Latin America: MBA looks to graduate with regional honours
The Argentine local investment bank says it wants to become the region’s number one. It’s a bold aspiration for a firm in a country still recovering from crisis. Lawrence White visits Buenos Aires to find out how the bank plans to do it.
IT’S A SCORCHING February afternoon in Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo, and even the protesters seem exhausted. Evita and the Peronists once gathered here; the place has seen bombings, riots and countless rallies, but today’s demonstration against unemployment is tempered by the oppressive heat. It has been five years since Argentina defaulted. Although today’s weary flag-wavers and drum-beaters are correct in proclaiming that poverty is still rife, it is also true that president Néstor Kirchner has just overseen four consecutive years of 8%-plus growth. The debt to the IMF has been repaid, and as Argentina renegotiates its relationship with the international capital markets there are signs that its domestic markets are awakening from their own torpor. In the huge open-plan office at the heart of MBA Inversiones, an Argentine investment bank partnered with Lazard, teams of bankers loosen their ties and work the phones furiously: ignore the heat, there’s money to be made.
"Our aim is to be the best investment bank in south and central America," says Santiago Alsina, the bank’s director of corporate finance. Brazil is excluded from this ambition: Lazard operates on its own there, and, Alsina says, it is a "tough market, the tax structure’s a nightmare and it’s hard to get results.