Once one of the world’s powerhouses, an economy that, along with China, Russia and India was driving global growth, Brazilian economic indicators have turned south hard. Such a sudden shift opens a number of new opportunities for investors while raises some challenges as the scenario grows uncertain.
We are going to analyze some numbers and try to draw some possible scenarios here.
Brazilian economy is in deep problem. GNP is expected to go down more than 3% this year, inflation is expected to reach double-digit levels and in top of it there is an expected 5% drop in government revenues in a moment when expenses are going higher, which raises uncertainty about future inflation and taxes levels. As a consequence, Brazilian Real (BRL), which was sold for $0.45 in early 2014, is now around $0.25.
The scenario for real estate looks bad as well. Despite BRL devaluation, real estate prices have raised 15% per year since 2005, while the country’s currency gained value. Now, facing a credit shortage, there is a lot of expectation of an abrupt correction on real estate prices as the market grows stagnant.
Plus, interest rates have been historically high in Brazil, since the 1990s. With SELIC rates (the equivalent to Fed rates) at 14.25% and inflation a little bit above 10%, the real interest rate is around 4%. Not really a high rate, but in a market that bears so many risks, any return lower than 10% real is not really attractive. And we’re talking about 20% in nominal terms. That was the rule for real estate marketing in the last few years, but very unlikely to happen again anytime soon.
Add to that uncertain scenario the local currency. BRL has been melting and, while the devaluation was already sharp, there is a serious expectancy that this process continues for a long time, given the government’s poor fiscal situation. The growing political crisis helps to fuel it. The legislative has been refusing most tax increases while the executive resists on cutting expenses. Despite some corporate taxes were already raised, the growing deficit, at the moment, can only be financed by monetary inflation.
Opportunities and challenges for equity crowdfunding
Lower BRL value certainly drops the prices for dollar investors. It may be a good time to put money in the country, but the investor must take in consideration the numbers above in order to make a good investment.
Here are a few key aspects to consider:
- Local interest rate is high. While the country has lost investment grade from S&P, putting doubts on government capabilities of paying for bonds, investors are still expecting double-digit annual returns. SELIC rates, however, are expected to drop, as the recession worsens, because they are not being effective to curb inflation and are causing government debt to skyrocket
- Brazilian market is shrinking and population is losing purchase power. A lot of this process already happened, so past return rates are not a good indicator
- The economy is expected to shrink in 2016 as well. Analysts already talk about a 2% drop
- Even with inflation, Brazilian wages tend to be stagnant or even drop, in nominal BRL terms, this year and along 2016. Costs can be significantly low
- Real estate market is in the core of the crisis. That’s the market where most of the credit was directed in the last few years, so prices are likely too high in BRL terms
- Taxes can be raised for any type of business, curbing returns
All those points favor investment on startups. This is an extremely favorable moment for it. A stronger dollar means less money actually injected and, if the economy faces north in two or three years, the returns can be very interesting.
More traditional, real estate investment, takes a hit. That’s a lower moving market that attracts risk-avert types. While relatively cheap in dollar terms, the expected impending market correction places the risk/return ratio very unfavorable for the investor. The economy has to be performing well for some years and credit must return before prices start to raise again.
Plus, return rates are traditionally low for real estate and are now very close to SELIC rates. Inflation is also bad for rentals (especially the uncertainty about it), as the contracts are adjusted only once a year. The best moment for investment in this market may be months away and depends on SELIC dropping.