CARACAS (Reuters) – Rum distiller Ron Santa Teresa has launched Venezuela’s first public share offering in 11 years, citing rare optimism that the socialist-ruled nation may see an economic transition similar to China and the Soviet Union.
One of Venezuela’s best-known brands, Santa Teresa, which exports via an alliance with Bermuda-based Bacardi Ltd., sold an initial 1 million shares on Friday. It was the firm’s first in a series of offers of bolivar-denominated shares hoped to raise the equivalent of a modest $3 million this year.
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Company president Alberto Vollmer compared the sale, the first public share offering since 2008 on the diminished Caracas bourse, to the re-opening of the Shanghai Stock Exchange 30 years ago that helped revive China’s economy.
Another Venezuelan company, real estate developer Fondo de Valores Inmobiliarios (FIV), also plans a share issue this year, according to its president, Horacio Velutini.
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The two men belong to an informal group known as “Optimists Anonymous” made up of 39 corporate leaders, bankers and investors who think businesses will become profitable again as President Nicolas Maduro will not be able to reverse his opening of the ailing economy.
Last year, the government unexpectedly relaxed 15 years of stringent economic regulations, abandoning enforcement of price controls and allowing dollar transactions in the face of runaway inflation and U.S. sanctions.
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The Santa Teresa and FIV bosses’ views contrast with the rest of the business establishment, the political opposition, and U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration – all of whom maintain the economy cannot fully recover with Maduro in power.
“When we sit down with authorities, or businesses, or trade unions, we tell them that Venezuela’s economic recovery will involve (share offerings),” Vollmer told Reuters.
“We’re taking the first step, let’s see who follows.”
Vollmer led a ceremony at a Caracas roof bar on Friday, where attendants toasted with glasses of rum,...
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