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Argentina downgraded after debt extension; BTG approves share conversion

* Argentina's government unilaterally extended its repayment of short-term, U.S. dollar-denominated treasury bills known as Letes, prompting downgrades from rating agencies. S&P Global Ratings downgraded Argentina's foreign currency sovereign credit ratings to selective default, while Fitch Ratings lowered the sovereign's foreign currency issuer default ratings to RD, or restricted default. S&P warned that uncertainty remains about Argentina's broader debt management strategy under a new government, particularly for peso-denominated obligations due for payment over the next few weeks.

* Banco BTG Pactual SA said shareholders approved the conversion of 100,000,000 class B shares into as many class A shares at the request of a shareholder whose name was not specified, Reuters reported. The investment bank's founder and former CEO, André Esteves, recently received Brazilian central bank approval to rejoin BTG's controlling group. Class A shares do not carry voting rights, but have priority in capital repayment.

MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA

* London-based Willis Towers Watson PLC said it has agreed to acquire Grupo Unity, an insurance broker operating in Central America, El Economista reported. Grupo Unity was founded in 1991 and is headquartered in Panama.

CARIBBEAN

* Sagicor Finance (2015) Ltd. said it launched a cash tender offer to repurchase any or all of its outstanding 8.875% senior notes due 2022. The company will pay 101% of the principal amount, plus any accrued and unpaid interest, in the repurchase offer, which expires Jan. 22, 2020.

* Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel appointed Manuel Marrero Cruz as the country's first prime minister since 1976, Reuters reported. Marrero Cruz has been serving as tourism minister for the past 15 years.

* Jamaica's central bank held its policy interest rate at 0.50%, saying that monetary conditions are generally appropriate to support inflation remaining within the 4.0% to 6.0% target range over the coming eight quarters. Annual inflation in the country increased to 4.6% in November from 4.1% a year earlier.

BRAZIL

* Banco Santander (Brasil) SA said it will pay 1.6 billion reais to acquire the remaining 40% stake in Banco Olé Bonsucesso Consignado SA it does not already own. Santander Brasil signed a binding agreement to purchase the stake, subject to the formalization of the definitive documents and other conditions, including regulatory approvals.

* The Brazilian government plans to raise 150 billion reais through privatizations and the sale of shares in companies in 2020, UOL reported, citing privatization and divestment secretary Salim Mattar. The number of companies in which the government has a stake is expected to fall to 327 from 627, Mattar said.

ANDEAN

* The Bolivian government said it has joined the Lima Group, a bloc of mostly Latin American nations that was established in 2017 to find a solution to the Venezuelan crisis, Reuters reported. Evo Morales, Bolivia's former president and an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, had kept Bolivia out of the bloc. Former senator Jeanine Añez has bene serving as Bolivia's interim leader since Morales resigned in November.

* Colombia's central bank held its benchmark interest rate steady at 4.25%, saying that annual inflation fell slightly in November and is expected to resume its convergence to the target in early 2020.

* Colombia's Congress passed a tax reform package that includes a reduction in the corporate tax rate of 1 percentage point per year to place it at 30% by 2022 from 33% currently, the Financial Times reported.

* Colombia's Banco W SA has received regulatory approval to acquire local financial services provider Financiera Pagos Internacionales SA Compañía de Financiamiento, La República reported. The deal was announced in April.

SOUTHERN CONE

* The Argentine Senate gave final legislative approval to an emergency economic reform bill the government is counting on to reignite growth and bring inflation under control, Reuters reported. Just hours after the approval, new cabinet chief Santiago Cafiero announced a range of "public spending adjustments," including a measure to streamline the number of government advisers. Argentina has also established an "external debt sustainability management unit" to start debt negotiations with creditors, the newswire reported separately, citing the secretary of finance.

* Paraguay's central bank left its monetary policy interest rate unchanged at 4.0%, saying that some of the main sources of uncertainty surrounding global growth prospects have been mitigated. The decision follows four straight months of growth in domestic economic activity.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

* Middle East & Africa: South Africa sanctions 5 banks; Letshego sees higher profit; S&P affirms Lebanon

Pablo Jiménez Arandia contributed to this article.

This S&P Global Market Intelligence news article may contain information about credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings. Descriptions in this news article were not prepared by S&P Global Ratings.

The Daily Dose has an editorial deadline of 8 a.m. São Paulo time, and scans news sources published in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Some external links may require a subscription. Links are current as of publication time, and we are not responsible if those links are unavailable later.