|KWR International Advisor #6
September/October 2000 Volume 2 Edition 4
Editor: Dr. Scott B. MacDonald, Sr. Consultant
Deputy Editor: Dr. Jonathan Lemco, Director and Senior Consultant
Publisher: Keith W. Rabin, President
Contributing Writers to this Edition: Scott B. MacDonald, Jonathan Lemco,
and Keith W. Rabin of KWR International
© 2000 KWR International, Inc. No reproduction is permitted without the
express consent of KWR International, Inc.
Please forward all feedback, editorial, circulation and reproduction
requests to KWRADVISOR@kwrintl.com.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In this Issue:
I. Looking Back to the Future: Two Years Ago and Now
II. Oil Prices, Inflation and Interest Rates - What Next for the Global
III. The U.S. Election - The Horses Are Heading to the Final Turn
IV. The Amazing Shrinking Euro
V. Thunder in the North - Canada's Looming Election and Implications for
VI. Telecom Market Trends
VII. World's Toughest Telecom Market - Living and Dying In Hong Kong
VIII. Emerging Market Briefs:
Brazil - the Momentum Continues
Israel - Fast Growth
Peru - Fujimori's Andean Shocker
IX. Book Reviews:
In the Shadow of the Liberator: Hugo Chavez and the Transformation of
Japan's Big Bang: The Deregulation and Revitalization of the Japanese
I. Looking Back to the Future: Two Years Ago and Now
By Scott B. MacDonald and Keith W. Rabin
Two years ago world policy makers gathered in Washington, D.C. for an
annual IMF/World Bank meeting characterized by gloom and doom. There was
considerable talk of the global economy sitting on the edge of a major
recession, possibly a depression of the kind that hit in 1929. By last
year's meeting it appeared the global economy had made a dramatic recovery.
Asia, the lynchpin for the financial meltdown that began in 1997, regained
comfortable levels of growth, despite the lagging nature of Indonesia and
the Philippines. Latin America and Russia, both hit hard by contagion,
had also begun to stage comebacks.
As government delegates, investment bankers and others meet in Prague for
this years meeting, there are signs that the environment has changed yet
again, contributing to uncertainty as to the path before us. Last years
"goldilocks" environment helped to contribute to an indiscriminate surge
in internet- and technology-related equities - until the bubble broke
this spring, giving way to a far more discriminating financing
environment. Rising oil and commodity prices and a tight labor
market have also raised inflation fears (see next article), further
constraining the ability of corporations to maintain the earnings growth
they have exhibited over recent years. Intel's September 21st announcement
that revenues are expected to be below estimates has caused additional
anxiety, leading many to question whether the U.S. economy has peaked and
we are now on the downside part of the cycle.
The world was also taken by surprise over the tension and discord
exhibited by demonstrators at last year's WTO ministerial in Seattle
as well as the mid-year April IMF/World Bank meetings in Washington.
In addition, the U.S. presidential election - no matter who wins Ö also
promises to mark the passing of an era. This leaves analysts, investors,
corporate executives and government policymakers with ample reasons to
question whether the current environment can be maintained into the future.
Nevertheless, the IMF's semiannual review remains relatively upbeat,
upgrading the Fund's earlier May 2000 assessment of global growth
from 4.2% for this year and 3.9% for 2001 to 4.7% for 2000 and 4.2%
for next year. While U.S. growth is expected to slow, Europe is
forecast to remain around 3.4%, and Japan to reach 1.4%, with other
regions expected to make up the difference. GDP in Asia is expected
to expand around 6% in 2000 and 6.5% in 2001. Latin America and the
Caribbean are expected to grow at 4.25% and 4.5% respectively.
At the same time, the IMF cautions there are four possible dangers to
continued global economic expansion - the troubled performance of the
euro, oil prices, the continuing problem of overvalued asset prices in
the United States and the "timid and fragile nature" of the nascent
recovery in Japan.
As for the U.S. economy and the stock market, the IMF urges the Federal
Reserve to raise interest rates higher (above 7%), to dampen domestic
demand, reduce the risk of inflationary pressure and temper the seemingly
insatiable U.S. appetite for imports. A higher interest rate environment
would also further let the steam out of U.S. equity markets.
While we concur that economic growth will be maintained, we are not as
rosy as the IMF. We agree about the four possible dangers, but would
add the over-leveraging of the U.S. business sector as a point of
concern. As stated in earlier reports, the U.S. corporate world has
incurred considerable debt during its recent mergers and acquisitions
spree. In the current business cycle we have peaked and are now moving
into the downward phase. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter equity analysts in
mid-September lowered their earnings forecast for almost every sector,
including a number of new economy companies. In this environment we do
not see a pressing need for higher interest rates, especially as it would
hurt a number of companies that will soon be scrambling to balance falling
earnings and revenues with interest and principal payments. As to oil
prices and other concerns, turn to the next article.
II. Oil Prices, Inflation and Interest Rates: What Next for the Global
By Scott B. MacDonald
While considerable attention was given in the first half of 2000 about
higher interest rates and the pace of U.S. economic growth, concerns about
oil prices were not a primary concern. With oil prices rising heading
toward $40 a barrel, energy costs have become a major issue. In Europe,
higher oil prices have resulted in widespread demonstrations against high
government taxes on energy costs. In the U.S., the media is beating the
drum that local energy costs will skyrocket during the winter months. It
has even showed up in the presidential campaign, with Democratic contender
Al Gore calling upon President Clinton to use the U.S. Strategic Petroleum
Preserve to reduce prices. Republican candidate George Bush, Jr.
denounced the plan, saying that the reserve was for emergencies and
"should not be used as an attempt to drive down oil prices right before
an election." Nevertheless, President Clinton announced that some oil
would be released from the strategic reserves to increase supplies this
There are three key reasons for the upswing in oil prices: a rebound in
demand in non-Japan Asia fueled by much stronger economic growth; a
reduction in high-cost capacity (mainly in the North Sea fields and North
America); and an OPEC squeeze (pushed along by Venezuela's more aggressive
pricing policy). OPEC members supply more than 40% of the world's oil and
they posses about 78% of crude oil reserves.
For some of the doomsters, higher oil prices indicate that a new price
shock is coming and that the old days of standing in line for gas for the
automobile are around the corner. It is also feared that higher oil
prices will cause the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in an effort
to stave off energy-related inflationary pressures. This, in turn, will
lead to even slower growth, quite possibly a sharp recession. Of course,
a U.S. recession will have negative implications for Asia, Latin America,
Canada and Europe.
Is the above-mentioned scenario a possibility? KWR International believes
that while higher energy prices are indeed adding inflationary pressures
on the U.S. economy, they are not likely to result in another cycle of
Federal Reserve interest rate increases (though we do not rule out the
possibility of one more hike before the end of the year or early 2001).
Additionally, we do not see a major recession for the rest of 2000 and
2001. Real GDP growth for 2000 will be 5.0% and we are forecasting
2.8-3.2% for next year. As noted in earlier editions of the KWR
International Advisor we expect the U.S. economy to have a soft landing
and recent economic data reflects this development. Moreover, the U.S.
is relatively well-positioned to weather a hike in oil prices - as long
those increases are temporary.
Our expectation is that oil prices will spike over the next 6 months, but
will decline later in 2001. For 2000, we expect an average price of
$26-28 a barrel and for 2001 an average of $26-27 a barrel (barring any
incidents). Prices will remain above $30 a barrel over the next several
months, probably going over $40 a barrel due to low levels of refinery
inventories and an inability of production to make up the difference
between supply and demand. Some analysts have even called for $50 a
barrel, something that we do not expect, but can no longer be entirely
discounted. Two additional factors will prevent a short-term fall in oil
prices: global refining capacity is running at over 90% capacity, a
situation that will not change as quickly as production and oil transport
costs will remain relatively high. Both the refining and transport
sectors were hit hard by the last oil prices deflation in 1998 and
dissuaded re-investment in new ships and refineries.
However, production is slowly ramping up within OPEC, in particular with
Saudi Arabia (the only country with spare capacity of any meaning).
Equally important, non-OPEC producers, such as Mexico, Canada, the UK and
Russia, are now likely to find incentives to expand exploration and
recovery operations. These increases will not be rapid, but incremental,
and will not be felt in a meaningful fashion until late in 2001 and 2002.
This means high oil prices through 2001.
One would leave one caveat for our oil prices projections. Oil prices
will remain exceedingly vulnerable to any "incidents" around oil-producing
countries. Any threat to peace in the Middle East (such as angry
rumblings from Iraq), political instability in Indonesia or Venezuela,
natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes are likely to make
oil prices go up. Watch the upcoming OPEC summit in Caracas in which the
workers union for state-owned oil company PDVSA are threatening to go on
Who benefits: Those countries set to benefit from higher prices are
obviously major oil producers, including the 11 members of OPEC (including
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria,
Libya, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Venezuela., Russia, Mexico, Norway,
Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Gabon and Cameron). Natural
gas exporters Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt will also benefit. In terms of
sovereign bonds, those from Qatar, Trinidad and Tobago, Russia and Mexico
should benefit the most. This situation is also likely to help Algeria
make its debut into the international debt market.
On a sectoral basis, oil and natural gas companies and refineries will
benefit from the higher oil prices. It is also expected that drillers and
services companies will also benefit from increased petroleum prices and
demand for more non-OPEC oil. Pipeline companies also fall into this
bracket. Most energy companies are forecasting strong earnings, improving
credit quality, and higher capital programs that will eventually translate
into increased production and reserves. We also expect the industry to
announce strong earnings at the end of the third quarter and provide
upbeat assessments for 2001.
Relatively neutral: Those countries where higher oil prices are
relatively neutral in their impact include the United States, the UK,
Canada, Australia, Israel, Malaysia, Chile, and Argentina. These
countries have their own sources of energy (oil, gas, hydro and nuclear
power), which either partially or totally meet their domestic energy needs.
Moreover, the more developed of this group have over the years introduced
considerable energy-saving technology. Consequently, higher oil prices
through the end of 2000 hurt in the United States, Australia, Chile and
Argentina, but will not result in any prolonged major economic dislocation.
The United States remains the largest single user of oil on the planet,
but the strategic importance of that commodity has declined as the economy
has shifted from an industrial to a technological foundation -- a trend
that is expected to continue and intensify in the foreseeable future. It
takes much less energy to design computer hardware and software than to
manufacture automobiles and military equipment. The American economy now
depends much less on manufacturing and heavy industry and more on
services. In 1999, only 22.9% of the U.S. GDP was accounted for by
industry while 75.4% could be attributed to services. Consequently, oil
consumption accounts for an increasingly smaller percentage of GDP.
According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 1976
it took more than 1,400 barrels of oil to produce $1 million worth of
goods and services; today it takes only about 800 barrels.
Who loses: Higher oil prices are a point of concern for Japan, most of
non-Japan Asia (excluding Indonesia and Malaysia), continental Europe
(including Central and Eastern European countries and Turkey), and Brazil.
Each of these countries or group of countries is highly dependent on oil
imports to fuel national growth.
In continental Europe the perception that oil price rises put European
growth at risk has already been mirrored in a plunge in the value of the
Euro vis-Ã-vis the U.S. $. The Euro closed in trading on September 11th
in London at 86 cents, its lowest ever, last week prompting a multilateral
currency intervention to maintain its value. Nevertheless, in the short
term, the expectation is that it could drop further, possibly as far as 80
cents. This situation has not been helped by a lack of leadership in
Europe for the Euro, which has appeared to languish without the support
of the European Central Bank or the key governments in Germany and France.
This comes at a delicate time for the Euro -- on September 28th Denmark
goes to the polls to vote on whether or not to adopt the Euro or to keep
the Kroner. Opinion polls in Denmark are running almost at a tie. A
no-vote would probably result in further downward pressure on the Euro.
One scenario is that sustained higher oil prices will cause a rise in
interest rates (as major European economies seek to contain oil-induced
inflationary pressures), which will result in slower growth. As growth
cools in France, Germany and Italy, the ripple effect will be lower demand
for manufactured and other goods from Central and Eastern European
countries, such as Poland, Hungary and Turkey. Consequently, it would
make sense to steer clear of bonds from Central and Eastern European
Non-Japan Asia consumes a lot of energy as it relies on manufacturing
exports for growth and has to consume more oil for each unit of economic
output. For a region still not fully recovered from the 1997-98 financial
crisis, higher oil prices threaten a number of gains as the region's trade
surplus will be reduced significantly. Equally important and related to
smaller trade surpluses, higher oil costs will reduce liquidity for
corporate deleveraging. If higher oil prices exist for an extended time,
companies in Thailand, Korea, and the Philippines will face even greater
liquidity problems. China's corporate restructuring efforts could also be
impacted by this development. Higher oil prices are also bad news for
Japan, which imports a little more than half of its energy, with more than
half of its supply coming from the Middle East. In the short term, this is
not a problem from the standpoint that oil and natural gas are bought on a
long-term basis. The longer higher oil prices persist, however, the more
this will become a problem for Japan.
III. U.S. Election Update - The Horses Are Heading To The Final Turn
By Jonathan Lemco and Keith W. Rabin
With six weeks remaining in the U.S. Presidential election season, polls
reveal that Vice President Al Gore has developed a lead of about five
percentage points over his Republican challenger, Governor George W. Bush
of Texas. It is too early to call a victor, but Bush is clearly concerned
about the situation and has shifted tactics. He is less likely now to
malign Gore's character and the Vice Presidents' ties to President Clinton.
Instead, Bush appears to have decided to devote more attention to
challenging Gore on the public policy issues that the Texas Governor
believes are of the greatest concern to most voting Americans. Until
mid-August, the Bush camp seemed content to attack Gore for inadequately
supporting moral values. The most obvious example of this lapse was the
Vice President's refusal to condemn President Clinton's scandalous affair
with Monica Lewinsky. Notwithstanding the truth to the Republican
accusation, it has been made irrelevant in the public mind by at least two
First, Gore selected Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, an Orthodox
Jew, to be his Vice Presidential running mate. To the surprise of many
observers, this choice has proven to be immensely popular with many voters.
It may signal a sea change in the U.S. voters' attitude to the role of
national minorities in the most senior levels of American public life.
First, Lieberman emphasizes that his religion is his guidepost to ethical
behavior in both his private and in his public life. Many Americans admire
this attitude, particularly after the sordid and exhausting Lewinsky
scandal. The fact that Lieberman is Jewish is irrelevant to many voters.
Instead, the important point is that he lives his life according to
certain ethical and religious standards and would symbolize these values
in the second most prominent public office in the land. In making this
strategic vice presidential choice, Al Gore's judgment has been applauded
by the elite press as well as many voters.
Second, the apparently accidental but passionate "kiss" between Al Gore
and his wife Tipper has demonstrated to many voters that the Vice
President loves and is devoted to his wife of many years. Here again,
much of the public draws a contrast to the Clintons and, might be
recalling the successful presidency of Ronald Reagan, who was publicly
affectionate towards his wife Nancy.
Of course, ethical issues are not the only reason for Gore's apparent
electoral success thus far. Equally, if not more important, is the fact
that there is prosperity in the land. Jobs are plentiful, inflation is
negligible, and many Americans are confident that times are good. That
said, it is also true that many Americans are not enjoying the fruits of
this prosperity. Undoubtedly, the rich are getting richer, but the middle
and working classes still struggle to get by. For many of these voters, it
is not clear that either major candidate has the desired public policy
strategies. We worry a bit about this problem, because the voters'
expectations for a significantly improved economic situation are high.
Americans keep hearing that the economy is robust and that 25-year-old
dot-com millionaires are emerging every day. The mass media loves this
story. But the reality is that most U.S. voters are not significantly
better off in the year 2000 than they were five years ago, although their
expectations have changed. They want more, and neither the government nor
the private sector appears to be addressing their concerns adequately.
To some extent, the Vice-President is trying to address this issue. When
Al Gore calls for continued fiscal prudence, but also promises to devote
attention to solving such formerly intractable problems as bad public
schools, inadequate health care coverage for poor Americans, and other
social concerns, he strikes a responsive chord with many voters. They may
not be confident that he can solve these problems, but they believe that
he will try. Ironically, Governor Bush is now focusing on the "issues"
too now, rather than questions of character. The latter was not working
as a strategy. So Bush has a health care plan, an education plan, etc.
Ironically, a close examination of the policy positions of the two
contenders reveal that they are really not that different. Both seek to
reduce debt, cut taxes, improve social welfare measures, strengthen the
military, promote more wide-ranging free trade agreements, and so on.
Their strategies might be somewhat different, but their goals are
In fact, it is because the issue positions of Bush and Gore are so alike,
that a significant proportion of the electorate feels that neither
candidate represents their best interests. This may explain the strength
of the Ralph Nader campaign thus far. There is clearly a void that neither
candidate has filled. Nor are other traditional institutions filling the
void. In the past, the clout of the labor movement was such that senior
politicians had to take heed. This is less true today as private sector
membership in big labor continues to decline. By contrast, some
non-governmental organizations are more active than ever-witness the
successful disruption of the Seattle WTO meetings earlier this year.
Reinforcing this lack of "connectedness", American society has become
among the most mobile in the industrialized world, as Americans criss-
cross the country in search of better employment opportunities. The
tradeoff to this is that Americans are less connected to their families
and to their communities. This thesis is discussed in the influential
book "Bowling Alone" by Harvard professor Robert Putnam.
Given this evolution in American society, perhaps there may be new demands
for a populist ethic in America. Many voters are fearful of globalization
and resent what they see as "big government" that is unresponsive to their
interests. In recent years, states and even municipalities have taken
law-making responsibilities that could not have been imagined even a
decade ago. Certain powers are devolving to the states, as they should in
a federation. Vice President Gore is clearly aware of this shift. During
the Democratic Party convention, he railed against big tobacco, big oil,
big drug companies and big health care insurers. In short, he criticized
all of those faceless, unresponsive and powerful interests that seem to
be getting richer while the average American has to run harder just to
As we noted, the U.S. presidential election is by no means settled. But
the underlying popular demand for a more responsive national government
and for less economic inequality in this time of prosperity will remain
salient long after the November contest has been settled.
IV. The Amazing Shrinking Euro
By Scott B. MacDonald
The Euro is under considerable downward pressure, a trend that we expect
to continue through year-end 2000. On September 18th, the euro set a
record low against the dollar, falling to 85.49 cents. The single
European currency as of September 18, 2000 had fallen 26.8% against the
dollar and 31% against the yen since its debut in January last year.
Even with a joint intervention by the U.S. and Japan, in coordination
with the European Central Bank, is not enough to turn the situation
around in the long term. We would not be surprised to see it fall even
further for the following reasons:
1. Higher oil prices: There is a strong perception that higher oil prices
will result in greater inflationary pressure, which in turn will force the
European Central Bank to raise interest rates. This threatens to stall
economic growth and possibly push Europe into a recession. Part of the
problem is that continental Europe lags behind in the adoption of IT
economics (which are less vulnerable to energy cost swings) and is highly
dependent on imported energy (oil and gas).
2. The September 28th Referendum on the Euro in Denmark: On September 28,
2000, Danish voters go to the polls to vote on whether to adopt the euro
as their currency or to stay with the kroner. Danish opinion polls
indicate a close outcome in the referendum. Although recent polls lend
some optimism to the pro-EMU camp as support has climbed to just over 50%,
success is by no means guaranteed. In fact, a little under half of the
population is opposed. Considering the beating the Euro has taken recently,
many Danes do not have high hopes for the euro nor do they find it an
attractive substitute for the kroner.
If there is a no-vote, the Euro will probably take another beating vs the
U.S.$. A no-vote may also reduce support for EMU in Sweden and the UK.
Moreover, it is likely to further increase suspicions about the longer-
term success of the single European currency project. It will certainly
raise concerns in the next groups of countries seeking entry into the EU,
such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Estonia.
A Danish no-vote also could increase the perception that EU accession will
prove to be considerably more complicated and protracted than initially
thought. EU enlargement can only take place if (1) the EU member states
agree on institutional reform (planned by December 2000), (2) ratify these
reforms in their parliaments or approve by referendums (planned during
2001/2002), and (3) ratify the enlargement treaty (planned during
2002/2003). By not agreeing to surrender their currency sovereignty, the
Danes will also be signaling that they will object to EU institutional
reforms in a referendum, even if their leaders agree to these reforms at
the Nice summit in December 2000. A rejection of EU institutional reforms
or in parliament in any member state would seriously complicate EU
enlargement, if not throw the process off-track for many years to come
(i.e. beyond the 2004/2007 time period in which most accession hopefuls
are believed to join the EU).
3. Capital Flows: The euro's strength is also undermined by capital flows.
Record-long economic growth and higher interest rates in the United States
continue to draw investment flows from Europe to the United States. The
financial sector alone has been exceedingly active, with Union Bank
Switzerland buying Paine Webber, Credit Suisse buying Donaldson, Lufkin &
Jenrette and Dresden Bank buying Wasserstein Perella. Purchases of U.S.
stocks and bonds by investors from outside the country plus their direct
investment in businesses and real estate rose by $222.7 billion in the
April-to-June quarter following a $236.5 billion jump in the first
quarter. Simply stated, investors continue to favor U.S. assets,
especially those coming from the euro-zone. The bottom line is that the
U.S. currency inspires much more investor confidence than any other
currency in the world.
To these causes we would also add the incredibly bad public relations
skills of the European Central Bank and the various European heads of
state who have commented on the euro. Currency policy in the Euro-zone
comes off as confused and lacking coordination. With mixed signals being
sent, confidence is not gained.
Considering the economic and political landscape ahead, the euro is
heading for troubled waters. This represents a difficult challenge to
European policy-makers. While inflation throughout the euro-zone is low
and fiscal balances are well under control, economic growth is only
beginning to show a strengthening. Unemployment is also beginning to
show a sustainable downward trend, though remaining high compared to
the United States. If higher oil prices extend into 2001, hard choices
will have to be made over taming inflation and stalling stronger growth,
with the related consequences for employment.
What would make the euro stronger? Two things could help turn the
situation around: (1) a more coherent policy based on better coordination
between the European Central Bank and national governments and (2) more
structural reforms that accelerate the transition from the old to new
economy. Both measures require strong political will, development of
national consensus on the appropriateness of such measures, and a sense of
urgency. Although the euro continues to sink, the remedies remain
politically difficult. None of this bodes well for the euro.
V. Thunder in the North - Canada's Looming Election and Implications for
By Scott B. MacDonald and Jonathan Lemco
Canada's next elections are not scheduled until March 2002, although they
could be held as soon as this coming spring. Both the governing Liberals
and their new opposition, the Canadian Alliance party, are already
crossing swords. Opinion polls give the Liberals around 46% of a
potential vote, but the Alliance is now at 20%. Led by the telegenic
Stockwell Day, many analysts believe the Alliance has momentum. Although
the Liberals are slipping a little in the polls, the scrappy Jean Chretien,
already a two term Liberal prime minister, is prepared to stand a third
time for that post. We think that, barring an exceptional event, the
Liberals will be reelected with a majority government. They are likely
to retain a substantial majority in Ontario, the most populous province
with one-third of Canada's population. Furthermore, they will capture a
large number of seats in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Only the western part
of the country, with about one third of the voting population, is likely
to support the Alliance party in substantial number.
Prime Minister Chretien has referred to his main rival, Stockwell Day, as
little more than a "head waiter" with a menu of policies that will weaken
Canada. In particular, Chretien has gone after Day's proposal to
decentralize government by giving provincial authorities more power.
This, of course, raises the issue of Quebec's position in Canada.
Consequently, it certainly looks and feels like an election campaign.
Ironically, Chretiens' major challenge might come not from the political
opposition, but from his immensely popular Finance Minister Paul Martin.
Martin has presided at a time of prosperity and fiscal prudence. For the
first time in memory, Canada's fiscal budget is in balance, as are eight
of the ten provincial budgets. Indeed, the federal fiscal balance ended
March 31, 2000 was a surplus of C$12.3 billion, most of which is expected
to be allocated to debt reduction.
It is no secret that relations between the two political figures are
frosty at best and that Martin would love to be Prime Minister. Polls
reveal, in fact, that a Paul Martin-led Liberal Party would fare better
in a general election than would a Jean Chretien-led party. That said,
Martin has promised not to challenge the PM for the foreseeable future,
and will instead continue as a Finance Minister through the next
election-whenever that might be.
Opposition Leader Day and the Alliance have been active in the French-
speaking province of Quebec in an effort to develop an electoral
balance. Day is keenly aware that for the Alliance to become a national
player it must break through being labeled as a "western party", with
support only west of Ontario. The new party has made some headway in
Ontario, but not enough. In Quebec, he will be lucky to win even one seat,
as the sovereignist Bloc Quebecois and the Liberals dominate. The social
democratic New Democratic Party will win a few seats nationwide and the
Bloc Quebecois will do well in Quebec, but only there. At the moment, it
appears that the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party, which was one of
Canada's founding parties and which can claim credit for helping to build
the country, may be in its death throes. Many of its elected
representatives are defecting to other parties. The electoral coffers are
virtually empty. Leader Joe Clark is not inspiring confidence. The PCs are
While Canada's political parties are actively moving about in a
pre-election samba, the economy continues to grow at a robust pace.
Backed by a surge in business investment, real GDP growth on an annual
basis was 4.7%, slightly behind the 5.1% real GDP advances of the last
two quarters. Spending on machinery and equipment, mainly computers and
related high-tech components, expanded by 19.5% annually. Inflation
remains benign. Exports have grown at a healthy 8.5% yearly rate, led by
high-tech sales, and imports were 10.2% higher. The Canadian dollar is
weak relative to its U.S. counterpart, and this has made Canadian exports
particularly attractive in the U.S.. American tourists are flocking to
Canada at a time when their dollar buys $1.40 worth of Canadian goods
and services. Furthermore, despite the cool wet summer, consumer spending
in Canada was stronger than expected, rising at a 3.6% annual rate.
The nation's unemployment levels are testing new lows, as the robust
economy has attracted tens of thousands of Canadians who previously had
despaired of ever securing permanent employment. In fact, virtually all
of the economic indicators for Canada at present are positive. History
teaches us that most voters tend to vote with their pocketbook. If so,
we think that the Liberals are in an excellent position to be reelected
in a coming election, whenever it is held.
VI. Telecom Market Trends:
By Scott B. MacDonald
The global telecom market has been incredibly active in the first half of
2000. There have been mega-billion acquisitions, 3rd generation wireless
auction licenses, and new bond and equity issues. In the bond market,
supply in the telecom sector has been one of the most significant credit
drivers in 2000. Through September 5th, $27 billion of investment grade
telecom debt has been issued in the U.S. market. This compares with $16.9
billion originated during all of 1999 and $29.8 billion in 1998.
Expectations were high that the second half of 2000 would see another
$30-40 billion of new paper issued. Although those expectations are now
lower (probably in the $20-25 billion range), telecoms could have a record
year of new issuance in the U.S. and European bond markets.
Telecoms will also be active in equity markets for the rest of the year.
As major companies, such as Telecom Italia, the Dutch telecom company KPN,
and others consolidate their recent acquisitions and 3rd generation
wireless licenses, they must turn to equity markets to raise capital.
European telecoms, in particular, will be rushing to markets to spin off
subsidiaries or complete secondary offerings, hoping to reduce their
mounting debts and stave off any further ratings downgrades. Recently,
KPN, British Telecom, Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom have all been
hit by Moody's and Standard & Poor's dropping ratings from AA status to
single A levels. The rating agencies have left negative outlooks in a
number of cases, indicating that unless debt ratios are reduced, ratings
could drop again. Lower ratings means greater costs when accessing
capital markets, something that most telecoms wish to avoid.
How much new equity paper is heading in the direction of investors?
According to Schroder Salomon Smith Barney, there will be an additional
$102 billion total equity issuance expected from European companies over
the rest of the year, with $57 billion expected from the telecoms.
Pending issues include KPN, Telenor, Telekom Austria, Eircom, Telecom
Egypt, Cosmote (mobile phone operator), Telecom Iceland, and Telefonica
Moviles (owned by Telefonica Europa).
With the massive amount of new bonds and stocks from the telecom sector
coming, investors will have the option of to pick and choose. In the
equity sector pricing should be generous as each new deal provides
ever-greater levels of supply. Telecom equity prices are currently not
good. We expect continued volatility in prices, probably with a downward
trend due to the massive amount of new IPOs and forecasts of lower
In the bond market, conditions are otherwise. While pricing will be done
to make certain that a deal is successful, paper could be relatively
shorter in supply then earlier anticipated. In August when many of the
major telecom bond deals were announced, many portfolio managers made room
for new issues, then expected in the range of $30-40 billion. As it now
looks that the number was inflated, investors are a little more pressed to
buy what new deals are done, putting pressure on demand.
Other trends in the telecom sector include consolidation, the creation and
implementation of new technology and growing competition over the world's
most rapidly growing telecom and Internet market, Asia. The following
piece reflects two of these issues, consolidation and competition in Asian
VII. World's Toughest Telecom Market -- Living and Dying In Hong Kong
By Scott B. MacDonald
With all the focus on Europe's third generation wireless auctions, sales
of non-core assets and strategic reorganizations of major firms such as
France Telecom, Telecom Italia and Vodafone, Asia has been largely
However, lost in the shuffle of bidding for access to millions of wireless
customers in Germany in August, Hong Kong's international conglomerate
Hutchison Whampoa quietly withdrew from the fray. One of the key reasons
for Hutchison's withdrawal was that it had come to regard the market as
too overcrowded -- too many big companies pursuing a limited number of
potential customers. This reaction was on the Hong Kong company's own
experience in its small home market of 7 million people. Hong Kong has
three major operators and a number of smaller companies angling for
greater market share. To put it mildly, competition is cutthroat. As in
Europe and the United States, vastly larger markets, Hong Kong is
gradually moving toward consolidation. The other option is the traditional
Anglo-Saxon trial by combat, which could well leave Hong Kong companies
decimated and ripe for takeover or market loss from outsiders.
The three giants in the Hong Kong market are Hutchison Whampoa, SmarTone
Telecommunications and Pacific Century CyberWorks (PCCW), while the
largest of the second tier companies include New World Mobility, Sunday
Communications and People's Telephone Company. Hutchison's subsidiary,
Hutchison Telephone, is partnered with Japan's NTT DoCoMo (which has 19%
ownership), while SmarTone is 20% owned by British Telecommunications.
PCCW is formerly Cable & Wireless and Hong Kong Telecom.
PCCW has started a joint venture with Australia's Telstra. Under the deal
with Telstra, the Australian company will get a 50% stake in the
infrastructure business in Hong Kong and additional wireless business. In
return, it will subscribe to a $1.5 billion Pacific Century convertible
note, pay $1.5 billion to PCCW and tip $466 million in cable assets into
the alliance. The targeted market for expansion is China, with its fast
growing wireless user population.
Considering the linkage to large outside international telecom companies
and the crowded nature of the Hong Kong market, pressures on earnings have
increased as an emphasis is now given for market share. This is being
reflected in two ways: stock prices have performed poorly and quarterly
performance reports are disappointing. Prices for PCCW have been pummeled
in recent months, having lost more than a third in value following the
failure of a number of joint ventures to pan out. At the same time,
SmarTone Telecommunications' released its most recent performance numbers,
which show a loss for the year, for the first time since it floated shares
While the Big Three fight for market share and are willing -- for a time
-- to sustain losses, the smaller companies are gradually being pushed to
consider outside alliances, market expansion into China and other key
Asian markets or merging. It is already being discussed that New World
Mobility is talking to Singapore Telecommunications, a company that is
itself seeking to carve out a greater role in Asian telecom markets.
At the end of the day, Hong Kong's telecom managers cannot escape the
simple fact that there are too many companies pursuing too few new
customers. As David Gibbons, a telecom analyst with HSBC Securities Asia,
notes: "The mobile industry in Hong Kong is currently over-competitive.
Something will have to give and most likely that will come through a form
of industry consolidation."
The time for such a consolidation is looming. A number of telecom
analysts expect that the next auction for third generation wireless
licenses scheduled for late 2000 or early 2001 is the next battleground
for the telecom companies. The government has not yet decided if the
auction is going to be a beauty contest (i.e. each firm presents their
market plans against a set of subjective criteria and ward licenses
either for free or a fixed fee) or an auction, which could cost billions
of HK dollars for the winners. In Europe, France and Finland have used
the beauty contest, while Germany and the United Kingdom used the auction
system. If the award of 3G licenses is a competitive auction and the
number of those licenses is limited to three or four, the smaller
companies could well feel the pain by not having deep enough pockets
to play in the game. The larger companies will feel the pain on their
Also under consideration by the Hong Kong government is the "reverse
auction". This would work in such a fashion that government resources
would be awarded to the company that can offer the lowest prices to
consumers. Under this scheme, the potential third generation phone
operators are asked to "bid" by indicating how much they would charge.
The auction continues with each bidder lowering its prices until there
are the same number of bidders left as the number of licenses offered.
As Dan Roberts of the Financial Times observes: "In theory, this ensures
that the most efficient operator is left with the spectrum, while the
public benefit of the scarce resource is spread equally among all
potential users of the service."
All in all, the pressure is on for market consolidation. As in other
markets around the world, Hong Kong is not immune for the pressures to
change, to make the market more efficient and to bring better service to
the customer. The stakes are high for all companies involved. Failure to
innovate, to seek alliances, and to have access to cash all factor in the
rush to command Hong Kong's telecom industry.
VIII. Emerging Market Briefs
Brazil -- the Momentum Continues: 2000 is proving to be a good year for
Brazil. In late August-early September, Brasilia played host to a
presidential summit for all heads of South American governments, with a
dual agenda of forming a closer working alliance for the promotion of a
unified trading stand with NAFTA and the promotion of democratic
government. At the same time, the economy continues to recover from the
Asian Contagion of 1997-98 and the 1999 recession. In July, Brazil's
industrial output grew for the 12th consecutive month. Production rose
6.8% compared to last year, with July being the third month in a row that
output was above 6%. KWR expects Brazil's real GDP growth in 2000 to be
3.5%, with 4% forecast for next year. Inflation will be in the range of
5.5-5.7% for 2000. Progress is also being made on the 2001 budget. One
potential source of bad news is the hike in international oil prices.
Brazil is dependent on outside sources of energy. If sustained, the rise
of oil prices over $37 a barrel could have serious consequences for the
country's balance of payments as well as re-introducing inflationary
pressures. It could also force the central bank to reverse its trend of
reducing interest rates. For now, Brazil has a positive sense of
momentum, but its progress remains vulnerable to international variables
-- international interest rates, oil prices and access to foreign capital
markets. U.S. economic growth is expected to slow to 3% in 2001, down
from an expected 5% in 2000. The United States is a key export market
for Brazil and exports have been an important part of the South American
country's economic recovery. That is why it remains critical that the
government continues to move ahead with important structural reforms.
Israel -- Fast Growth: Despite the trials and tribulations of the Barak
government, the Israeli economy is likely to grow as rapidly as 6% this
year. That is quicker than the 3% forecast in last year's budget and well
above a recent Ministry of Finance forecast of 4.5%. Exports are a key
element of growth, though domestic demand has also picked up. Growth is
expected to remain strong into 2001, though that sentiment could change if
political conditions were to deteriorate over the break down of the peace
process or a sharpening of tensions within Israel's Jewish community
(between the ultra-orthodox and more secular-minded Jews). The government
is helping the situation along with a package of liberalization measures,
including the long-awaited opening of the local telecommunications market.
The Israeli economy expanded by about 2% per annum in 1998 and 1999.
Peru -- Fujimori's Andean Shocker: Just after he had gone out and won
what many analysts have termed an unfair election in order to win a third
term as Peru's chief executive, President Alberto Fujimori shocked the
nation by announcing on September 18 that he was going to hold new
elections for his post. He also announced that he would not be a
candidate. This shocker came days after the release of a videotape of
Fujimori's intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, seeking to bribe a
member of the opposition in the build-up to the spring elections. The
Fujimori administration had been under considerable pressure to introduce
judicial and electoral reforms from the United States, the Organization
of American States and other Latin American countries, such as Brazil.
KWR is concerned about the potential for political and social instability
that could exist prior to a new round of elections. A number of answers
are needed: when will Fujimori step down?; when will the elections take
place?; who will preside over the drafting and implementation of judicial
and electoral reforms (the old pro-Fujimori Congress or a new Congress
as-of-yet-unelected)?; and should an interim consensus figure replace the
outgoing leader? Also to be considered are what should happen to
Montesinos, who retains the support of members of the military
establishment. At the time of this report, these questions are remain
What is clear is that Peru's economic recovery and its ongoing reforms are
now at risk. Although Prime Minister Carlos Bolona stated that economic
reforms would not be abandoned, public and foreign investor sentiment is
not reassured. It is our view that with politics in command, recent
measures taken to reassure investors and boost economic growth, such as
transportation concessions and fiscal austerity, are now in question. To
retain a foreign direct investment flow, it is important that Peru's
political elite, both in power and in opposition, arrive at a quick
resolution of the political crisis and re-launch Peru's economy. This is
not a matter of making foreign investors happy, but making certain the
country's workers can afford to buy food and other necessities of life.
IX. Book Reviews: Scott B. MacDonald
Richard Gott, In the Shadow of the Liberator: Hugo Chavez and the
Transformation of Venezuela (London: Verso, 2000). 246 pages. $25.
Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, has stated: "Many people thought that
if I became president it would mean the return of Hitler and Mussolini
rolled into one. The imagined disaster has not taken place." Both Hitler
and Mussolini were elected to office, but both turned their respective
political systems upside down, ultimately becoming names associated with
brutal totalitarianism. Some of Chavez's harshest critics have stated
that he will eventually become like the mid-20th century dictators. His
supporters claim that he will redress old wrongs in Venezuelan society
and promote a new anti-U.S. order in Latin America.
Hugo Chavez is decidedly one of the more interesting, if not entertaining
figures to arrive on the international stage in a long time. A former
coup leader and army colonel, he was elected to be President of Venezuela
in 1998. Since then he has smashed the already dying corrupt old order of
Venezuelan politics, involved the people in the political process through
a number of referendums, created a new constitution and been re-elected in
2000. Chavez's rise also signals a change in the international political
structure in Latin America. While Mexico is clearly becoming a part of
North America and Brazil is quietly making itself felt as a leader for
trade integration and democracy in South America, Chavez has opted to wave
the revolutionary flag, rejecting globalization and banging the drum of
old-time nationalism. He portrays the United States as the evil empire of
imperialism and neo-liberal economics as a toxic waste-like northern
export. He has developed all new friendships with international statesmen
of dubious reputation, in particular Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's
Muammar Ghadafi, while being all aglow of his revolutionary mentor Fidel
Castro of Cuba. Moreover, he is seeking to re-ignite an old land dispute
with neighboring Guyana, hardly a dagger ready to be thrust into the soft
underbelly of Venezuela. He has also made known his sympathy for
Colombia's Marxist-drug trafficking FARC guerrillas and called for a South
American equivalent of NATO aimed at the United States. As this
charismatic and quirky character makes his march through history, it
behooves us to know more. Is he a Hitler in the making as his harshest
critics maintain? Is he a well-intentioned Latin American populist,
seeking to remold his country for the better? Or is he a would-be Fidel
Castro, with a continent-wide ambition to sharply curtail U.S. imperialism
in Latin America? Richard Gott, a British journalist that has covered
Latin America for a long time for The Guardian, has written the only book
in English thus far on Hugo Chavez, In the Shadow of the Liberator: Hugo
Chavez and the Transformation of Venezuela.
Gott's book is worth reading for two reasons. First, he spent time in
Venezuela researching his subject and provides some valuable first hand
insights. Second, his view is so incredibly biased in favor of his
subject that it almost reads like a religious text. He describes Chavez
as such: "They [the Venezuelan people] are familiar with his pugilist's
face, his generous lips, his beaming grin, and the almost asthmatic tick
of his mouth as he takes a breath or is caught searching for a word in
rhetorical flow. He always appears decisive and radiates confidence and
optimism." Gott is if nothing else a true believer of the revolutionary
process in Latin America and brings his own sense of moral indignation
every time he mentions the United States. Consequently, it is worth
reading a text that is so ideological, yet explains how many people in
the upper ranks of the Chavez government perceive the world around them.
In this tale of modern day good and evil, Fidel Castro is like an uncle
and "omniscient", while the domestic opposition to Chavez is painted as
corrupt, unrepresentative of the people and ruthless. [As if launching a
coup and killing people is not ruthless.] Indeed, opposition to Chavez's
great revolution is tantamount to being a U.S. lackey. We see evidence of
the great U.S conspiracy behind almost every event. Even the U.S offer to
provide help during the 1999 mudslides and flooding is taken as something
to which the great revolutionary helmsman must respond: "When the United
States sent out two ships in mid-January, laden with soldiers and
earth-moving equipment, the Venezuelans said they wouldn't mind a few
bulldozers, but several hundred soldiers might be overdoing it. No one
voiced what many people were thinking: how could a self-styled
revolutionary government possibly allow imperialist soldiers to make a
practice landing on beaches just half an hour from the capital?"
Gott goes to great lengths to provide Chavez's ideological groundings.
Based on the writings of the great liberator, Simon Bolivar, Bolivarianism
calls for the creation of a more egalitarian society, a more active role
of the military along those lines, and less corruption. Moreover,
according to Gott: "The principal aim of his revolution ëis to occupy the
geographic space of the country in a more harmonious and balanced way.'"
What this means is a shift away from the urban shanty-towns of the coast
and around Caracas to other parts, namely the vast interior of the country.
This could be mistaken for being supportive of the Khmer Rouge's old idea
of depopulating the urban centers as part of the transformation of
Cambodia society (1974-1978). It also means re-developing the country's
long dormant agricultural sector, which was once vibrant but shunted aside
by oil wealth.
While there is much about Chavez and his revolution that can be
sympathized with -- dealing with Venezuela's massive corruption, societal
inequalities and heavy dependence on oil -- there are some major flaws in
Gott's approach. First and foremost, Gott is willing to overlook the
danger of someone like Chavez, a former golpista, in power. Although
Chavez has made excellent use of the ballot box, he has also made skillful
use of his charisma and relied heavily on the military to implement
Charisma does not last forever and the use of the military on an extended
basis in civilian circles of operations has a tendency to politicize
soldiers. The fact that Chavez advocated and sought power by use of the
machinegun before he was elected, no doubt has been lost on other
soldiers, both from the right and left. The old saying of "He who lives
by the sword, dies by the sword" is apropos in the Venezuelan case.
A second flaw in Gott's thinking is the role of the United States. While
the United States has played an interventionist role in Latin America in
the past (as recently demonstrated by the CIA's documents over Chile in
the 1970s), the response to Hugo Chavez's revolution has been flaccid. The
chumminess to Cuba, Libya and Iraq has not been appreciated nor has
Chavez's sympathy with Colombia's FARC. Yet, there is no massive rush on
the part of Washington to bring down Latin America's new revolutionary
messiah. Yes, Chavez's state visit to Iraq and his being the first head
of state to visit that country since the Gulf war in 1991 was criticized.
No, the CIA did not spring into action to topple Chavez nor was there any
threatening build up of U.S. warships off the Venezuelan coast. Washington
is not that interested in starting problems in Latin America, especially
in a key oil exporting country.
Third, Gott downplays the importance of the economy. While he glows over
Chavez as a champion against globalization and neo-liberalism, he
sidesteps the issue that Venezuela is entirely hooked on the ups and downs
of the international economy, a situation not likely to change any time
soon. Charisma has worked well in a period of higher oil prices, but when
they head down, which they will, the current hazy and statist nature of
Chavez's economic policies will be problematic. Gott is correct in making
the following assertion: "In spite of all his rhetoric against neo-
liberalism, Chavez is desperate for foreign investment. He has to steer
a difficult and almost impossible course, telling his nationalist country
what it wants to hear, and making the right kind of reassuring noises that
will not frighten the foreign investors."
A critical problem is that the economic team and many of Chavez's closest
advisors are either Marxists or statists and in the end they will not be
able to stomach making the difficult market-oriented reforms needed to
reduce dependency on oil exports, stimulate small and medium-sized
businesses, or revitalize the agricultural sector. The weight of history
is against them, much as it was in the Soviet Union, Albania and Maoist
The danger is that when the economy eventually turns against the Chavez
administration, the man operating in the shadow of the liberator is likely
to turn to more traditional authoritarian means to remain in power. He
will also threaten the political stability of South America as he seeks
foreign diversions to domestic woes. Too bad for Gott that he has closed
his eyes to hearing the same old song again.
Declan Hayes, Japan's Big Bang: The Deregulation and Revitalization of the
Japanese Economy (Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle Publishing, 2000). 215 pages.
In any given week, the financial press is filled with articles about
Japan, usually focusing on some part of the argument of whether the
country is really making headway with the painful restructuring of its
economy Along these lines, Declan Hayes, a Professor of International
Business at Tokyo's Sophia University, has written a topical book about
Japan's political economy and efforts to reform it, which is well worth
reading. He is critical of Japan's now well-known dual economy of highly
efficient, modern and cutting edge internationally-oriented companies,
which are counterbalanced by another part of the economy which is
inefficient, overstaffed and dependent on political protection. As
Hayes notes: "Japan, which seemed till very recently to be on the road
to world economic supremacy, has allowed her domestic economy to put
herself and the entire world economy in jeopardy. Although Japan excels
at producing cars, cameras, electrical goods and other largely export-
oriented products, her sheltered sector remains bloated and grossly
inefficient." The "overprotected laggards" include the construction
industry, the distribution system (including retailers), and
While Hayes is not shy in expressing his views about what troubles Japan,
he also holds out hope that things are changing for the better. The main
force behind change is the Big Bang, initially pushed by Prime Minister
Hashimoto. The key elements of the Big Bang, now beginning implemented,
include deregulation, adoption of international standards of accounting
transparency, and the opening of Japanese markets to real international
competition. He also believes that the Ministry of Finance and the
political establishment need their own Big Bang to reduce corruption,
bring in new ideas and help the state become a more neutral player in
the process. The bottom line about the Big Bang and all its reforms is
the transformation of Japan, as radical and deep-reaching as was the
Meiji Restoration in 1868.
Even if some of Hayes views are scathing of Japan's old order, he is
correct is assessing the critical need for reform (as more and more
Japanese agree). He also correctly notes that failure to reform will have
negative consequences for the Japanese people as well as the rest of Asia
and the United States. Clearly, if Japan is unable to provide the
necessary financial infrastructure for international capital markets and
services, it runs the risk of having Tokyo eclipsed by other Asian cities
(Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai) that openly aspire to being the
leading financial center in Asia. At the same time, Asia's economic growth
will continue to run a slower pace due to Japan's inability to have
sustainable economic growth, which is necessary for buying Thai, Malaysia,
Korean and Chinese exports. And, finally, the U.S. will lack a strong
ally in Asia at a time of considerable change in the regional structure
of international relations.
Hayes is ultimately hopeful about the reform path as the dire nature of
the situation has finally sunk into the understanding of much of official
Japan as well as larger elements of society than before. He takes hope
that such events of nationalizing LTCB and "similar financial dodos"
will continue to push along the path of reform. Only time will tell.
KWR International, Inc. (KWR) is a consulting firm specializing in the
delivery of research, communications and advisory services with a
particular emphasis on public/investor relations, business development,
public affairs, cross border transactions and market entry programs. This
includes engagements for a wide range of national and local government
agencies, trade and industry associations, financial institutions,
investment managers, financial intermediaries, legal, accounting and other
professional service firms; as well as start-ups, turnarounds,
venture/technology-oriented companies and multinational corporations.
KWR maintains a flexible structure utilizing core staff and a wide network
of consultants to design and implement integrated solutions that deliver
real and sustainable value throughout all stages of a program/project
cycle. We draw upon analytical skills and established professional
relationships to manage and evaluate programs all over the world. These
range from small, targeted projects within a single geographical area to
large, long-term initiatives that require on-going global support.
In addition to serving as a primary manager, KWR also provides specialized
support to principal clients and professional service firms who can
benefit from our strategic insight and expertise on a flexible basis.
Drawing upon decades of experience, we offer our clients capabilities in
Research, Monitoring and Analysis
Program Design and Development
Strategic Planning and Support
International Business Development
Media and Public Relations
Investor Relations and Advisory Services
Road Shows and Special Events
Materials Development & Dissemination
Project Management and Implementation
Training and Technical Assistance
Investment Promotion and Financial Communications
Marketing Communications and Trade Promotion
Public Affairs/Trade and Regulatory Issues
Internet and New Media Vehicles
Economic, Financial and Political Analysis
Telecommunications / High Tech
For further information or inquiries contact:
KWR International, Inc.
The preceeding information is provided by:
KWR International, Inc.
New York, NY 10023
Website content © 2001 KWR International