1. CASE AGAINST ARGENTINE PRESIDENT, BROUGHT BY PROSECUTOR WHO DIED, IS DISMISSED (The New York Times)11. ARGENTINE EXPORTS REACH FIVE-YEAR LOW AMID RISING DISCONTENT AND BLEAK OUTLOOK AHEAD OF ELECTIONS (IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis)12. ARGENTINA AND D.C. UNITED MATCHES SCHEDULED FOR SAME DAY AT SEPARATE VENUES (Washington Post.com)1. CASE AGAINST ARGENTINE PRESIDENT, BROUGHT BY PROSECUTOR WHO DIED, IS DISMISSED (The New York Times)By Jonathan Gilbert27 February 2015BUENOS AIRES — An Argentine judge on Thursday dismissed criminal allegations against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner that had been brought by a prosecutor who had accused her of conspiring to shield Iranian officials from responsibility for the deadly bombing of a Jewish community center here in 1994.Judge Daniel Rafecas decided that the criminal complaint the prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, put forward before his mysterious death last month was not sufficient to open an investigation of the president. In the 63-page decision, Judge Rafecas said that the allegations did not ”minimally hold up” and that there was ”not even circumstantial evidence” pointing to Mrs. Kirchner.The criminal case, which had been revived by another prosecutor after Mr. Nisman’s death, sought to charge the president, the foreign minister and other political supporters of Mrs. Kirchner.The original complaint by Mr. Nisman, the lead investigator into the attack on the Jewish center, which left 85 people dead, had described a complex web of back-channel negotiations, accusing Mrs. Kirchner of directing an effort to reduce pressure on Iranians wanted in connection with the bombing in exchange for trade benefits.The judge’s decision to dismiss the case can be appealed by the prosecutor who revived Mr. Nisman’s criminal complaint, Gerardo Pollicita, said María Bourdin, a spokeswoman for the judiciary.In a speech Thursday night after swearing in ministers in a cabinet reshuffle, Mrs. Kirchner did not mention the decision by Judge Rafecas.But on Twitter, Florencio Randazzo, the interior minister, said: ”We always said Nisman’s complaint against the president was nonsense. A judge confirmed that today.”Investigators are trying to determine whether Mr. Nisman was killed or committed suicide. The lead investigator said Wednesday that Mr. Nisman’s death was still ”a great unsolved mystery.”Mr. Nisman’s body was found just a day before he was scheduled to appear before Congress to discuss his criminal complaint against the president and several top supporters. He had also drafted a request for Mrs. Kirchner’s arrest, but he did not include it in his complaint.The sudden death of Mr. Nisman, who was found on the floor of his apartment with a gunshot wound to the head, stunned Argentina and exposed deep rifts in the nation.Tens of thousands of Argentines poured into the center of Buenos Aires last week for a demonstration in honor of Mr. Nisman, and a sweeping array of theories have swirled around the country ever since his death, with many Argentines saying in polls that they believed that the government had a hand in it. Analysts said Thursday that Judge Rafecas’s decision could help assuage the damaging perception that the government was involved in Mr. Nisman’s death.Mrs. Kirchner made it clear in January that she believed Mr. Nisman had been killed. She and her inner circle have cast suspicion on various figures, including the assistant who lent Mr. Nisman the gun that was found underneath his body and the ousted spymaster who worked with Mr. Nisman during his investigation.Much of Mr. Nisman’s complaint was based on telephone calls that appear to have been intercepted by Argentine intelligence agents.This week, Congress approved a bill, at the urging of Mrs. Kirchner, to dissolve the Intelligence Secretariat and create a new intelligence agency with limited surveillance powers. Mrs. Kirchner said the agency no longer served the nation’s needs, but the opposition claimed the changes were politically motivated.Mrs. Kirchner and the foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, have both rejected assertions that they conspired with Iran, pointing to statements from Interpol’s former secretary general that they never sought to lift arrest warrants for Iranian officials wanted in connection with the 1994 bombing.Still, the federal prosecutor who took up Mr. Nisman’s case this month sought to charge Mrs. Kirchner in connection with the claims of secret negotiations with Iranians.In his decision to dismiss the case, Judge Rafecas wrote that the assertion that the foreign minister had tried to get Interpol to lift arrest warrants against the Iranians was unfounded. The evidence, he wrote, contradicted the accusation ”categorically and conclusively.”Some of Mrs. Kirchner’s political opponents immediately sought to question the judge’s impartiality.Jorge Lanata, an influential broadcast journalist who openly opposes the government, said in televised comments that Judge Rafecas was behaving ”like a soldier of Kirchnerismo,” the name given to Mrs. Kirchner’s political movement.Martín Böhmer, a law professor at the University of Buenos Aires, said the decision — and the breathing room an appeals process could bring — would enable Mrs. Kirchner to retake the initiative in her annual speech to Congress on Sunday.”The president will be better armed for the congressional address,” Mr. Böhmer said.Aides to Mr. Pollicita, the prosecutor who revived the case, refused to say Thursday whether he would appeal the decision.Mr. Nisman received death threats in 2012 and 2013, according to emails leaked to the local news media on Thursday. In one email, Mr. Nisman was told his body would end up riddled with bullet wounds. In a separate case, a judge has been investigating threats made in recent years against Mr. Nisman and his family.By Taos Turner27 February 2015Justice rules no evidence supports alleged plot by leader to cover up Iran’s role in a terrorist attackBUENOS AIRES — A federal judge on Thursday rejected allegations that Argentine President Cristina Kirchner plotted with Iran to cover up its alleged role in a 1994 terrorist attack here, saying there was no evidence whatsoever of any crime.The 63-page ruling by Judge Daniel Rafecas, which can be appealed, is a big boost to Mrs. Kirchner and a setback to supporters of Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who filed the criminal complaint in January only to be found dead days later.“The evidence collected, far from even minimally supporting the prosecutor’s claim, undermines it in a robust and harsh manner, leading to the conclusion that there was no crime,” the judge wrote.Mr. Nisman’s complaint accused Mrs. Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, and others of sabotaging his years-long probe into the bombing, which killed 85 people at the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, or AMIA — the worst attack on Jews in the hemisphere and one of the worst world-wide since World War II.Mr. Nisman said at the time his evidence was based largely on more than two years of intercepted phone calls involving associates of the president.Argentine officials, including Mrs. Kirchner, have denied the allegations, calling them absurd. Iran has denied any involvement in the attack.Mr. Nisman, who had tried to untangle the bombing for more than a decade, was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment a day before he was due to testify about his allegations to Congress.The case has thrust Argentina into its worst political crisis in more than a decade, with polls showing that a majority of Argentines believe Mr. Nisman’s accusations were true. An autopsy determined that Mr. Nisman fired a gunshot into his head, but most Argentines don’t believe the 51-year-old prosecutor killed himself, according to an Ipsos poll.Almost a month after Mr. Nisman’s death, another federal prosecutor, Gerardo Pollicita, took up the case and said his colleague’s findings merited investigation — asking Judge Rafecas to charge Mrs. Kirchner with trying to obstruct Mr. Nisman’s investigation.The judge’s ruling “is an important step for Kirchner in trying to regain some sort of momentum in public opinion,” said Sergio Berensztein, a political analyst.The ruling is a harsh rebuke of Mr. Nisman’s claims. It says that not only were some of Mr. Nisman’s accusations patently false but that the evidence he provided to the court contradicts them.“There is not a single proof, not a single indication that backs up the prosecutor’s grave and mortifying hypothesis that Hector Timerman instigated or prepared the path to cover up the attack on the AMIA,” the judge wrote.In an interview at his office, the judge said he listened to all of the intercepted calls that Mr. Nisman presented to the court, but said the calls don’t prove a crime was committed.Few, however, expect the controversy to subside after the judge’s ruling. Mr. Pollicita, the prosecutor, can appeal the judge’s decision. An appeals court would then determine how the case should proceed, if at all.“We will have to wait and see. This saga is not over yet,” Mr. Berensztein said.Santiago Canton, an Argentine who heads the human rights program at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in Washington, D.C., said Judge Rafecas has a good reputation with respect to cases involving human rights. The judge also wrote a well-received book about the Holocaust.“In general there is a great respect for him,” Mr Canton said. He added, however, that even if there is no legal case against the administration, Mr. Nisman’s accusations indicate “highly improper” behavior by people close to it who were allegedly interacting by phone with one of the top suspects behind the bombing.Mr. Nisman had concluded years ago that top Iranian officials used Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group, to carry out the suicide bombing. In 2007, based largely on Mr. Nisman’s work, Interpol issued international arrest notices for Iranian suspects.In January, Mr. Nisman alleged that Mrs. Kirchner had been plotting with Iran to guarantee Iranian suspects impunity as part of a broader geopolitical realignment with the country. In exchange, Mr. Nisman said Argentina aimed to obtain Iranian oil.In 2013, Argentina and Iran’s government signed a memorandum of understanding to create a so-called Truth Commission, a move which outraged Argentina’s Jewish community, which accused the government of trying to whitewash Iran’s involvement by getting it to take part in the probe.27 February 2015BUENOS AIRES – A federal judge on Thursday dismissed allegations that Argentine President Cristina Fernàndez de Kirchner tried to cover up the purported involvement of Iran in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center, easing a crisis for her government fed by the death of the prosecutor who brought the case.Judge Daniel Rafecas said the documents filed by Alberto Nisman, the late prosecutor, failed to meet “the minimal conditions needed to launch a formal court investigation.”“There is not a single element of evidence, even circumstantial, that points to the actual head of state,” the judge said.Nisman had filed the complaint just days before he died Jan. 18 under mysterious circumstances. Polls show that many Argentines suspect officials had a hand in the death, though Fernàndez and her aides have suggested that the death was aimed at destabilizing her government.Tens of thousands of Argentines marched through the capital last week, demanding answers in the death of Nisman, who was found in his bathroom with a bullet in his right temple.Nisman had asked judges to authorize a formal criminal investigation of the president, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and other figures on allegations that they agreed to grant impunity to eight Iranians accused in the attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, in which 85 people died. In return, he said, Iran would increase trade with Argentina.The prosecutor who took over the case after Nisman’s death, Gerardo Pollicita, renewed his request.Investigators say they are trying to determine whether Nisman was killed or committed suicide.The president initially suggested that the 51-year-old prosecutor had killed himself, then did an about-face a few days later, saying she suspected he had been slain.She suggested that he might have been manipulated by disgruntled intelligence agents. After his death, she pushed through a law to reform the spy service. Congress gave final approval to the measure earlier Thursday.“I think the accusations themselves have weakened her government, and Argentines are still open to conspiracy theories. Even with the dismissal of the charges against her, there are still questions about who killed Nisman,” said Shannon O’Neil, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S.-based think tank.Fernàndez also shuffled her cabinet on Thursday, replacing three ministers with close aides.By Helen ReganFeb 27, 2015Ruling comes after the lead prosecutor died in suspicious circumstances last monthAn Argentine judge dismissed a controversial case on Thursday against the country’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, citing a lack of evidence.Kirchner and her foreign minister Héctor Timerman were accused of covering up the alleged involvement of Iranian officials in a bomb attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994, reports the New York Times.The criminal case was brought against the duo and other officials by prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who died mysteriously last month.Judge Daniel Rafecas said the case filed by Nisman did not “minimally hold up” and said there was not enough evidence to launch a court investigation.Nisman’s body was found in his apartment on Jan. 18, with a gunshot wound to the head. He was due to testify against Kirchner the following day in Congress.The circumstances surrounding his death have not been established.Both Kirchner and Timerman have denied they had any hand in shielding the Iranians from responsibility in the attack.Also on Thursday, Argentine legislators approved a bill scrapping the country’s existing intelligence agency. In its place, a new federal investigative agency will be established.By Benedict ManderFebruary 26, 2015An Argentine judge has dismissed an accusation by prosecutors that President Cristina Fernández conspired to hide Iran’s alleged role in a deadly 1994 bombing.The decision provides a needed fillip for the embattled leader but also raises more questions about the credibility of Argentina’s judicial system.Judge Daniel Rafecas ruled on Thursday that he would “discontinue” the case, which had been revived after its initial prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was found shot dead on Jan 18 in mysterious circumstances that have sparked political turmoil.“The evidence gathered far from meets the minimal standard,” said a statement from the country’s court system about the decision, which can be appealed.Ms Fernández, her foreign minister and several other senior officials had been accused of impeding a probe into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in order to put through a grains-for-oil deal with Tehran.Ms Fernández has called the claims against her “absurd” while Jorge Capitanich, the cabinet chief, has called the case “judicial putschsim”.But the government’s often insensitive handling of the case has only inflamed local opinion, and on Thursday the twittersphere lit up with derogatory comments about the judge’s decision.“I thought for a moment I was wrong in being pessimistic about Argentina’s future. No more,” read one tweet.Last week some 400,000 protesters, including opposition politicians and state prosecutors, marched in silence through Buenos Aires to the presidential palace to demand truth and justice over Nisman’s death.“Cristina has completely failed to grasp the dimension of the problem,” commented Alberto Fernández, no relation, who served as cabinet chief for Ms Fernández’s late husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner.Mr Fernández described the president’s insensitive response to Nisman’s death — she suggested he had commit suicide and then that he was murdered by rogue spies — as a “huge mistake”. It has prompted a backlash that has hit her popularity and reinvigorated a divided opposition ahead of October’s presidential election.“The opposition has charged against the government with everything it has, with the help of the media,” said Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, a human-rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 for campaigning against Argentina’s military dictatorship.Echoing government claims that opponents want to engineer a “soft coup”, he argues that certain sectors want to destabilise the government, describing accusations by some opposition figures that Ms Fernández is guilty of murder as “delirious”.Alejandro Catterberg, a director of local pollster Poliarquia, said the crisis has knocked about five points off Ms Fernández’s approval ratings, which have oscillated below 40 per cent recently. While significant, he says such a fall is similar to previous crises during her tenure, with most Argentines already having made their mind up about the polarising leader who cannot run for a third term.“This [crisis and the protests] are not a game changer,” said Mr Catterberg, who sees October’s presidential contest, which has three roughly equally strong contenders, as wide open. He said Daniel Scioli, the expected candidate for the ruling Peronist party, may be initially harmed because of his association with the government, but that he could recover when campaigning gets under way in July.Moreover, he added, whichever of the three leading candidates wins will be an improvement on Ms Fernández’s “populist, unpredictable and often aggressive” style of government.A recent rally in Argentine bond prices suggests foreign investors agree. Market optimism has been reinforced by the government’s commitment to protect precariously low foreign exchange reserves, despite other economic problems.These include a fall in commodity prices that has hit Argentine soya exporters, which the government depends on for foreign exchange, and Ms Fernandez’s apparent refusal to settle a long running legal dispute with a group of US hedge funds that has blocked access to international capital markets.Nevertheless, the Nisman affair is likely to reinforce a more general distrust in Argentine institutions that transcends current discontent. Most Argentines fear the case will join a long succession of unsolved crimes, such as the 1994 bomb attack on the Jewish AMIA centre that Nisman had been investigating.Mr Pérez Esquivel accuses Ms Fernández of “political autism” but says Argentina’s flawed judiciary — weakened by continued executive interventions over past decades — is ultimately responsible.“Twenty years have passed and absolutely no one has been punished for the AMIA bombing,” said Pérez Esquivel. “You cannot build a democracy on impunity.”By Peter Eavis27 February 2015A New York hedge fund that is suing Argentina over its debt is moving swiftly to try to stamp out any effort by the country to issue new bonds in international markets.Argentina is seeking to sell roughly $2 billion of new bonds to investors and has employed JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank to handle the deal. But the banks have now suspended the deal, at least temporarily.The bonds were being marketed outside of the United States to non-American investors. If the deal were to be called off completely, it would underscore the remarkable reach of a small group of investors armed with favorable court rulings.In response to a request by NML Capital, a unit of Elliott Management, Judge Thomas P. Griesa of the Federal District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday ordered JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank to produce documents that would describe how money from the bond sale might pass to Argentina. He also ordered the banks to have witnesses present at a deposition about the bond deal at 3 p.m. on Thursday.The court’s demands led the banks to put their deal preparations on hold, according to two people briefed on the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the transaction.Elliott Management’s legal moves are the latest installment in its long-running legal battle to gain full repayment on bonds that Argentina defaulted on in 2001. Most of the bonds involved in that default were later exchanged for new securities, known as exchange bonds, that were worth far less than the original debt.Elliott and other investors gained the name ”holdouts” after refusing to accept the exchange bonds in return for their securities. The holdouts scored a pivotal victory in 2012, when Judge Griesa ruled that Argentina had to pay the holdouts in full whenever it made payments on the exchange bonds.A United States court had power over the exchange bonds because many of them were issued under New York law. And the judge’s ruling had teeth because global banks did not want to fall afoul of the order by passing money from Argentina to holders of the exchange bonds. Argentina, for instance, has in recent months not been able to get money to holders of its exchange bonds.Argentina’s attempts to sell the new bonds form an important test for the country. The bonds were going to be denominated in dollars and Argentina may need the foreign currency to pay off other debts coming due. What is more, a successful sale would demonstrate that the country was able to borrow billions of dollars in international markets even as the holdouts pursued it.Lawyers at JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank would almost certainly have taken steps to try to prevent the new bonds from falling afoul of Judge Griesa’s order. As well as being sold outside of the United States, the new bonds would be registered under Argentine law. At the deposition, the banks’ representatives may seek to show that their deal complies with the judge’s order.Still, the holdouts have had success in gaining courts outside the United States to seize Argentine assets. A court in Ghana, for instance, ruled that the country could impound an Argentina naval vessel in 2012. (Under international maritime law, the boat was later released.)A document relating to the deal suggests that it is being arranged in London. The holdouts may be hoping that a British court will support their efforts and threaten to seize any money that Argentina might raise through the bond sale. In a 2011 ruling on a case brought by NML Capital, a British court ruled that governments like Argentina could not claim immunity from certain civil judgments in courts outside of Britain.A document relating to the sale of new bonds includes a lengthy passage detailing potential legal challenges to the sale. Specifically, it raises the possibility of legal attempts to ”attach assets of Argentina.”By Matt Wirz and Christopher Whittall27 February 2015A bid by two global banks to sell bonds for Argentina in London collapsed, delivering a fresh setback to the cash-strapped South American nation amid a long-running feud with creditors.Deutsche Bank AG and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. approached bond-fund managers on Wednesday to gauge interest in an auction of the country’s debt in London, people familiar with the matter said. The banks believed they had found a way to sell Argentine bonds without running afoul of a U.S. court ruling last year, the people said.The banks suspended the plans Thursday after legal action taken by a group of creditors who have been battling with Argentina for payment on defaulted bonds. Late Wednesday, the U.S. District Judge in the case, Thomas Griesa, ordered an emergency hearing to discuss the proposed London sale.The sale would have been the first of its kind outside Argentina since the country defaulted in 2001, and would have helped it replenish dwindling foreign-currency reserves. It isn’t clear whether the banks had an official mandate from Argentina, which has been fielding bond sale proposals from banks for over a year.A spokeswoman for Argentina’s Economy Ministry said the government studies all debt-issuance proposals submitted to it that are in accordance with Argentine law.The developments show that “Argentina will find it extremely difficult to use international banks to help it raise funds and will likely not be able to issue new local-law bonds to foreign investors,” said Jane Brauer, an emerging-markets analyst at Bank of America Corp.Though short-lived, Argentina’s latest attempt to borrow outside its borders marks a new phase in the cat-and-mouse game it has been playing with some creditors for years.Judge Griesa ruled in June that Argentina can’t pay holders of its restructured debt until it pays a group of hedge funds known collectively as holdout creditors. They own bonds that Argentina defaulted on in 2001 and are seeking repayment; they have refused to participate in the country’s 2005 and 2010 debt restructurings.The judge said anyone that helped Argentina pay other bondholders would be in contempt of court. As a result, bond trustees and payment-clearing firms have been reluctant to pass along payments from Argentina to restructured bondholders.Investors have snapped up Argentine bonds in recent months, effectively wagering that Argentina will soon find a way around last year’s ruling by Judge Griesa or that the country will settle with the holdout creditors after general elections scheduled for October.The yield of Argentina’s dollar bonds that mature in 2024 has fallen to 7.86% this week from 10.48% in December, according to FactSet. Yields fall when prices rise.A successful sale of new bonds in international markets would give Argentina the upper hand in the long-running legal battle with the holdouts, led by hedge funds Elliott Management Corp. and Aurelius Capital Management LP.Lawyers working for Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan crafted the new bond sale in a way they thought would conform to Judge Griesa’s directives, according to people familiar with the matter.On Wednesday the banks’ salespeople approached fund managers to gauge interest in a new bond to be issued in London through an auction format, according to investors who received sales pitches. The new debt would have been issued by reopening a pre-existing bond governed by Argentine law rather than U.S. law.Elliott first subpoenaed Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan about a planned $2 billion bond sale for Argentina on Feb. 9 but they failed to respond, prompting Judge Griesa this week to force them to comply.The banks are now in a holding pattern to see whether the judge will agree that their plan doesn’t violate his earlier ruling blocking bond payments. No deal had officially been launched and the plans were at an early stage, people familiar with the matter said.Elliott said through a spokesman Wednesday that it was “dismayed” that Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan were participating in the attempted deal.Some of the investor optimism comes from lawsuits challenging Judge Griesa’s ruling filed in Belgium and the U.K. by other hedge funds that in August held about 1.3 billion euros ($1.48 billion) of euro-denominated bonds Argentina issued in exchange for bonds it defaulted on over the past decade.Argentina tried to pay at least 226 million euros on its euro-denominated bonds last year, but Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and Euroclear PLC, the trustee and clearing house administering the payments, refused to transfer the funds because of Judge Griesa’s order.The hedge funds, including Knighthead Master Fund and George Soros’s Quantum Partners, won a victory on Feb. 13 when the London Chancery Court ruled the bonds are governed by U.K. law and that Bank of New York Mellon’s obligations as trustee “are unaffected” by the U.S. court decision.By Davide Scigliuzzo26 February 2015NEW YORK, Feb 26 (Reuters) – Argentina has suspended a planned sale of dollar-denominated bonds intended to raise at least $2 billion, two investors with direct knowledge of the deal told Thomson Reuters IFR on Thursday.The suspension, if lengthy, could hamper Argentina’s financing of bonds worth over $6 billion that mature later in the year as the government fights to shore up low foreign reserves.The decision to suspend the sale came after U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa ordered Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase & Co to hand over documents relevant to the Bonar 24 bond sale.Griesa said late Wednesday, according to a court transcript of an emergency hearing on Wednesday, that the order he signed did not restrain any transaction. “It simply asks for discovery,” Griesa said.The South American country, a pariah in global debt markets for more than a decade, said on Wednesday it had a “window of opportunity” to raise debt internationally and began marketing the new Bonar 24 bonds.The proposed reopening of the sale of new Bonar 24 bonds, with a coupon of 8.75 percent, was estimated to be at least $2 billion, according to the hearing transcript that cited a letter to potential investors prepared by the banks.Lawyers for JPMorgan said in court that the bond sale was merely “contemplated,” despite the contention by lawyers for the hedge funds it was imminent.“There was never a confirmation of a sale, therefore it can’t be suspended. Argentina yesterday just confirmed that it was open to study all proposals that it may get,” Argentina’s Economy Ministry told Reuters in a statement.The new debt was to be issued under Argentine law to non-U.S. investors to avoid legal risks in the United States. Argentina is embroiled in a drawn out legal battle with a small group of New York-based hedge funds over unpaid debt held under U.S. law stemming from its 2002 default.Two sources familiar with the matter said Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan decided to put the bond sale on hold as a precaution while they respond to the court’s request.“Argentina is not prevented from raising funds,” a source said. “Any restrictions (from the U.S. courts) apply to the coupon payments on its bonds, not to its ability to raise capital.”The same source said the deal could be back on, depending on the outcome of the legal proceedings.Argentine bonds have rallied in the past two weeks, partly driven by investor confidence that the Oct. 25 presidential election will usher in a more market-friendly government. President Cristina Fernandez cannot run for a third straight term.Investors appeared to take the latest developments in stride. The price of the Bonar 2024 rose 0.191 percent to a bid of 104.85 cents.“Investors believe that with a change of administration there will be greater opportunities to access international funding, and at these interest rates there is money available,” said Roberto Drimer, an economist at the Buenos Aires-based consultancy VaTnet.According to court documents dated Feb. 25, NML Capital, one of the firms suing Argentina, served subpoenas on the banks seeking information on the issuance of Bonar 24 bonds on Feb. 9.Argentina tipped back into default in July after Griesa blocked it from servicing its performing debt until it settled with the litigating hedge funds.By Linette LopezFeb. 26, 2015If you’re going to invest in Argentina, you’d better put on your big-boy pants and be prepared to lose them.That’s the tone of a letter JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank sent potential investors in a proposed Argentine bond offering that was “suspended” less than 48 hours after it was announced.Earlier this week the country said that it had hired the banks to issue its bonds on the international market. That’s a big deal, as Argentina has been the black sheep of international markets since its 2001 default.Basically no one wanted to buy Argentina’s debt after that disaster. After over 10 years of paying back debt, though, Argentina had only one major credit problem left — it refused to pay a specific group of its bondholders over $1.3 billion of defaulted debt because the bondholders wouldn’t take a 70% cut to their payout.Those bondholders were led by hedge fund manager Paul Singer, and he sued the country until it went right back into default.So that’s where Argentina is now — technically. It’s in technical default. Also the economy is in incredibly bad shape. Inflation is hovering over 40%, capital flight is rampant, and women were freaking out earlier this year because Argentina’s weird import/export policies made it impossible to find tampons.Anyway, the country decided that now was the time for it to issue bonds regardless of its state. JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank signed on to help. They did, however, send potential investors an unusual letter warning them of the dangers of investing, especially because of Singer’s ongoing lawsuit and general doggedness in pursuit of his money.
And also because the banks didn’t want to be sued in the event that something went wrong, of course.“In particular no investor will have any claim and the Sellers will have no liability based on: (i) any difference the purchase price and any subsequent value of the Securities; (ii) the ability of any investor to receive any interest or redemption payment to cover the principle amount of the Securities; or (ii) any circumstances beyond the Sellers control, included where the Securities are not admitted to a relevant clearing system or otherwise delivered,” it said.In other words, JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank are saying: Sign here and then do not ask us about this stuff again because you are on your OWN!To be fair, this is what any rational institution would do. Sure, a lot of investors are saying that the country is a buying opportunity once President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s intransigent government is out of power after elections this fall. But you actually never really know in Argentina. She already tried to change the Argentine Constitution once so she could run again and failed.Plus, Singer and his cadre (known collectively as NML) were not happy about any of this. They went to the judge who has been presiding over their case and got an injunction forcing JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank to show them the bond issue documents (including this letter).“Despite our repeated attempts to engage in good-faith negotiations, the Argentine government appears determined to remain in default and in contempt of a US federal court order,” said an NML spokesman regarding the bond issue. “We are dismayed that JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank are participating in the schemes of an international scofflaw, schemes which we believe are an attempt to evade the court-ordered enforcement of bondholders’ rights.As practiced as NML is at waging legal war on Argentina, it’s not crazy to think they would throw JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank in there too if they thought they had a claim. NML still hasn’t gotten its money, so what’s a little more paperwork?That’s probably why this bond issue was dropped. Fast.By Michelle CelarierFebruary 26, 2015Argentina suspended plans for a US dollar bond sale on Thursday following an outcry from billionaire hedgie Paul Singer.Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase were soliciting interest from international buyers in the potential $2 billion bond sale — but put the plans on hold after Singer convinced a federal judge to order the banks to hand over documents related to the expected bond sale and to produce witnesses.Singer has been tangling with Argentina for about a decade in an attempt to collect more than $1.6 billion on bonds defaulted on in 2001. The country has refused to pay Singer — and even defied a judge’s order to do so.“Everyone’s being cautious,” sources close to the banks said, after plans for the bonds were halted.That’s not to say the banks were thrilled with Singer’s action.“Elliott [Paul Singer’s hedge fund] is attempting to interfere in a perfectly legitimate capital raise,” said a source at one of the banks, who said the sale effort could be re-started at a later date.11. ARGENTINE EXPORTS REACH FIVE-YEAR LOW AMID RISING DISCONTENT AND BLEAK OUTLOOK AHEAD OF ELECTIONS (IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis)By Mario Guillen26 February 2015Argentina’s balance of trade reported a surplus of USD73 million in January, an increase of 109% year on year (y/y), according to the latest report by its National Statistical Office (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos: INDEC). Exports posted a fall of 18% y/y, returning to values from five years ago, while imports decreased by 19% y/y. The most remarkable falls in the export sector were in the categories of fuels and energy (down by 58% y/y), manufacture goods of industrial origin (down by 24% y/y), and manufacture goods of agricultural origin (down by 15% y/y). The only category to post an increase was primary products, up by 16% y/y. With regard to imports, the passenger vehicles category fell by 67% y/y, while fuels and lubricants decreased 54% y/y, followed by a contraction of 20% y/y in the pieces and accessories of capital goods category. Imports of capital and consumer goods also dropped, falling by 13% y/y and 12% y/y, respectively.Significance: Despite the balance of trade exceeding the surplus recorded in January 2014, back then the fall in imports and exports amounted to just 4% y/y and 8% y/y, respectively. Put into perspective, this year’s results highlight the continued deterioration of Argentine trade due to internal and external factors. The fall in exports is mainly attributed to weak demand in Brazil, the country’s main commercial partner, as well as the general downturn in the region. This is exacerbated by the effects of a stronger US dollar on the competitiveness of Argentine manufacturing, which increases doubts about the sustainability of the peso’s value. Internally, financing difficulties drove the current administration to reduce imports, tighten the allocation of dollars while blaming the private sector for the recession, and advocate more state intervention. Amid rampant inflation, low commodity prices, and difficult access to international markets, the current administration is left with little room for action ahead of the upcoming presidential election in October.12. ARGENTINA AND D.C. UNITED MATCHES SCHEDULED FOR SAME DAY AT SEPARATE VENUES (Washington Post.com)By Steven Goff27 February 2015Promoters eager to bring Lionel Messi and the powerful Argentine national soccer team to Washington initially targeted March 27 for a friendly against El Salvador at FedEx Field in Landover. Talks dragged on for weeks without an agreement. Then Thursday, organizers announced the game will take place March 28, a Saturday, which is more conducive to ticket-selling, TV programming and transportation.Seems sensible, except one of D.C. United’s marquee home matches of the MLS season, against the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy, falls on the same day at RFK Stadium.The United-Galaxy game, set by the league six weeks ago, will kick off at 7 p.m. The international match is set for 4 p.m.The stadiums are seven miles apart and on the same Metro lines (although FedEx Field is almost a mile from the Morgan Boulevard station). So conceivably, a fan could attend both. Whether they would be willing to pay two admissions is another matter. The ticket price range to see Argentina is $38 to $175, not including service fees. Tickets go on sale Saturday.Such conflicts are bad for the local pro team’s business, and the U.S. Soccer Federation does have the power to decline sanctioning international matches. However, a USSF spokesman said the Argentina-El Salvador game has been approved.“Within U.S. Soccer’s International Games policies,” director of communications Neil Buethe said, “there is no prohibition on staging international games on the same dates or in the same territories as other professional matches.”United officials have yet to comment on the matter.There does appear to be a financial incentive for the USSF, which collects either 9 percent or 9.25 percent of gross gate receipts, and an additional 13 percent of the balance of receipts after the first $200,000. However, the USSF also says it will “use these fees to cover fees due to CONCACAF.”Last summer, a similar scenario played out: Spain planned to play its final World Cup tuneup at FedEx Field against El Salvador on June 7, conflicting with United’s home match that day against the Columbus Crew. The sides ended up negotiating a doubleheader in Landover. To help compensate for lost revenue at RFK, promoters also scheduled a Turkey-Honduras friendly at the East Capitol Street venue.From a logistical and competitive standpoint, United did not enjoy the arrangement. Its game followed the Spain match, and many of the 53,267 had departed by halftime of the MLS event, leaving large pockets of empty seats in the lower sections of the 80,000-capacity venue. In essence, United had surrendered its influential home-field advantage and lost the feverish environment provided by the RFK crowd. Season ticket holders grumbled about poor seat assignments and the hassle of traveling to FedEx Field.While that doubleheader came to fruition after months of discussion and finalized three months ahead of time, United officials were unaware until this week that organizers of the Argentina-El Salvador game were seeking to play on the 28th instead of the 27th. Even if they had, they probably would not have agreed to another doubleheader anyway.The March 28 move has also required promoters to fiddle with El Salvador’s other friendly on its U.S. tour, March 29 against Guatemala at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. That one will now take place March 31.As of Feb. 18, neither international match had been sanctioned by the USSF. Nonetheless, on Feb. 10, StubHub Center formally announced the friendly and accompanying ticket information.Public announcements prior to sanctioning are subject to fines starting at $1,000 and other penalties, USSF operating procedures state.Buethe said Thursday that “no application has been submitted for that match but we have had a conversation with the promoter that an application is forthcoming.”Argentina will also face Ecuador on March 31 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.The last week in March is an official FIFA match period, which allows national teams to summon their best players from around the world. Argentina, the 2014 World Cup runner-up, would likely call in Messi, the Barcelona superstar, and many other European-based regulars. The Argentines have not played in the Washington area since a 1-0 defeat to the United States in 1999 at RFK.By Ryan Dube26 February 2015Argentine President Cristina Kirchner replaced her cabinet chief and health secretary on Thursday, amid a political crisis less than a year before her term ends.The president’s spokesman, Alfredo Scoccimarro, said at a brief news conference that cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich will be replaced by Anibal Fernandez, currently the secretary general of the president’s office. Mr. Fernandez is a long-time ally of President Kirchner, and had previously served as her cabinet chief. Eduardo de Pedro will replace Mr. Fernandez as secretary general of the president’s office.Mr. Scoccimarro said Health Minister Juan Manzur is being replaced in the cabinet reshuffle by Daniel Bazan. He didn’t explain why the cabinet changes were being undertaken.The shuffle comes as Mrs. Kirchner is mired in a crisis following last month’s death of Alberto Nisman, who was found dead in his apartment a few days after accusing Mrs. Kirchner and other government officials of trying to cover up Iran’s alleged involvement in a 1994 terrorist attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Mrs. Kirchner and Iran deny those respective allegations.On Thursday, a federal judge dismissed the charges against Mrs. Kirchner, saying there wasn’t evidence of a crime.President Kirchner is constitutionally-barred from running for reelection in October’s presidential election.By Eliana Raszewski26 February 2015BUENOS AIRES, Feb 26 (Reuters) – Argentina’s state-controlled oil company YPF disappointed the market with its earnings on Thursday but announced that output at a key shale oil and gas field was ramping up.Output at Argentina’s vast but barely tapped Vaca Muerta field has risen to 40,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd). A report from the formation’s home province of Neuquen last month showed output was about 33,000 boepd at the end of September.YPF, which was nationalized in 2012, is seeking to ramp up production at Vaca Muerta in order to reverse a $7 billion energy deficit that is draining foreign reserves.The company does not publish output data for the formation on a regular basis.“Vaca Muerta is important to us because today it has come to represent production of 40,000 boepd,” YPF Chief Executive Officer Miguel Galuccio said on a call with reporters.“However…it still only represents 4 to 5 percent of total output so it does not yet have a significant impact on our results.”Argentina began running energy deficits in 2011, a year before the government expropriated YPF. President Cristina Fernandez said at the time that former parent company Spanish oil major Repsol was not investing enough in Argentina.Oil output at YPF rose 5.3 percent in 2014 while natural gas production climbed 25.1 percent, YPF said.Net profit was 1.383 billion pesos ($161.7 million) in the fourth quarter. Full-year earnings were 9.002 billion pesos, nearly 60 percent higher than in 2013.Both figures were nonetheless below market expectations for profit of 2.827 billion pesos in the October to December period and 10.350 billion pesos for 2014.But YPF Chief Financial Officer Daniel Gonzalez said fourth-quarter results were distorted by a provision a subsidiary had to make. The year-on-year comparison was further warped by an insurance payout received in the fourth quarter of 2013.Investment at YPF nearly doubled to 58.881 billion pesos in 2014, in part through debt issuance, the company said. It has previously said developing Vaca Muerta and securing energy independence will cost up to $200 billion in the next 10 years.YPF earlier this month sold $500 million of bonds in its first international sale since Argentina defaulted in July.“We once again have a comfortable cash situation, and we will see if it is necessary to return to markets before the end of the year,” Gonzalez said.By Charles Newbery26 February 2015Buenos Aires (Platts)–26Feb2015/632 pm EST/2332 GMT Argentina’s YPF said Thursday its oil production rose 5.3% and natural gas output increased 25.1% in 2014 compared with 2013, as the state-run energy company continued to ramp up investment in squeezing more out of maturing conventional reserves and developing unconventional resources.The company stepped up its total hydrocarbon production by 13.5% to 560,100 b/d of oil equivalent in 2014 from 493,400 boe/d a year earlier, it said in an earnings statement.YPF said the increase was helped by the 2014 acquisition of US-based Apache’s assets in Argentina, which added 38,600 boe/d of production.The company’s crude production rose 5.3% to 244,600 b/d in 2014 from 232,300 b/d in 2013, while gas output rose 25.1% to 42.4 million cu m/d from 33.9 million cu m/d a year earlier, YPF said. Production of natural gas liquids rose 1% to 48,700 b/d in 2014 from 48,200 b/d in 2013.The increase came largely from YPF’s operations in Neuquen, a southwestern basin with huge potential for unconventional oil and gas production, the company said. YPF said there was a large increase in output of tight gas from the Lajas play in that basin.During 2014, the company said it drilled 908 wells, of which 255 were into unconventional formations on its own or in partnerships.YPF is drilling for shale oil and gas in Loma Campana with Chevron, where they drilled 173 wells into the Vaca Muerta shale play.The rest were drilled to target largely tight gas, 44 on the Loma La Lata block targeting Lajas, while 29 were in Rincon de Mangrullo in a partnership with Argentina’s Petrolera Pampa, and nine in El Orejano with Dow Chemical.At the end of 2014, YPF said it had 74 drilling rigs in operation, adding that its spending on exploration surged 145% in 2014 on the year.Upstream investment rose 115.3% to 49.08 billion pesos ($5.6 billion), helping to boost not only production but also its reserve replacement rate to 163%, YPF said.The company said its proven reserves rose 11.9% to 1.212 billion boe in 2014 from 1.083 billion boe in 2013, its fastest increase on record. The previous record had been a 10.6% rise in 2013 on the year.Of the new reserves, much of it came from tight gas in the Lajas and Mulichinco plays in the Neuquen Basin, YPF said.Additions also came from the extension of field licenses in Rio Negro, shale oil reserves in Vaca Muerta, as well as from the consolidation of Apache reserves and advances in secondary recovery and new projects in the southern San Jorge Gulf Basin.REFINERY CAPACITY UTILIZATION RISES FOUR PERCENTAGE POINTSIn its downstream business, YPF said diesel and gasoline consumption rose 4% and 1%, respectively, in 2014 compared with 2013, while the rate of capacity use of its refineries rose to 91% from 87% over the same period. This was helped by a recovery in the utilization capacity of its 189,000 b/d La Plata refinery, which was hampered by a fire and flooding in 2013.YPF ran 290,000 b/d of crude through its refineries in 2014, up 4.3% from 278,000 b/d in the year-ago period.YPF said its average crude price rose 3.2% to $73.70/b in 2014 from $71.40/b a year earlier, while its average gas price rose 13% to $4.29/MMBtu from $3.79/MMBtu in 2013.Domestic diesel and gasoline prices rose 2.1% and 6.9%, respectively, over the same period, it added.YPF produces 42% of Argentina’s 530,000 b/d of crude and 30% of its 114 million cu m/d of gas, according to the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute, an industry group. It also has a 55% share of diesel and gasoline sales.