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Cinkciarz's Lipka warns of ‘Venezuela-style' drop in Argentina

See video: 'Killing the Golden Goose' is Something Argentina is Good At: Core Energy's Williams

- Marcin Lipka ranked first among peers six times since mid-2018
- Best Emerging-Market FX Forecaster Stays Focused on Dollar

Adrian Krajewski and Sydney Maki / Bloomberg

Petroleumworld 10 25 2019

The most accurate currency forecaster in emerging markets doesn't need a big hit of caffeine to beat the competition.

“I live in a slightly different time zone,” Marcin Lipka, 36, said during an interview in the 26th-floor office of Cinkciarz (“CHINK-chyash”), a Warsaw-based foreign-exchange brokerage. “I don't do coffee, sugar or any sweets. It's practically only green tea or water plus work.”

Now Lipka, who ranked first among Latin American and EMEA peers in the third quarter, has a worrisome new call: Amid widespread expectations Argentina will vote to oust market-friendly President Mauricio Macri in favor of challenger Alberto Fernandez, its peso could slide another 50% to more than 100 pesos per dollar.

“Depreciation in Argentina can be spectacular, almost Venezuela-style,” said Lipka, a graduate of Warsaw University who correctly called the peso's collapse prior to Fernandez's stunning presidential primary upset in August.

He likens the situation in Argentina to that of Poland's hyperinflation and economic malaise after the fall of communism, when the sole remedy was an overhaul of what is now eastern Europe's largest economy. Argentina, saddled with decades of populist rule and an over-reliance on agricultural exports, needs “a snap-back to reality, back to reforms hailed by Macri in 2015 but this time decisively.”

Argentina's unofficial peso exchange rate, known as the blue chip rate, fell to its weakest in seven years of record-keeping on Wednesday. Elsewhere, Lipka is betting on a stable dollar in the next several quarters and says most EMEA currencies will remain relatively steady.

Lipka lives an ascetic lifestyle: He studies for his CFA exam from 4 a.m. until 8 a.m., and pencils in private time with his wife and six-year-old twin daughters before going to bed about 9 p.m. He joined Cinkciarz three years after its founding a decade ago, migrating with it to the firm's current digs from a smaller office toward the bottom of the skyscraper.

These days, Cinkciarz's 17 billion zloty ($4.4 billion) of annual revenue place it among Poland's biggest private companies. The name is even harder to translate than to pronounce: It's a cheeky reference to the term for illegal money changers under communist rule.

Cinkciarz made a name for itself by facilitating online currency transactions for Poles paying off loans in foreign currencies, sending money home from working abroad or securing travel cash. It also lined up sponsorships with the likes of the NBA's Chicago Bulls, a fan favorite in Poland since its games were aired on public television at the height of Michael Jordan's fame in the 1990s.

The Bulls deal was savvy marketing -- the 2015 deal coincided with the opening of Cinkciarz's first office in the U.S., in Chicago, home to one of America's biggest Polish populations. At the signing ceremony, team mascot Benny the Bull ended up in a clinch with no less a personage than Lech Walesa, the legendary Solidarity leader, Nobel winner and former Polish president.

Story by Adrian Krajewski and Sydney Maki from Bloomberg. / 10 24 2019


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