Argentina debt restructure ‘progressing’, says premier

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – Argentina’s tug-of-war negotiations with creditors over a USD66 billion debt restructure plan was progressing, President Alberto Fernandez said on Friday, as the deadline to find a deal was extended once again.

“The negotiations are progressing in fits and starts. In 2005, when we renegotiated the debt, a year went by. Now two or three months have gone by and we’re being asked for results. What’s needed is less worry and to keep on working,” Fernandez told Radio Nacional as Argentina extended its deadline for a fourth time.

The new deadline has now been set for July 24 “to continue discussions and allow the investors to contribute to a successful restructure,” the government said in a statement. The news sparked an eight per cent surge in the Buenos Aires stock exchange.

It comes during a week in which the renegotiation talks appeared to have broken down after one group of creditors, Ad Hoc, which represents 13 international funds, revealed on Tuesday night it would not accept Argentina’s latest offer and was considering taking the South American country to court in New York.

Crisis-wracked Argentina has proposed an exchange offer to bondholders under foreign law, but has yet to find common ground over interest rates and a grace period.

“We’re confident we will reach an agreement. But COVID-19 totally complicated everything. Many of the creditors are banking on the pandemic passing to negotiate in better conditions,” Fernandez added.

Already reeling from two years of recession, Argentina’s economy has been further punished by the coronavirus pandemic and is expected to shrink by 6.5 per cent this year.

And almost a month has passed since Argentina – one of the world leaders in food exports – defaulted for the ninth time after failing to pay USD500 million of interest on its bond debt.

Argentina, which has been involved in months of tough negotiations, has received backing from the International Monetary Fund in its bid to come to an agreement with creditors, but Fernandez insists any new deal must be sustainable.

The country’s original offer to creditors in April requested of bondholders a three-year grace period on debt repayment, a 62 per cent reduction on interest amounting to USD37.9 billion, and 5.4 per cent on capital – or USD3.6 billion.

That was rejected and the government has since upped its terms but insists it won’t offer creditors more than 50 cents on the dollar – while Ad Hoc said it won’t accept less than 55 cents.

The bonds Argentina is trying to exchange represent almost a fifth of the country’s USD324 billion debt, which amounts to around 90 per cent of its GDP.

Around 35 per cent of its 44 million people live in poverty.