Court-appointed mediator for the Argentina debt default case
New York - AFP
The new Argentine government reopens talks with bondholders in New York Wednesday that for years have blocked the struggling country's access to global capital markets.
The previous administration of Cristina Kirchner had refused to compromise with the creditors, mainly hedge funds it branded "vultures," after a US court ordered the country to pay the full value of bonds that Buenos Aires defaulted on some 15 years ago.
Talks between representatives of the new government of President Mauricio Macri, who has pledged to reform and revitalize the Argentine economy, and the bondholders were planned for Wednesday afternoon in Manhattan, under the guide of the court-appointed mediator Daniel Pollack.
On Tuesday, Macri said he hoped for a "reasonable agreement" with the creditors, who have demanded 100 percent payment of their bonds even though most of the creditors in the country's $100 billion default in 2001 accepted sharp losses in a negotiated debt restructuring.
"We will tell the mediator that there has been a change, another vision for our debts and how to stop being a defaulter and to resolve the pending issues," Macri said.
The leaders of the so-called "holdout" group, the hedge funds NML Capital and Aurelius Capital Management, bought up Argentine debt cheaply around the time of the default and over the next decade refused to join 93 percent of bondholders in restructuring the debt.
To the dismay of the country and its restructured bondholders, NML and Aurelius won a New York court judgment in 2012 that ordered Argentina to repay the full value of their bonds.
That decision roiled the sovereign bond world, where holdouts to post-default restructurings were assumed to not have valid claims for repayment.
The court said, moreover, that Buenos Aires could not make payments on the restructured bonds without first paying off in full the two hedge funds. And it forbade banks from handling any other bond payments before the hedge funds were paid.
Kirchner's government refused, and talks on an ostensible compromise under Pollack went nowhere.
The two hedge funds hold about $1.3 billion worth of bonds, whose accrued value is now about $1.7 billion.
Last October, the New York court further ruled that 49 other holdouts were covered by the 2012 ruling and also had to be paid first, adding another $6.1 billion to the sum Argentina is ordered to pay. Pollack has said the total amount owed to holdouts is around $10 billion.
With foreign reserves believed at less than $30 billion, Kirchner's government said it could not afford to pay, and Macri's government will face the same challenge.
Macri's government has launched into a program of difficult structural reforms for the economy that includes a more than 30 percent devaluation of the peso.
He has indicated he wants to resolve the problem with the bond holdouts quickly, as it impedes the country's access to global capital markets.
Within days of assuming office on December 10, he sent representatives to let Pollack know the country was ready to negotiate in earnest.