Brazil: Fallen Market or Bright Future?

Francisco A. Laguna & Joshua Hassell

2014 was not the best year for Brazil.  Last year, Brazil, the world’s seventh largest economy, suffered a major economic downturn that threatened to become a full blown recession. There are some promising signs for Brazil’s future. The question is whether these signs are promising enough to make the country a good choice for foreign direct investment.

The International Monetary Fund projects a 0.1% growth in Q4 over Q4 for 2015 and a 2.2% growth in Q4 over Q4 in 2016. However, the majority of this projected growth can be attributed to factors outside the Brazilian economy and beyond the government’s control, such as falling oil prices and the general increase in the global economy.  The systematic opening of Iran will put further strain on oil prices, and all oil-producing nations will feel the effect.

National Congress, Brasilia Photo Credit: Eurico Zimbres via Wikimedia Commons

National Congress, Brasilia
Photo Credit: Eurico Zimbres via Wikimedia Commons

Additionally, most of Brazil’s projected numbers for economic growth are derived from the potential impact of harsh austerity measures. One such measure was a bill known as Provisional Measure 664, originally slated to tighten access to survivor pensions and worker compensation.  The measure was passed by the Brazilian Senate with a vote of 50 to 18.  However, it was extremely unpopular.  To garner public support, a series of riders that could result in an increase of public spending by up to 40 billion reais (~ US$ 12.4 billion) were attached to the draft measure allowing workers to qualify for full pensions at a younger age.  Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is expected to veto these addenda.

President Dilma Rousseff Prime Minister of China, Li Keqiang By Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil (Agência Brasil) [CC BY 3.0 br (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

President Dilma Rousseff Prime Minister of China, Li Keqiang
By Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil (Agência Brasil), via Wikimedia Commons

A second austerity measure, Provisional Measure 665, was passed in May 2015 and was originally supposed to save the Brazilian government 9 billion reais (~ US$ 2.4 billion) a year.  Again, however, riders attached to the bill effectively cut the government’s saving in half to 5 billion reais.  Currently, Brazil appears hesitant to pass the level of austerity measure required, and this could make it difficult for Brazil to achieve the results projected by the IMF.

Additionally the IMF’s recent consultation regarding Brazil illustrates that as of April 10, 2015 Brazil’s current account deficit had increased to 4.2% GDP a huge increase from the 2.4% GDP figure from 2012. Non-financial public debt also increased to 71% of GDP from almost half of that.

Furthermore, Brazil’s markets are highly noncompetitive due to a massive increase in interest rates to a six year high of 12.75 in order to combat rising inflation. Much of Brazil’s previous economic growth had been driven through consumption, and thus, the interest increases have a potentially huge impact on not only Brazilian corporations but the overall Brazilian economy. Many smaller businesses have reported significant losses from 2013 to 2015, which has resulted in a historically low consumer confidence rating.

Topographic Map of Brazil by Captain Blood at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

Topographic Map of Brazil by Captain Blood at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Despite all this, TransLegal clients continue to be drawn to the country because of its sheer size and potential.  This year, we have completed projects related to distribution agreements for animal feed, the registration of animal feed supplements, the sale of genetically modified products, the use of agricultural liming materials and a regulatory audit of a Brazilian company to be acquired by a foreign corporation to assure the company was in compliance with all regulations governing the manufacturing and sale of its products.

While Brazil may be doing better than in 2014, its short-term outlooks for 2015 and 2016 are not as bright as they might be.  Investors have to weigh for themselves whether the market is currently a viable candidate for FDI or, perhaps, whether they should use this period to establish their products in the market place and build brand recognition and in-country experience with conservative goals.

Call TransLegal with your questions concerning Brazil.  With offices in Brasilia and São Paulo, we are ready to assist you in Brazil.

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