Coface Group
Argentina

Argentina

Population 44.9 million
GDP per capita 9,890 US$
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

  2018 2019 2020 (e) 2021 (f)
GDP growth (%) -2.6 -2.1 -11.0 3.0
Inflation (yearly average, %) 34.3 53.5 45.4 42.4
Budget balance (% GDP) -5.2 -3.8 -8.9 -5.5
Current account balance (% GDP) -5.2 -0.9 1.5 1.0
Public debt (% GDP) 89.8 93.8 117.3 118.3

(e): Estimate (f): Forecast

STRENGTHS

  • Major agricultural player (notably soya, wheat and corn)
  • Large shale oil and gas reserves
  • Education level higher than the regional average
  • GDP per capita above the region´s average

WEAKNESSES

  • Weak fiscal accounts
  • Capital controls were tightened, in order to curb dropping foreign exchange reserves
  • Dependence on agricultural commodity prices and weather conditions
  • Sticky and skyrocketing inflation
  • Bottlenecks in infrastructure

RISK ASSESSMENT

Economy set to shyly emerge from a three-year recession

The first COVID-19 case was reported on 3 March 2020, bringing the government to implement a strict nationwide quarantine from 20 March 2020 onwards. Initially, this scheme proved quite efficient, as the
COVID-19 contagion rate was relatively lower than in some other major Latin American economies. Nonetheless, daily new cases started to rise again in end-May 2020, only reaching a peak in end-October 2020. In order to try to mitigate the negative spillover effects on activity, policymakers implemented fiscal stimuli totalling roughly 6% of GDP. In 2021, the economy is likely to register a modest rebound. Growth should be mainly driven by the gains linked to the expected end of the COVID-19 pandemic, favouring sectors highly affected by physical distancing requirements (such as services related to accommodation and leisure). Household consumption is likely to register a weak improvement, since the sticky high inflation and weak job market conditions will continue to erode purchasing power. Private investments should also perform quite similarly, as the high idle capacity, strong capital controls, and the lack of a clear economic policy are relevant hindrances. Moreover, the sensitive fiscal situation limits the space for an increase in public expenditure. Downside risks are mainly related to the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country and the limited net foreign currency reserves that may further increase capital controls.

 

Current account surplus vs. challenging fiscal situation

The current account deficit switched into a surplus in 2020, mainly driven by a strong narrowing of the income deficit (thanks to lower profits and dividends transferred abroad). Conversely, the rise in the trade surplus observed in the first months of the crisis started to revert later in the year. The lack of confidence in the local currency and the fear of a strong devaluation have led some exporters (notably grain farmers) to hold off sales and some industries to advance purchases of imported commodities. In fact, the country continued to run out of foreign exchange reserves. As of early December 2020, gross reserves stood at USD 38.7 billion, with net currency reserves (deducting the central bank’s foreign borrowing from BIS, China and dollar reserve requirements) at a much lower level (at roughly USD 4.8 billion). This has increased the stakes that the central bank will either raise controls, which have failed to contain the currency’s decline, or allow a large devaluation of the official exchange rate. On the fiscal side, in August 2020, the government reached an agreement with private creditors to restructure USD 66 billion in debt under foreign legislation (equivalent to 26% of debt in foreign currency). Furthermore, it also applied the same changes to USD 42 billion in dollar bonds under Argentine law. Additionally, the government aims to conclude an agreement with the IMF, probably by the end of Q1 2021, to restructure its USD 44 billion debt (part of the USD 57 billion Stand-By Agreement). The IMF will probably request a credible fiscal consolidation program within an Extended Credit Facility, such as lowering the fiscal deficit by cutting into public expenditure and reducing its monetary financing. Indeed, before receiving the IMF envoys in November 2020, policymakers indicated that the government could pursue a primary fiscal deficit for this year below the current 4.5% target. The reduction of stimuli related to COVID-19 and the suspension of the utility tariff freeze would help on this matter.

 

A credible economic program is still pending

President Alberto Fernandez’s prompt decision to impose a lockdown proved positive for his approval rating, which reached a peak of 64.3% in April 2020 (according to the political and economic consultant Ecolatina). Nonetheless, with the prolongation of the pandemic and its economic consequences, his popularity declined below the pre-pandemic level (at 36.5% as of September 2020). In fact, support could fall further, as the poverty rate has increased because of COVID-19 (at 40.9% in H1 2020). Additionally, in December 2020, Congress approved a wealth tax that stipulates a one-off tax of at least 2% on individuals with assets over USD 2.45 million. The aim is to collect around USD 3.7 billion in order to fund measures taken to face the negative impacts of COVID-19. However, the opposition groups argue that it will discourage foreign investment, and that it would not be a one-time tax. Finally, legislative elections will take place in October 2021, when 127 out of the 257 seats in the Chamber of Deputies will be renewed, as well as 24 out of the 72 seats in the Senate. According to polls of November 2020 from Consultant Giacobbe y Asociados, 50.4% of the population wants the incumbent coalition to lose the elections. 

 

Last updated: February 2021

Payment

The most common payment instruments in local commercial transactions are:

  • cash (for low-value retail transactions);
  • bank transfers;
  • cheques (ordinary cheques, deferred payment cheques or other types).

In case of default, these cheques represent an executable legal document that facilitates a fast track legal proceeding.
For international commercial transactions, the most common payment instrument is Bank transfer via SWIFT. Since December 2019, the new government has implemented restrictions on foreign exchange and fund transfers from Argentina. Payments to related companies abroad are not allowed.

 

Debt Collection

Amicable phase

Out-of-court settlement negotiations are focused on the payment of the principal, plus any contractual default interest that may be added. Argentine regulations provide alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, which is mandatory prior to commencement of any judicial process. At this stage, it is advised to obtain a notarised acknowledgement of debt signed by the debtor, or notarized payment plan agreement signed by both parties. Under amicable negotiation, fees payable only apply to recoveries obtained.

 

Legal proceedings

Argentina is a federal republic with 24 independent judicial systems and national judicial system. The highest court in the country is the National Supreme Court.

Regarding debtors abroad, Argentine courts only have jurisdiction when debtors have assets in Argentina (in which case insolvency proceedings will only involve such assets) or when their principal place of business is in Argentina.

The Argentine Civil and Commercial Code classifies proceedings into two types: ordinary proceedings (juicio ordinario) and executory or fast track proceedings (juicio ejecutivo). Ordinary proceedings usually last between one and four years. If applicable, an appeal may be filed for the Court of Appeals to hear the case.

Executory processes are simplified and prompt proceedings that mainly consist of claimants’ request for the execution of debtors’ assets to obtain payment of a debt. They apply when creditor has documents known as enforceable instruments (titulos ejecutivos), such as public instruments, private instruments signed by the concerned party (debtor or guarantor) and legally acknowledged, bills of exchange, checks or credit invoices. Contrary to ordinary proceedings, it is not necessary to provide proof of the debt. The judgment is delivered between approximately six months and two years.

Costs include a court tax (3% of the amount in dispute to be paid by claimants upon commencing proceedings), and lawyers’ fees. The prevailing party is entitled to recover its costs, including attorneys’ fees (subject to court approval).

All documents (original or notarised copies) submitted to the court must be (i) apostilled (for member countries of the 1961 Hague convention, which includes Argentina), and (ii) authenticated by the Argentine consulate in the issuing country. All non-Spanish documents must be translated by a certified translator registered in Argentina.

Enforcement of a Legal Decision

For local judgments, final decisions are initially considered enforceable. However, if a decision has been appealed, it can be partially enforceable in relation to the part of the judgment that is final. In principle, any of the debtor’s assets can be seized (including but not limited to property, trademarks, and accounts receivable from third parties and shares).

Insolvency Proceedings

There are three insolvency proceedings:

 

Out-of court reorganization

Acuerdo preventivo extrajudicial (APE) is a proceeding in which the debtor and a majority of unsecured creditors enter into a restructuring agreement. This

agreement must be submitted by the debtor to an Argentine court for it to become enforceable. In practice, out-of-court agreements provide a series of conditions that must be complied with, including a minimum threshold of consenting creditors.

 

Reorganization

Concurso preventivo is a reorganisation proceeding that can be initiated voluntarily by an individual or entity, who must submit proof of their inability to pay their debts. Debtors must file a petition to the court requesting relief under bankruptcy law. The court will appoint a trustee. All creditors must file evidence of their proof of claim with the trustee (verificación de créditos). Debtors must submit a proposal for reorganization and must obtain creditors’ approval during an “exclusive period” of 90 days, with the possibility of an extension. If the proposal is approved by the majority, the judge reviews the terms of the plan prior to approving it. Upon homologation by the court, the reorganization plan becomes effective to all unsecured creditors (even those who have not agreed to it). A special payment offer can only be proposed and approved for secured creditors. If the proposal is not approved by the required majority (51%), debtor bankruptcy may follow. The process generally takes between one and two years, depending on the volume and nature of debt being renegotiated and the size of the debtor.

 

Bankruptcy

Quiebra is initiated when a reorganization proceeding fails, either voluntarily (by the debtor) or involuntarily (by the debtor’s creditors’ request). The petitioner must show that the company is insolvent or that it has entered into a “suspension of payments” status. In case of an involuntary bankruptcy, after the petition has been filed with the relevant court and all necessary evidence is presented, the court will summon the debtor to provide an explanation of the reasons why payments of the obligations in favour of the petitioning creditor have not been made and to prove that the debtor is solvent. If the debtor is unable to do so, the court will declare the debtor bankrupt. Unlike reorganization, bankrupt debtors lose control of the administration of their assets. A trustee is appointed in order to preserve and administer the debtor’s property. As a result, all payments to creditors and debtor must be made through court. All claims and proceedings against the debtor are automatically stayed as from the date of the order that determines debtor’s bankruptcy. All creditors must submit their proof of claims for payment. Once the assets available and the amounts owned to each creditor are determined, the trustee liquidates the assets and proceeds with the distribution of repayment to creditors.

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