Argentina holdouts saga

Who will jump first in Argentina’s game of chicken with its holdout creditors as they race towards the abyss of sovereign debt default? Or will both drive off the edge?

Although just a few days remain until Argentina’s July 30 deadline to make bond interest payments – a failure to do so would result in default – it is still possible that one of the two parties will make a last-minute concession that would allow a deal to be made. Indeed, if a compromise is made, it is most likely to come at the eleventh hour. Continue reading »

As Argentina comes to terms with its 1-0 defeat by Germany, it is already half time in a critical showdown with so-called “holdout” creditors.

Two weeks have elapsed since Argentina entered a month-long grace period after failing to make interest payments to bondholders on June 30, and two weeks remain until it will default for a second time in a dozen years if those payments have still not been made by July 30. Yet talks with the holdouts appear to have made precious little progress so far. Continue reading »

It hasn’t been a good few days for Argentina’s government. First, a New York court ruled to block payments on its restructured debt, leaving the country teetering on the brink of its second default in 13 years. Then, in another judicial blow – this time from Buenos Aires – vice president Amado Boudou was formally charged in a corruption scandal.

Boudou heard about the decision late on Friday evening when in Cuba. The charge is the culmination of an investigation into Ciccone, a printing company rescued from bankruptcy and awarded a government contract to produce pesos. The vice president, charged alongside five other defendants, is accused of using middlemen to gain a 70 per cent stake in return for favours. Continue reading »

The most casual followers of the Argentine debt saga will be familiar with the Latin term pari passu, or “equal footing” – or, in this case, equal payment to all holders of Argentine bonds, whether or not those holders took part in the country’s two restructuring programmes in 2005 and 2010 following its 2001 default.

Now Russ Dallen of Caracas Capital Markets, a veteran commentator on and broker in Latin America’s most exotic bond markets, has introduced another smattering of Latin to the story: pacta sunt servanda, or “contracts are for keeping”. Continue reading »

Imagine an Argentina without holdouts – “it isn’t hard to do”, as John Lennon might sing. Investors are already doing so. The Buenos Aires stock market has soared 9 per cent since Cristina Fernández said last week that her country would negotiate with the holdouts, led by NML Capital. Argentine bonds have also rallied. Meanwhile, the economy has slipped into recession, partly because a shortage of foreign exchange has compressed imports.

Yet if the holdout issue was resolved, credit markets would re-open, foreign investment might soar, and currency shortages would no longer be a binding problem. Just imagine! Then the real economy would grow again, too. Continue reading »

By José Antonio Ocampo of Columbia University

The US Supreme Court decision not to review the prior findings of New York courts on Argentina’s dispute with non-participants in the 2005 and 2010 debt renegotiations (the so-called holdouts) has major implications for Argentina and for those who did take part in the renegotiations. But beyond that it has a paradoxical effect: it makes the negotiation of an international bankruptcy regime inevitable. Continue reading »

Tuesday’s event in Argentina’s fast-unfolding debt saga will be a press conference by Axel Kicillof (pictured), economy minister, at 6 pm local time in Buenos Aires. Perhaps he will add something of substance to the curiously ambiguous TV address on Monday night by Cristina Fernández, the country’s president.

Fernández pulled no punches in attacking the ‘vulture funds’ who were the winners from Monday’s ruling by the US Supreme Court. But she also left the door open for negotiation. As is often the way, the president took free rein to present herself as a promoter of a new world order, in defiance of US and UK hegemony, while the reality is a little different. Continue reading »

Cristina Fernández, Argentina’s president, took to the airwaves soon after 9 pm local time on Monday, minutes after the USA had beaten Ghana 2-1 in the World Cup. Dressed all in white, she was in schoolmistress spirit, giving viewers a brief history of Argentina’s economic woes and the roots of its recent problems, which she put down to the military dictatorship which started with the coup d’etat of March 24, 1976. She traced those issues into the 1980s and the one-to-one dollar convertibility of the 1990s, to the 2001/2002 economic crash. She noted the change of stance initiated under her deceased husband, former president Néstor Kirchner – whom she referred to as “the president of all Argentines” – and continued under her two mandates.

She spoke for about 25 minutes (relatively little for her) and said little to clarify what Argentina’s stance now is, other than underlining that the holdouts were welcome to the same terms as those of the restructuring in 2005 and 2010 and stressing Argentina’s willingness to negotiate, while making sure to paint the “speculative” holdouts in as bad a light as possible. Continue reading »

News on Monday that the US Supreme Court would not, after all, hear an appeal by Argentina against a lower court ruling forcing it to pay all holders of its defaulted debt came as a body blow to Beunos Aires. Investors, too, were rattled, as bond prices slumped and the country’s 5-year CDS, a form of default insurance, spiked sharply.

All eyes now are on the Casa Rosada, from which president Cristina Fernández will address the nation on television at 9 pm local time on Monday evening. Continue reading »

By Arturo C Porzecanski

José Barrionuevo, the former Barclays Capital emerging markets strategist who came up with the quantitative model that Argentina used to rationalise its punishing 2005 debt restructuring, recently wrote a guest post justifying that infamous transaction: “The framework we proposed offered a way out of default through debt sustainability, and concluded that Argentina would need roughly a 67 per cent write-off to make its outstanding debt sustainable immediately.”

The fact is that Argentina’s economy was sufficiently recovered by early 2005, largely thanks to an intervening commodity export boom, such that the government in Buenos Aires needed only a modest amount of debt-service relief from its creditors in order to regain fiscal viability. This is especially evident with the benefit of hindsight. Continue reading »

By José Barrionuevo of StormHarbour Partners

As the US Supreme Court prepares to decide on June 12 whether or not to hear the case of the Argentine “holdouts”, the debate about the country’s debt restructuring has done little to promote understanding of the significance of the Court’s decision. It is critical to the future of debt restructuring worldwide, as an eventual ruling that allowed Argentina to pay the holdouts the same it has paid other investors would free countries in dire economic conditions and facing insurmountable debts to pursue debt sustainability, a concept that the International Monetary Fund now fully embraces and which allows for solutions that give debtor nations the opportunity to grow again. Continue reading »

What a headache debts can cause. No one knows this better than Cristina Fernández, who after receiving mixed messages related to Argentina’s debt in recent days will have plenty to chew over on her transatlantic flight before she meets the Pope on Monday.

There was good news today when the Paris Club, a group of countries which Argentina owes about $10bn, invited their debtor to begin formal negotiations in May, after economy minister Axel Kicillof presented a repayment plan in January. Resolution of the Paris Club problem is not only a prerequisite for Argentina’s return to the international capital markets, but it could also help to get much-needed foreign investment flowing back into the country. Continue reading »

By Samuel George of the Bertelsmann Foundation

On February 18 the Republic of Argentina submitted a petition to the US Supreme Court requesting a judicial review of a 2012 decision from the New York Second Circuit Court. That ruling found illegal Argentine payments on restructured sovereign debt if the country did not also service investors who had not accepted the haircut on the non-performing bonds.

If the Second Circuit Court ruling stands, it will set a precedent that holdouts could eventually be paid in full. Bondholders may become increasingly reluctant to accept haircuts on sovereign securities, thus complicating the ability of a distressed country to restructure its debt. Continue reading »

By Marcelo Etchebarne Mihanovich of Cabanellas Etchebarne Kelly

Two cases pending in US federal courts show how sovereign and sub-sovereign borrowers in distress can get very different treatment.

Detroit, with declared debts of approximately $18bn, filed for bankruptcy in July 2013. On December 3, it was declared eligible for protection under Chapter 9 of the US Bankruptcy Code. Judge Stephen Rhodes of the US Bankruptcy Court noted that Detroit had negotiated in bad faith with its more than 100,000 creditors; however, he also expressed the view that negotiation was impracticable. Continue reading »

Is it the beginning of the end for what enthusiasts like to call “the trial of the century” in the world of sovereign debt restructuring?

Well, perhaps, but there could still be an painfully slow ending to a trial that has dragged on for the best part of a decade, after Argentina filed a petition on Tuesday – right on deadline – seeking a US Supreme Court review of an order to pay $1.33bn to “holdout” bondholders who refused to accept restructured debt after Argentina’s 2001 debt default.

There are now three possible scenarios as to how things could go for Argentina at the Supreme Court. Continue reading »