Argentina Poised To Pay In Full—In Bonds

Jul 10 2014 | 6:20am ET

Argentina may be prepared to pay hedge-fund holdouts from its 2001 default in full to avoid another default at the end of the month.

The country, which began negotiating with a court-appointed mediator this week, is set to offer Elliott Management and other holdouts new bonds worth the full amount of their defaulted debt, local online news service Infobae reports, citing people familiar with the matter. Argentine Economy Minister Axel Kicillof is set to meet with the mediator, Daniel Pollack, again tomorrow; it is unclear if he will make his offer then.

Argentina faces a July 30 deadline to avoid its second default in 13 years, after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling that bars the country from making payments on its restructured debt without also paying the remaining holders of its defaulted debt. The country, which has long said it would never pay the holdouts, which it calls “vulture funds,” missed a $539 million payment on its new bonds on June 30.

Since the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear its appeal, Argentina has pledged to pay “100%” of its creditors, rather than just the 93% who accepted the restructured debt—and with it a 70% haircut. But it has said it will not negotiate with the holdouts, led by Elliott and Aurelius Capital Management, without “fair” conditions—which apparently require a court order allowing it to pay the restructured debt while in talks.

Under the proposal reported by Infobae, Argentina will offer the hedge-fund holdouts bonds due in 2024 and 2028 in exchange for its defaulted debt, paying the full amount ordered by U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa, about $1.5 billion. The 2024 bonds are the same Argentina used to pay Spanish oil company Repsol in compensation for the seizure of its Argentine oil business in 2012, another of the steps the country took to normalize its status in the global financial markets.

It is unclear whether the hedge funds will accept the bond offer. In an opinion piece published Monday by the Financial Times, Elliott’s Jay Newman said the firm was ready to negotiate and would accept new bonds as “part” of a settlement.

It is also unclear how Kicillof’s plan will avoid triggering the Rights Upon Future Offers clause in the existing restructured debt, barring Argentina from voluntarily making a better deal with the holdouts. The minister has reportedly asked Pollack to push Griesa for an order stating that any Argentina payment to the hedge funds is made involuntarily.

Still, given Argentina’s refusal to sit down with them, the holdouts are skeptical.

“We are taking this with a grain of salt,” a representative of one holdout told IFR. “This happens a lot: They float things out in the press and see how it goes down.”

“Given how hard we have pushed for face-to-face negotiations, and given how much Argentina wants to claim some sort of victory and do it all on their terms, it may be that we never really get in a room with Argentina. Maybe that is the way they claim victory—by never telling us what they’re going to do and just doing it.”

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