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Venezuelan Currency Madness Valued Local Bank More Than Apple

What does it take to surpass Apple Inc. as the world’s most valuable traded company? One way is to be listed in Venezuela, with its massively overvalued currency.

Venezuelan stocks are ascending the ranks of the most valuable companies on Earth, with lender Mercantil Servicios Financieros CA briefly topping Apple’s market capitalization last week, and now back in the No.2 spot. Five other top-20 companies are also Venezuelan, a mirage caused by currency controls combined with the world’s fastest inflation.

Most of the lender’s theoretical $775 billion market capitalization evaporates if you stop using the official exchange rate of 10 bolivars to the dollar. The value would be 0.1 percent of that at the black-market rate that most Venezuelans have to use if they want hard currency.

“It’s madness,” said Asdrubal Oliveros, the director of Caracas-based economic consultancy Ecoanalitica. “That’s Venezuela’s problem, there’s a strong distortion of prices where there’s no single exchange rate.”

At the stronger rate, the stock market appears to be valued at $3.7 trillion, more than Germany’s, and on its current trajectory will be worth more than the U.S. market in less than a year. Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Venezuelan economy is set to continue its deep slump.

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