Panama

In-depth country-focused analysis on Panama's economic, political and operational risk environment, complemented by detailed sector insight

Panama

Our comprehensive assessment of Panama's operating environment and the outlook for its leading sectors are formed by bringing together a wealth of data on global markets that affect Panama, as well as the latest industry developments that could impact Panama's industries. This unique integrated approach has given us an impeccable track-record for predicting important shifts in the markets, ensuring you’re aware of the latest market opportunities and risks in Panama before your competitors.

Country Risk

Panama Country Risk

Panama Country Risk

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External Tailwinds Supporting Regional Underperformers

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Central American outperformers Costa Rica and Panama are facing a more challenging road ahead in the coming years. As real GDP growth slows in Panama on the back of the end of canal construction, establishing fiscal discipline will be crucial. Should the country fail to rein in spending in an environment of lower growth, this would likely cool investor enthusiasm toward the country. Similarly, Costa Rica is also facing a challenging fiscal outlook - a situation which is only exacerbated by the fragmented political environment.

In contrast, our outlook for most of Central America's underperformers is brightening. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador will benefit from stronger US demand for their manufactured goods, rising remittance inflows and lower oil prices in the quarters...

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Panama Industry Coverage (10)

Agribusiness

Panama Agribusiness

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BMI View: Coffee production in the Central America region will remain at risk over the next few years as the nature of subsistence farming will limit investment into safeguards against diseases such as coffee rust (roya). Countries in Central America are generally dependent on corn imports and we expect the corn production deficit to widen over our forecast period. Strength in the US dollar over this time frame will hurt the capital accounts of the region's countries. We have turned more negative on our short-term outlook regarding the regional sugar industry as a result of low international prices, but expect Central America to remain self-sufficient in sugar and even increase its potential for sugar exports out the long term. In this time frame, the sugar industry has strong potential to attract investment.

Honduras Agribusiness To Outperform
Select Countries -...

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Autos

Panama Autos

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BMI View: The outlook for the autos industry in the Central Americas region in 2015 is modest, with tepid sales growth expected in some markets, but contractions likely in others. This is broadly in line with our outlook for the Latin America region, although many markets in Central America are very small in volume terms, and modest changes in sales figures could have a relatively large impact on the year-on-year growth rate.

Income distribution across much of the region is highly unequal, and the majority of headline spending growth comes from the relatively wealthy sections of the population. This income structure is likely to continue to restrict growth in the regional autos sector.

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Freight Transport

Panama Freight Transport

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BMI View: In 2015, the annual outperformer in terms of growth prospects is expected to be road freight (5.53%), forging ahead of both air and road freight (2.34% and 2.75% respectively). Road will also continue to significantly outperform the other modes in terms of total tonnage handled.

The country's robust financial account surpluses, bolstered by strong foreign investment into infrastructure projects, will ensure balance of payments stability in the coming years. Rising domestic demand, stemming from a stronger US dollar, and a greater need for construction materials are set to boost import growth, which we anticipate growing by 0.61% in 2015, following contractions over the past three years. This will only grow over our forecast period, while exports will also return to positive growth in 2015.

With the road freight...

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Panama Freight Transport

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Oil Prices Boost Regional Freight Prospects

Since our last quarterly report it is clear that as 2015 began, international oil prices slumped more sharply than most analysts had been expecting. It is also evident that they will remain lower than at first projected for 2015 as a whole. This is good news for the Central American freight transport sector in various ways. First, it helps strengthen the US recovery, which boosts US demand for Central American exports, as well as increasing remittance payments sent back home by Central American migrant workers. Second, it creates a windfall saving on import costs which raises consumer spending and may find its way into increased freight demand. And third, because fuel costs are a significant item for freight companies, it improves operating margins for the industry.

That said, the freight industry improvement will be relatively limited. Higher demand...

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Infrastructure

Panama Infrastructure

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BMI View: We currently forecast an average of 2.3% real growth in Central America's construction industry value for 2015, which is considerably higher than our regional average estimate for 2014 at 0.4%. We expect Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua's construction industries to return to positive growth in 2015 while Panama's will contract, as the completion of the Canal expansion nears its end.

We see high risks, small scale and limited growth opportunities across the region as a whole. A crucial factor underpinning our forecasts for infrastructure investments in future years is political and security risk. This is a particular concern in El Salvador, Honduras, and...

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Insurance

Panama Insurance

Mining

Panama Mining

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BMI View: Mining sectors across Central America and the Caribbean will see varying growth prospects in 2019. The region has significant untapped mineral potential, yet a range of business environments and operational challenges will lead to uneven growth. Overall, the mining sectors of Colombia and Panama will see the strongest longer-term growth, while Guatemala, and to a lesser extent Honduras, will underperform.

Colombia and Panama will outperform other countries in Central America and the Caribbean in terms...

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Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare

Panama Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare

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BMI View: Favourable tax incentives, continued demand for both generic and patented medicines, and regional anti-counterfiet measures solidify Central America's revenue generating opportunities for multinational pharmaceutical companies in coming years. Despite political instability in some areas of the region, Central America's medicine consumption will continue to grow in 2015.

Headline Expenditure Projections

  • Pharmaceuticals: USD3.7bn in 2014 to USD3.9bn in 2015; +4.1%. Our forecast has been maintained since Q215.

  • Healthcare: USD16.8bn in 2014 to USD17.8bn in 2015; +5.1%. Our...

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Telecommunications

Panama Telecommunications

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BMI View: Number portability, with four out of eight countries having implemented or in the process of implementing a form of number porting, should encourage an increase in competition, but the progress will depend on the commitment of the individual countries. Mobile forecasts show much slower growth across the board, with only Nicaragua offering any real growth potential. Increasing government interference, as is the case of Guatemala, is a worrying new development. Data-driven 3G/4G services will offer real growth potential as all the large operators are investing heavily into new infrastructure.

Key Data

  • Number porting in Panama increased 37.4% in 2014, highlighting that the population is increasingly more willing to take advantage of better available deals as they switch operators.

  • ...

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Water

Panama Water

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BMI View: The Panamanian government is dedicated to improving the quality of its hydrological resources and its water supply and sanitation services, as well as promoting wider access to services. The country continues to prioritise and incentivise private investment at national and international levels. We believe these conditions present attractive potential opportunities for investment, although these are often hindered by a messy bureaucracy and rampant corruption.

Risks to the sector remain in the form of the widespread conflict with indigenous groups who resent the creation of large modern water infrastructure developments, which can appropriate what they perceive as 'their' water resources. Events such as the March 2014 protest by Silvia Carrera - leader of Panama's indigenous Ngobe-Bugle - who appealed to the Supreme...

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Latest Panama Articles

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