German Chancellor Angela Merkel and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde met in Berlin yesterday as pressure grows to complete a Greek debt swap needed to put a rescue plan in place.
The deal, hammered out by European Union leaders, Greek officials and the nation's creditors on October 26, called for bondholders to accept a 50 per cent cut in the face value of their Greek debt, with a goal of reducing Greece's borrowings to 120 per cent of gross domestic product by 2020.
More than two months after the accord was announced, creditors and authorities still need to agree on the coupon and maturity of the new bonds to determine the total losses investors would suffer. The IMF has sought a lower coupon than the range offered by investors to ensure Greece meets the deficit targets amid a worsening economic outlook.
Failure to complete the voluntary swap threatens to further undermine confidence in the EU's crisis leadership and deter investors from Asia and the US from buying Europe's debt.
"All non-European investors except a few bargain hunters will keep clear of investing in the euro area," said Espen Furnes, an Oslo-based fund manager at Storebrand Asset Management, which oversees $72 billion (Dh264.40 billion).
Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday that the October European summit decisions on Greece have to be implemented.
"The voluntary restructuring of Greece's debt must be moved forward," Merkel told reporters after hosting Sarkozy for talks in Berlin. "In our view, the second Greek programme, including the debt restructuring, has to be carried out quickly now because otherwise it won't be possible to pay out the next tranche for Greece," she said.
Meeting with Sarkozy
Sarkozy will meet Lagarde, the former French finance minister, today in Paris, his office said in a statement yesterday.
Citigroup chief economist Willem Buiter meanwhile said investors should brace for the prospect that bondholder losses could spread to other rescued nations.
In Ireland, "there clearly will be a need for either some form of official concessions on the terms and conditions of its financing" or other private-sector involvement in a debt restructuring, Buiter told reporters in Dublin yesterday. Portugal may also have to engage in a restructuring of its sovereign debt, he said.
European Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj however told reporters in Brussels yesterday that there's no point in speculating about a second aid programme for Ireland when the first one is "delivering".
The net present value loss faced by participants in a Greek debt swap may "of course" exceed 50 per cent, said Frank Vogl, a spokesman for the Institute of International Finance, in an e- mailed statement. The IIF represents more than 450 global financial institutions, and its managing director, Charles Dallara, is co-chairman of the creditors' steering committee taking part in discussions on the swap.
EU official allays fears
EU officials have emphasised that Greece's circumstances are unique and don't presage bondholder losses in other nations that seek assistance. The swap proposed to investors would slice €100 billion (Dh467.35 billion) from the €205 billion of privately owned Greek debt. The new bonds will be backed by €30 billion of incentives, in the form of high-quality collateral issued by the euro area's rescue fund.
After two years of wage cuts and tax increases, the IMF estimates Greece's 2011 deficit at about 9 per cent of GDP, compared with 10.6 per cent in 2010. The economy probably shrank about 6 per cent last year, according to the latest IMF estimates. Further delays in completing and implementing the debt swap and rescue plan may have greater consequences for the rest of the Eurozone than Greece itself.