October 29, 2014 / 8:36 PM / 5 years ago

'Messed up' Argentina a great buying opportunity: Morgan Creek's Yusko

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Argentina’s ongoing debt worries and soaring inflation might be scaring some investors away, but those very factors make the South American country appealing, Mark Yusko, head of the $4 billion Morgan Creek Capital Management, said on Wednesday.

“It’s so messed up,” he said, speaking at a Reuters summit. “I love messed up.”

Argentina has recently made headlines for a debt default and its worrisome economy, not for being an investor darling.

The country defaulted in July after refusing to honor court orders to pay $1.33 billion plus interest to U.S. hedge funds suing for full payment on bonds following its earlier 2002 default.

Because of that controversy, he said, Argentinian bonds are “one of the best investments on the planet right now.”

Inflation has also been a nagging worry in Argentina, surging toward an estimated 40 percent this year. A black market for scarce dollars has thrived.

But those are the very factors that draw Yusko to Argentina, he said. Unlike some countries with steadier economies, he said, upside remains for the country.

“It’s just stupid cheap,” he said, adding that Morgan Creek has exposure to Argentina through energy company YPF (YPFD.BA), Banco Macro and Pampa Energia PAM.BA.

Under President Cristina Fernandez, who was first elected in 2007, protectionist trade policies, currency controls and heavy regulation of the country’s grains sector have helped put Argentina at odds with international markets.

But Fernandez is barred from serving another consecutive term - and whoever succeeds her “is going to be better than her,” Yusko said.

Morgan Creek also scooped up the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (EWZ.P) on Monday, as shares in Brazil plunged on the Sunday re-election of leftist Dilma Rousseff, who has fueled investor worries about state intervention.

"We bought the open on Monday after the Dilma dump," he said, when Brazil's benchmark Bovespa stock index .BVSP sank almost 3 percent.

Brazilian oil company Petrobras (PETR4.SA) also faces ongoing worries as slipping oil prices eat away at potential profits in tapping offshore subsalt oil reservoirs, which will be expensive to develop because of their difficult location.

In contrast, he said, Mexico’s energy sector now holds more potential.

President Enrique Pena Nieto signed an energy overhaul into law in August, an effort to stem a decade-long slide in crude oil production and replicate the success of earlier sector openings in Colombia and Brazil.

It’s a “huge opportunity if Nieto gets this right,” Yusko added.

Reporting by Luciana Lopez, Sam Forgione and Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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