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Venezuelan rum maker offers shares in hope of China-style transition

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A bottle of rum is seen during Santa Teresa rum house public share offering in Caracas, Venezuela January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

CARACAS (Reuters) – Rum distiller Ron Santa Teresa RST.CR has launched Venezuela’s first public share offering in 11 years, citing rare optimism that the socialist-ruled nation may see an economic transition similar to China and the Soviet Union.

One of Venezuela’s best-known brands, Santa Teresa, which exports via an alliance with Bermuda-based Bacardi Ltd., sold an initial 1 million shares on Friday. It was the firm’s first in a series of offers of bolivar-denominated shares hoped to raise the equivalent of a modest $3 million this year.

Company president Alberto Vollmer compared the sale, the first public share offering since 2008 on the diminished Caracas bourse, to the re-opening of the Shanghai Stock Exchange 30 years ago that helped revive China’s economy.

Another Venezuelan company, real estate developer Fondo de Valores Inmobiliarios FVIb.CR (FIV), also plans a share issue this year, according to its president, Horacio Velutini.

The two men belong to an informal group known as “Optimists Anonymous” made up of 39 corporate leaders, bankers and investors who think businesses will become profitable again as President Nicolas Maduro will not be able to reverse his opening of the ailing economy.

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