|Frontier's "Invest Mongolia Tokyo 2018"||Frontier Securities||Tokyo Japan|
|"Open to Export" ICC WTO International business award||ICC WTO||London|
Mongolia was lauded this month for more “durable than anticipated” 3% GDP growth in 2017 in the International Monetary Fund’s first review of its US$400 million rescue program, following an $800 million five-year external bond return in October, where the 5.5% yield was half the previous peak.
Since the May rescue by the IMF, commodity exports have picked up, particularly to China, with mine closures in that country and its ban on imports of North Korean coal, and boosted budget revenue in local-currency terms with the weaker exchange rate against the US dollar. “Investor confidence recovery” with the successful international issuance will boost the balance of payments and reserves, and fully cover 2018 maturities and refinance more expensive domestic debt, according to the evaluation.
However, both the IMF and frontier-market fund managers continue to be wary as political and banking-sector complications in Mongolia dilute the upbeat narrative. The new government elected in July lost a confidence vote, ousting the prime minister, who was then replaced by his deputy, while the IMF’s health check was delayed.
Bank credit growth is still at a runaway 20% annual pace, with large foreign-exchange exposure and a 7.5% bad-loan rate pending the results of an overall asset quality audit by the central bank. Despite headline economic strides, on structural reform the IMF report assigned a “mixed” score, as regional peers Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan not under the lender’s thumb likewise have rebounded from crisis but remain ambivalent near-term bond bets.
The jumps in prices for Mongolia’s coal, copper and gold from Chinese demand stoked 5% first-half growth in gross domestic product, but construction has been negative for four years, with excess real-estate inventory. The windfall produced a budget surplus through September, but scheduled social and civil-servant handouts will result in a deficit, as the 2018 blueprint adopted by parliament could send the overall gap close to 10% of GDP, according to President Khaltmaa Battulga, who vetoed it as against the IMF arrangement.
Growth is slated at 4.2% amid introduction of a progressive income tax, but the president lambasted “inefficient investment projects” pushed by the ruling Mongolian People’s Party, which holds 65 of the 75 seats. Battulga belongs to the opposition Democratic Party.
A fiscal-stability law envisages end-decade balance, but the IMF warns that the government wage bill compromises the target and threatens medium-term sustainability, with public debt already at 85% of output.
Inflation was over 8% in October, and monetary policy has reversed course toward easing with a 100-basis-point drop in the benchmark interest rate to 11%. The IMF urged the central bank to go slowly on cuts as the recent reserve buildup to $2.5 billion on a stable tugrik may not last. The Bank of Mongolia has regularly dipped into the stash for intervention, even though its currency powers are murky and shared with the Finance Ministry.
An updated organic law is to clarify the central bank’s independence and regulatory authority more broadly, but in the meantime its hands are full with the asset-quality exercise conducted with accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. It will screen bank business plans and apply stress tests, with capital holes to be remedied by the end of next year when deposit insurance is due to start.
Among outstanding challenges, the financial sector agenda is “most important” and funding decisions should not tilt to favored shareholders or jeopardize the public-sector balance sheet, the IMF evaluation concluded.
Azerbaijan came in for separate caution under a December Article IV survey by the IMF, with stagflation ending as the hydrocarbon and service industries revive, but with banking-sector restructuring “still incomplete.”
Inflation will be near 15% in 2017 after exchange-rate depreciation, and increased fiscal spending should be reined in by clear rules before 2019, it recommended.
Privatization has drawn foreign-investor interest in real estate, and external debt remains minimal at under 20% of GDP.
Fitch Ratings expects positive growth in 2018 muddied by “continued bank asset quality pressure” despite the bad-loan cleanup at the International Bank of Azerbaijan. The rater was also skeptical about the Halyk-Kazkommertsbank consolidation as the biggest government-owned lender in Kazakhstan following the initial stage of operations merger in December.
Foreign-exchange positions may deteriorate as local-depositor tenge sentiment continues to swing as measured by dollarization levels, and international bonds were shaken by a New York court ruling freezing central-bank reserves in an investor dispute while the overall system is in knots....
OPEC and its allies are heading into the second year of supply cuts to wipe out the global oil glut, while rising U.S. output is threatening those efforts. Geopolitical tensions also add a wild card to the market mix.
As oil watchers seek to plot a course through the year ahead, they’ll be paying close attention to signals ranging from timespreads to options contracts. Here are five key barometers to watch as 2018 unfolds:
1. The Shale Signal
WTI’s discount to Brent closed at its widest level in more than two years on Tuesday as an explosion at an oil pipeline in Libya boosted the global benchmark. That came after Hurricane Harvey kept supplies locked in the U.S. earlier in the year, providing the first trigger for a wider spread and bumper U.S. exports. With shale growth driving forecasts of record U.S. supply in 2018, that could lead to a further expansion in the spread. “If we get more shale and Canadian crude in the first half, and OPEC cuts hold, then it should widen,” said Richard Fullarton, founder of London-based commodity hedge fund Matilda Capital Management Ltd.
2. OPEC’s Bellwether
Brent crude surged into a bullish, backwardated structure this year as OPEC-led output cuts tightened global supplies. December 2018 futures climbed to their highest premium ever versus the same month for 2019 this week, and the spread may expand further as OPEC’s cuts drive the oil market toward balance next year, according to Abhishek Deshpande, head of oil research at JPMorgan Chase & Co. “We are more comfortable with a balanced market to take a view of going long that spread,” said Deshpande.
3. Lottery Tickets
With geopolitical risks flaring in a host of major oil producers, funds have been busy snapping up bullish oil options contracts that would profit from a sharp spike in crude prices. The December 2018 $100 call remains the most-held Brent options contract, while $80 calls equating to more than 30 million barrels for the latter part of next year traded in recent weeks. Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia top the list of countries that could see oil-related disruptions in 2018, RBC Capital Markets LLC analysts including Helima Croft wrote earlier this month.
4. Volatility Vacuum
Despite those risks, volatility has plunged to the lowest in more than three years in recent weeks as a steady grind higher in prices took some of the fizz out of the oil market. With the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries clearly signposting its plans for 2018, banks including Societe Generale SA expect to see a continued slide in volatility next year. “OPEC’s decision to proactively manage the market is going to keep volatility flat as a pancake,” Amrita Sen, chief oil market analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd., wrote earlier this month.
5. How Long?
The market is heading into 2018 near a record number of bullish bets in Brent and WTI combined, exchange data show. Those contracts, which now outstrip bearish ones by seven to one, have led to concerns that crude may soon see a speculator-driven slump. That bullish positioning has been “the largest bearish cross in my scorecards for the last several weeks,” said Torbjorn Kjus, chief oil analyst at DNB Bank ASA. What’s difficult is that “we don’t know the type of players. If they want to have a larger part of their assets in commodities for the next couple of years, then they’re not going to sell those positions.”...
In 2017, MIAT – Mongolia’s National Airline – has flown 16,200 hours of air travel, carrying 592,000 passengers on 2,003 flights on one local and nine international routes. Compared to the 2016 figures, the number of passengers carried has gone up by 20% and operating income has seen an increase of 22%.
MIAT in cooperation with Amadeus IT Group S.A. Company has upgraded its passenger service system to Amadeus Altea. MIAT Mongolian Airline and Cathay Pacific have implemented their new codeshare agreement, and this is providing significant growth opportunities for both airlines.
The company has been renting four new BOEING 737 MAX aircraft under trilateral agreement with the BOEING and AVOLON.
The first group of North Korean workers earning foreign currency for the Kim Jong Un regime in Mongolia has returned home following sanctions brought in response to Pyongyang’s most recent nuclear test, according to sources, who said most of the remaining laborers will have left by early 2018.
North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3 and claimed to have detonated a hydrogen bomb. Later that month, the United Nations’ Security Council adopted resolutions prohibiting any country from accepting North Korean workers in response to the test, and on Dec. 22 passed an additional resolution requiring North Korean workers abroad to return home within two years.
A source in Mongolia told RFA’s Korean Service Wednesday that Mongolian authorities had stopped issuing one-year visa renewals for North Korean workers, who mainly earn foreign currency in construction in the country, and said that a group of them had recently left on a train from the capital Ulaanbaatar.
“North Korean workers got on a Beijing-bound train in Ulaanbaatar not so long ago,” he said, referring to the capital of neighboring China, where the workers will transfer and continue their journey home by rail.
“It seems like the rest of the workers will be pulled out by early next year.”
It was not immediately clear how many North Korean workers had left in the group.
The source, who is familiar with foreign investment in Mongolia and spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity, said that Mongolian authorities had asked the North Korean workers to leave to ensure that Ulaanbaatar was in compliance with the U.N.
“Due to the U.N. resolution, Mongolian construction companies are not able to sign new contracts with North Korean workers,” he said.
“Mongolia is in need of large-scale foreign investment, and it wouldn’t be easy to bring in investors if there are North Korean workers in the country.”
‘Faithful and skillful’
Firms in Mongolia began hiring large numbers of workers from North Korea in 2008 amid a construction boom, and Ulaanbaatar and Pyongyang reached an agreement to send as many as 5,300 North Koreans there over the next five years.
But the number of North Koreans in Mongolia has dropped annually since a high of more than 2,100 in 2013, when the country began dealing with an economic crisis. As of November 2017, nearly 1,200 North Koreans were employed in Mongolia.
Construction firms prefer to hire North Koreans because they work long hours for little money, a source in Mongolia’s construction industry told RFA.
Their North Korean handlers also routinely forbid them from leaving the construction sites, where they sleep and eat, enduring poor living conditions.
“North Korea workers were popular at construction sites because they were faithful and skillful,” said the source, who also asked to remain unnamed.
“[The workers] were hoping they might be allowed to stay in Mongolia up until the last minute before they left.”
According to a U.N. estimate from September, around 100,000 North Koreans working abroad send some U.S. $500 million in earnings to Pyongyang annually.
Most of the workers are stationed in Russia and China, where they regularly work more than 12 hours per day for wages they see as little as 10 percent of, after the Kim regime takes its cut.
Other North Koreans in Mongolia find work in cashmere factories and as acupuncturists or practitioners of Korean traditional medicine....
Research report released on the "Possibility of listing domestic commercial banks on the stock exchange" www.mse.mn
The Financial Stability Council held its regular meeting on 25 December 2017 at the Financial Regulatory Commission (FRC) and discussed the “Overview of Non-bank Financial Sector” and the research report on “Possibility of Listing Domestic Commercial Banks on the Stock Exchange” conducted by an independent research group.
The Council consists of the Governor of Bank of Mongolia, Minister of Finance and Chairman of the FRC. The primary objectives of the Council include safeguarding the financial stability of the markets by determining financial risks and managing them within the current laws and regulations.
Mongolia has some of the harshest winters on earth. Its wildlife has adapted well to temperatures that can plummet below -40C – with cashmere goats, sheep and yak growing their well-renown dense layers of fur.
But for humans, this is a different story: it’s a climate where an extra vitamin boost can be vital to get through the long cold season.
This is Vitafit’s business: the family-owned company produces various fruit juices and dairy products – with success. It has expanded its product range significantly over the last ten years and is the only Mongolian producer able to compete with the global brands dominating the sector.
The EBRD has been a long-time partner supporting Vitafit’s growth. Several loans totalling US$ 16.9 million helped the company to modernise its equipment and build a new warehouse.
This meant that Vitafit could increase its capacity and at the same time offer new, high-quality products to Mongolian consumers.
“The EBRD’s support came at critical stages in our development when our business was ready to expand further,” said Bolorsaikhan Sodnom, Vitafit’s CEO. “The investments helped us not only to remain locally competitive, but they also allowed us to explore new opportunities for our goods on foreign markets.”
Vitafit’s Goy brand, for example, has developed a loyal following, not only in Mongolia, but increasingly across Asia. The seabuckthorn, blackcurrant and cranberry juice are now exported across Japan, South Korea and China.
“We also introduced some new dairy drinks and desserts in Mongolia to offer a more diverse range of products to our local customers,” he added.
This includes a new flavourful milk drink, various fruit yogurts and Pororo sirok, an icy curd with different fillings. The latter dessert has become particularly successful and a favourite among both youngsters and adults.
Strong local links
In the dairy sector, the company also sets new standards in Mongolia when it comes to obtaining raw milk and improving links between producers and suppliers.
Its representatives travel with specialised trucks to collect raw milk from herders, ensuring that the product travels in a sterile environment. They then deliver it to rural collection points for sterilisation.
This helps farmers to be less dependent on traders. It increases the milk quality, as it cuts down on inadequate transportation and reduces collection time for a perishable product, while ensuring at the same time better prices for the farmers.
The EBRD also matched the company with an expert consultant to help it establish a concrete vision for its business, good organisational structure, proper corporate governance and improved human resources and reward system.
“Our investment in Vitafit is a good example of the EBRD’s continued efforts to support diversification of the Mongolian economy, which is one of the main Bank’s strategic objectives in the country,” explained Irina Kravchenko, Head of the EBRD’s Ulaanbaatar office.
“We support a full range of companies and projects to achieve this goal across the country – from wind farms to cashmere producers, electronics and engineering businesses to ice-cream makers.”
In total, the EBRD provides €52.7 million in investments to help develop small and medium-sized enterprises in Mongolia and the EU supports this project with €9.3 million in funding.
The two partners aim to provide these businesses with access to finance and know-how, while building a business environment conducive to investments in this vital market segment.
“This is an example of how the European Union and the EBRD carry out joint activities to support job creation and economic diversification in Mongolia. It is also an example of how we support SMEs in strengthening their corporate governance and Human Resources management. This benefits the company and its employees,” said Marco Ferri, Chargé d’Affaires of the European Union Delegation to Mongolia....
ULAN BATOR, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Mongolian capital city of Ulan Bator on Wednesday saw solid particles in the air reaching dangerous levels, with the most-polluted area registering an amount almost 13 times above the safety level set by the World Health Organization (WTO).
There were "catastrophic pollution" at five locations in Ulan Bator, including the Bayankhoshuu slum district at 898 mg per cubic meter, and the Tolgoit slum district at 513 mg per cubic meter, according to the country's national agency for for meteorology and environment monitoring.
The city is no stranger to severe air pollution during winter in the past two decades, given its unfavorable meteorological conditions for pollutants to dissipate, and the heavy-dependence on coal in the large Ger areas surrounding the metropolitan region.
More than 800,000 residents, over half of Ulan Bator's population, live in Ger districts. Most of them came from provinces to find a job in the capital city of Mongolia.
Tight on money, some of them burn plastics and old tires to stay warm and to cook their meals during the long winter.
Since 2000, the Mongolian government, supported by various international organizations including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, has spent millions of dollars on programs to reduce air pollution.
Canada's Centerra Gold (TSX:CG) issued a media statement where it explains that it had to suspend mill processing operations at its Mount Milligan copper-gold project in central British Columbia due to insufficient water resources. The stoppage is expected to last until the end of January 2018.
In reaction to the news, the miner's shares dropped by more than 10% to $6.5 in mid-morning trading.
Drier than normal conditions from March to August together with a limited amount of spring snowmelt resulted in lower than expected reclaim water volumes at the mine’s tailings storage facility. According to Centerra, the water shortage has been exacerbated by unanticipated extremely cold temperatures during the winter, which has resulted in a greater than expected loss of water volumes in the tailings pond due to ice formation.
Even though Mount Milligan’s staff recently drilled additional wells to draw water from nearby aquifers located within the property, the additional water obtained was not sufficient to offset the loss of water volumes due to difficult winter conditions.
“In addition, as a further, longer-term mitigation measure, the Company is pursuing an amendment to Mount Milligan’s Environmental Assessment (EA) to allow pumping of water from a nearby lake (Phillips Lake) and is applying for the additional related permits. It is expected that by the end of January 2018 there will be adequate fresh water available to restart mill processing operations utilizing just one of the ball mills (38,000 tpd to minimize water requirements). The Company expects that additional fresh water will become available after the spring melt, typically in April, at which time it expects to re-start the second ball mill returning mill processing operations to full capacity,” the press release reads.
The Toronto-based firm said that despite this situation, the mine itself, which has produced approximately 225,000 ounces of payable gold and approximately 54 million pounds of payable copper this year, will continue to expose, mine and stockpile additional ores for future processing.
Resource estimates at Mount Milligan are of 5.8 million ounces of gold and 2.1 billion pounds of copper in proven and probable reserves.
Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/ As of December, 2017, herders sold a total of 20111 kg wool to domestic manufactures and 86465 herders are eligible to receive incentive amounted to MNT 22.4 billion.
Members of herder cooperatives and citizens with livestock receive monetary incentives for wool of sheep and camel, if they supply the raw materials to national factories, according to a Parliamentary resolution of 2011 and Government resolution of 2015.
Regarding this year, herders can get fodder instead of monetary incentives through the Livestock Conservation Fund, addressing to Veterinary and Animal Breeding Departments of aimags, capital city and soums.
On December 27, 2017, 1,018,081 shares of 28 firms listed as Tier I, II, and III were traded. 5 companies’ shares increased in price while those of 21 companies decreased and 2 companies unchanged. Nogoon Khogjil Undesnii Negdel /JLT +14.98%/ and Jinst Uvs /JIV +14.97%/ were the top performers whereas Uvs Chatsargana JSC /CHR/ was the worst performer, decreasing 13.49 percent.
On the secondary market for block trading for shares, 219,330 bonds were traded for the value of MNT410.1 million.
The MSE ALL Index decreased by 1.09 percent to reach 1,106.70 points. The MSE market cap stands at MNT2,359,141,729,240.