As any seasoned investor will tell you, there are many risks in investing—volatility risk, business risk, default risk, longevity risk, and inflation risk, to name a few. This week I was reminded of another kind of risk. I call it HC risk. While reading the newswires on the Bloomberg service, I noticed the following headline: “Crystallex Plunges on Cancelled Venezuela Gold Accord.”
What is HC risk? The headline probably tipped you off, but if it didn’t, HC risk is Hugo Chavez risk. Yes, Hugo deserves his own type of risk. Apparently, Hugo decided to cancel a contract with Crystallex to develop a gold deposit in Venezuela. Why, you may ask, did Hugo decide to cancel the company’s contract? A lack of progress was cited. Crystallex said it was waiting for a permit to begin construction at the site. Yes, presumably a permit from the Venezuelan government.
You are probably thinking that anybody who buys Venezuelan stocks must know the risks. That’s true—or at least it should be—but Crystallex is a Canadian firm, admittedly a speculative firm, but a Canadian firm nonetheless. Why would a Canadian firm do business in Venezuela? Good question, but Crystallex isn’t alone.
According to Bloomberg, there are eight publicly traded non-Venezuelan-domiciled firms that hold a meaningful portion of their assets in Venezuela. Four are Canadian (three of which are gold miners like Crystallex), two are from Mexico, and there is one each from the U.S. and Argentina. The table below lists each company and the percentage of its total assets held in Venezuela. This is by no means an exhaustive list of companies that do business in Venezuela, but it is a start. If you own a meaningful position in any of these stocks, you might consider a replacement. These firms are operating at the pleasure of Mr. Chavez. If he decides to nationalize one of these firm’s assets, its share price will plunge.
|Name||Country of Domicle||% of Assets in Venezuela|
|RUSORO MINING LT||CANADA||100.0|
|HARVEST NATURAL||UNITED STATES||67.6|
Jeremy Jones, CFA
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