Stagnant growth, pervasive unemployment and a maligned currency do not exactly make for a cheery holiday season in any country. But after years of grueling recession, Uruguay and Argentina have seen much worse, to say the least, and two deals that closed directly before Christmas hold the promise for some uplift in 2003.

In Uruguay's tiny capital market, Banco ACAC, part of the French banking group Credit Agricole, pulled together a novel deal designed to alleviate financing pressure on beleaguered milk producers. With local firm Ferrere Lamaison providing legal counsel, the transaction was sized at US$26 million, hefty by local standards. Drawn to an 11% yield, domestic pension funds and other local institutional investors bought in. The transaction closed Dec. 20.

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