Argentina's Next Nationalization Target: Spanish Gambling Companies
Following the nationalization of YPF several months ago, Argentina's recent anti-private industry overtures largely fell off the map. Until the last few days, when bondholders of Spanish gambling company Company have seen their holdings seemingly disappear in a big Greece vortex (modern parlance for infinite drain of wealth): the reason - bonds plunged on speculation the Argentina gaming industry may be next to go under sovereign control. From Bloomberg: "Bonds from Codere, the Spanish gambling company that depends on Argentina for more than half its earnings, are the world’s worst-performing euro-denominated notes on speculation President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner may seize the South American country’s gaming industry. Yields on the company’s 660 million euros of bonds due 2015 climbed 496 basis points last week to 18.97 percent. The performance was the worst among more than 2,000 securities tracked by BAML’s Euro High Yield and EMU Corporate indexes." The problem: should already highly leveraged Codere's Argentina operations be indeed nationalized, the bond will almost likely be Corzined, with recoveries which we expect will be comparable to those of Sino Forest.
Codere’s notes tumbled after Argentina’s Clarin and Spain’s El Mundo newspapers reported that Fernandez may seize the gambling industry in a bid to generate new revenue sources as reserves tumble amid increasing capital flight. Argentina took a 51 percent stake in YPF from Spanish parent Repsol YPF in April, less than a month after Fernandez modified the central bank’s charter to allow unlimited use of international reserves to pay debt.
“This would obviously destroy the company’s value,” said Robert Matz, an analyst at Covenant Review. “Bondholders really don’t have much recourse no matter what happens here. When a company gets nationalized, it’s not like the country is going to take on the debt. It would be a very ugly situation.”
Well they do: they can sell ahead of the event, which having learned from YPF, is precisely what they are now doing.
Press officials at Argentina’s presidential palace didn’t return a message seeking comment. Government officials haven’t addressed the speculation in public comments.
Codere’s bonds yielded 7.95 percent three months ago, before the YPF takeover. The government has said it will look into Repsol’s debts, disinvestments and environmental liabilities before determining any compensation for the seized shares.
“The bonds have collapsed, and people are worried,” said Chris Snow, an analyst at CreditSights. “In a nationalization, where you potentially put that asset value down to zero, that’s a much more adverse impact on the credit.”
Well, at 0, there surely will be far less value than at 67, where the bonds are trading now.
As such, going short here even with the negative carry, may not be the worst alpha-generating idea. Especially when the alternative is praying for central bank intervention, which works... if one has an infinite balance sheet.