have checkout lines no more than three deep one outlet Jacek visited had 67 cash registers open and each was busy.

Over in Brazil, Jacek made his third trip to the country in the past 12 months. Unfortunately, Jacek experience at S Paulo Guarulhos Airport was similar to the one we detailed a year ago On the Ground in Brazil.

The unconfirmed word on the street is that FIFA has warned Brazil that they need to get their act together and improve the country infrastructure before the 2014 World Cup or the games will be moved somewhere else. Just a rumor at this point, but it may be the motivation Brazil needs to get going.

Brazil equity market has been a major underperformer this year. One reason is the large number of equity offerings coming out of the country, with the largest being the recent $25 billion offering from state oil company Petrobras (PBR).

Brazil also faces an overvalued currency, which puts exporters at a disadvantage. Jacek snapped this photo as an example of how the overvalued Brazilian real affects retailers. for some name brands.

Inside Brazil Retail Sector

On the other hand, Brazilian retailers that sell a wide variety of imported goods can benefit from a stronger currency. In particular, we optimistic about Lojas Renner (pictured). Customers do so by pressing a simple button labeled unsatisfied, satisfied or enchanted. If a customer chooses unsatisfied, an associate immediately engages them to correct their experience.

In 2009, 16.6 million of the 17.2 million customers surveyed selected either satisfied or enchanted. We think this unique customer feedback loop gives the company a competitive advantage over other retailers.

Another thing to keep an eye on is the proposed integration of the Chile, Peru and Colombia stock exchanges to create a joint equities platform. Known as Mila, the joint exchange is currently in a beta testing phase. If approved, Mila could be the capital creation platform Latin America needs to take the next step in development.

We understand that the integration still requires some issues to be resolved before investors can reap the benefits of a larger trading platform. The companies which stand to benefit the most from a higher profile are those that currently fly under the radar of most investors, particularly those in Peru and Colombia.

The Misuse of Home Team Advantage in South America

The Misuse of Home Team Advantage in South America

For those soccer fans who have been following the recent World Cup qualifying in South America (Conmebol) the choice of venues by some home teams is questionable and worth examining.

Under the rules of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA world governing body of soccer) the choice of venue is solely within the discretion of the home team. In Conmebol each team plays two matches against all of the others, one at home and the other away. In other words each team plays 8 games at home and 8 away.

In Conmebol home advantage has always been a factor that affects the outcome of matches. But in the recently concluded tournament the results clearly show that in their home games Colombia and Ecuador had an unfair advantage (see Goal International).

In the case of Colombia, it played its home matches in Barranquilla, a high humidity city on the Caribbean coast. The relative humidity in Barranquilla can go as high as 97%. To add to the difficulty it played the games in the afternoons. However, it allowed water breaks during games (similar to cricket in the West Indies) except that such intervals in international soccer are very rare. But despite these unscheduled stops it is extremely difficult for visiting teams to play in the extreme conditions.

The policy worked very well. With the competition now completed (except for the play offs for Uruguay), Colombia finished in second place two points behind winners Argentina. Out of a total of 8 home games Colombia won 5 and only lost 1. In contrast it won 4 away games and lost 3. In September 2012 it beat South American champions Uruguay 4 to 0 and in October it beat Paraguay, the runners up in the South American championship 2 to 0. At the end of each game the visitors were so exhausted that they looked like a broken army.

Another case in point is Ecuador. Here home games were played in Quito which is 9,350 feet above sea level and is the highest capital city in the world. Again the policy of taking full advantage of local conditions has been very successful as Ecuador has qualified by finishing in fourth place. It was successful because out of a total of 8 home games it won 7 and lost none which is in stark contrast to its away form in which it won none and lost 5. The importance to Ecuador of home advantage was expressed by its Manager Reinaldo Rueda during the tournament when he said “we’re all aware that if we can keep winning in Quito, we’ll be close to our objective. to reach the World Cup” (FIFA. com, October 10, 2012). Mathematically he was right.

A different situation arises in the case of Peru. It plays its home games in the capital Lima although it has other cities like Cusco which lie in the Andes and would be a nightmare for visiting teams. One could argue that Peru is not using its home advantage and that is why it has not qualified for the World Cup since 1982. Peru finished third from the bottom of the qualifying table having won only 4 home games although it has a very good team. It placed third in the Conmebol championship in 2011. But unlike Colombia and Ecuador in Peru it seems that the love of money trumps the desire to qualify for the World Cup.

If you are not accustomed to altitude it is very difficult to breathe let alone play soccer because the air is so thin. Over the years teams in Conmebol have devised ways to overcome the problem. Brasil tried landing their players near the border of the country they were visiting and then a couple of hours before the game transporting them by helicopter to the stadium. Argentina has tried giving their team coca leaves to chew on as this can overcome altitude sickness and recently Peru tried picking only players who play for clubs located at altitude. None of these measures seemed to have worked so FIFA decided to act.

Because of the unfair advantage to home teams, and following reports of possible harmful effects of altitude on health, in 2007 FIFA introduced a ban on playing games at altitudes above 2500 feet which ruled out cities like Quito and La Paz in Bolivia. But the countries affected particularly Bolivia, backed by Diego Maradona (the then Manager of Argentina) and Brasil strongly protested and in 2008 FIFA relented and lifted the ban calling for more studies on the effects of humidity and altitude on health. So the problem continues.

Home field advantage is a part of the game but how much of it should be allowed? The altitude controversy has gone on for a long time with good arguments for and against. What is not in question is that altitude does give an unfair home advantage and distorts competitions.

In the meantime natural law will intervene and restore some balance as Colombia and Ecuador will discover in 2014 when they realize that they can’t take the humidity or the altitude to the World Cup.

Victor A. Dixon

October 13, 2012

Revised October 20, 2013

Published by Victor

Born and grew up in Jamaica; studied law and social sciences in England; lived and worked in 5 countries (incl. Caribbean, Europe and America). Speaks and writes English and Spanish. Married. View profile