Minister Won’t Attend Argentine Debt Talks

Jul 11 2014 | 7:20am ET

Argentina’s economy minister will not participate in today’s meeting with a court-appointed mediator amidst a report that the country will offer to pay hedge-fund holdouts from its 2001 default in full.

Axel Kicillof has been to the U.S. three times in recent weeks, including for Argentina’s first meeting with special master Daniel Pollack on Monday. But today’s negotiations will be handled by “the juridical and financial team of the economy minister and other areas of the government,” cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich said. He did not say why Kicillof would not attend, but noted that his absence has been agreed to by Pollack.

It is unclear whether Argentina will make an offer to the hedge funds—which will not participate—today. An Argentina online news service this week reported that Kicillof was prepared to give the holdouts, led by Elliott Management and Aurelius Capital Management, 100% of the face value of their defaulted debt in bonds maturing in 2024 and 2028. Argentina’s government had no comment on the report.

A federal judge has barred Argentina from making payments on its restructured debt without also paying the holdouts $1.5 billion. The country missed a debt payment on June 30 and has until July 30 to make it, or it will default for the second time in 13 years.

At Monday’s meeting, Kicillof told Pollack that Argentina needs U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa to suspend his ruling preventing the $539 million bond payment from being made.

The turmoil for Argentina has come during its national soccer team’s run to the World Cup finals in neighboring Brazil. Lest anyone think that the team’s success in the tournament has distracted its citizens’ attention from the debt crisis, fans offered a profanity-laced serenade to the “vulture funds” who have put their country on the brink of default.

“Stop messing around and agree to the swap,” fans in Rosario sang in one of the song’s tamer verses, after Argentina defeated the Netherlands to earn its final berth. Rosario is the hometown of Argentina’s best player, Lionel Messi.

Argentina will play Germany on Sunday for the World Cup.

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