Venezuela is forcing companies to pay an average 61 percent more for dollars in government auctions compared with a year ago, according to estimates by Barclays Plc. The sales are the only way most of them can get their hands on scarce foreign currency to purchase goods from abroad without access to the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar.
The South American nation is seeking to ease a chronic dollar shortage caused by years of increasing government control over the foreign-exchange market and economy. At the same time, President Nicolas Maduro may be reluctant to pursue a devaluation of the official rate out of concern it would add to the world’s highest inflation rate and deepen shortages that sparked deadly protests earlier in the year.
“They’re not jumping up and down and putting ads in the paper that they’ve devalued the currency, but that’s what they’re effectively doing,” Jim Craige, who oversees $50 billion of emerging-market assets as a money manager at Stone Harbor Investment Partners LP, said by phone from New York on Oct. 6. “The 6.3 rate isn’t anywhere close to reality.”