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18/06/2014 | Argentina and the hold-outs - Crunch time approaches

The Economist Staff

ARGENTINA has tried hard in the past few months to show it is ready to make its peace with international capital markets.

 

It has belatedly recognised several decisions by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), an arbitration body; it agreed a compensation deal with Repsol, after the Spanish firm’s stake in YPF, an oil firm, was expropriated in 2012; and just last month it reached a deal on its outstanding debts to the Paris Club, a group of official creditors. But on June 16th, the United States Supreme Court threw a large spanner in the works when it decided against Argentina in two separate cases related to the country’s “hold-out” bondholders.

The Supreme Court declined to hear Argentina’s defence against NML Capital, a "vulture" investor that bought up distressed bonds following Argentina’s 2001 default and has been chasing payment of full principal plus interest instead of accepting a debt exchange, as 93% of bondholders did in two restructurings in 2005 and 2010. Citing a clause in the original bond documentation called pari passu, NML argues that the holders of these restructured bonds should not be paid if they, the hold-outs, are not also remunerated. This view was supported by a district court in New York—the bonds were mostly issued under New York law--and then upheld by an appeals courts. Argentina itself then appealed to the Supreme Court to hear the case.

The Supreme Court’s rejection of the case today means that the original district-court order, which says that Argentina should pay NML the full $1.3 billion it claims, is likely to come into effect in the next few days. Argentina could technically ask the Supreme Court to rehear its case, but that is unlikely given that the court virtually never accepts such requests. To make matters worse, the court today also ruled in favour of NML in another case against Argentina, which will allow the investment fund to locate assets the country might have ferreted away across the globe.

Its legal options exhausted, only unpleasant choices remain. First, Argentina could pay NML the $1.3 billion it demands. But that would also open it up to similar claims by other hold-out bondholders, who were not involved in the litigation but would surely like the same treatment. Argentina has estimated the value of these claims to be $15 billion; NML guesses they’re more like $6 billion. Either way, such claims would stress Argentina’s foreign-exchange reserves, which stand at less than $29 billion.

Second, Argentina could negotiate with NML. The investment fund has expressed its willingness to haggle, but Argentina has so far refused. The country has claimed that the Right Upon Future Offers (RUFO) clause included in the restructured bonds preclude it from offering the hold-outs a better deal than the one it extended to the bondholders who accepted the 2005 and 2010 debt exchanges. NML rubbishes that argument. The RUFO clause only prohibits Argentina from “voluntarily” offering to exchange or purchase the hold-out bonds, it says. Since the New York courts have ordered Argentina to pay the hold-outs, even an extrajudicial settlement could be interpreted as involuntary. NML adds that if Argentina truly believed the RUFO clause impeded negotiation, they could request that the holders of restructured bonds waive that provision in order to ensure a resolution and avert default.

The problem with the negotiation option is political. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her lackeys have railed against NML, avowing never to pay or negotiate with them. Ms Fernández’s political base seems to have shrunk to a core that will support her blindly, come what may. But past form suggests she will find it hard to eat her words, even if negotiation seems the best option.

Rumours are flying that Argentina may try to continue paying its exchange bondholders without paying the hold-outs by somehow transferring the restructured bonds out of US jurisdiction and reconstituting them under Argentine law. But this move is a complex one to pull off, and time is pressing: Argentina’s next payment on its exchange bonds is due on June 30th. If a stay on the district-court decision is lifted, as expected, Argentina will either have to pay NML or reach a settlement before that date to avoid a default.

Defaulting on all its bonds is Argentina’s final option. A leaked memo from its lawyers at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, made public before today’s decision, spelled out the logic as follows: “Argentina wants to continue paying its restructured debt. The courts, however, have put it in a terrible position. In a position that, save that the Supreme Court revises the issue, would seem to be obliging Argentina to fall in default, since no other option resolves the dilemma created by the courts when they gave each one of the hold-outs the power to interrupt the payment of the rest.” Default would crush Argentina’s hopes of returning to international capital markets, however. It would be best if Argentina could reach a settlement with the hold-outs. But Argentina does not always make the best choices.

The Economist (Reino Unido)

 


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15/12/2009|
13/12/2009|
13/12/2009|
28/11/2009|
28/11/2009|
28/11/2009|
28/11/2009|
27/11/2009|
27/11/2009|
27/11/2009|
27/11/2009|
27/11/2009|
27/11/2009|
21/11/2009|
21/11/2009|
18/11/2009|
18/11/2009|
16/11/2009|
16/11/2009|
30/10/2009|
30/10/2009|
11/10/2009|
10/10/2009|
10/10/2009|
07/10/2009|
07/10/2009|
04/10/2009|
30/09/2009|
30/09/2009|
27/09/2009|
27/09/2009|
27/09/2009|
22/09/2009|
20/09/2009|
18/09/2009|
18/09/2009|
18/09/2009|
16/09/2009|
16/09/2009|
16/09/2009|
08/09/2009|
07/09/2009|
06/09/2009|
06/09/2009|
05/09/2009|
05/09/2009|
26/08/2009|
21/08/2009|
19/08/2009|
19/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
19/07/2009|
19/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
27/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
11/01/2009|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
23/11/2008|
23/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
22/08/2008|
22/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
24/05/2008|
24/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
29/04/2008|
11/02/2008|
05/01/2008|
09/12/2007|
18/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/09/2007|
26/08/2007|
25/08/2007|
11/07/2007|
16/06/2007|
16/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
24/04/2007|
24/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
28/02/2007|
28/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
17/11/2006|
30/09/2006|
28/07/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
06/03/2006|
21/02/2006|
17/02/2006|
31/01/2006|
10/01/2006|
28/12/2005|
31/10/2005|
26/09/2005|
29/08/2005|
11/08/2005|
08/08/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|

ver + notas
 
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Freedom House