Deadline looms in Argentine debt saga | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 29.02.2016
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Deadline looms in Argentine debt saga

Ending its long-standing legal battle with major bondholders would be a huge step forward for Argentina, and the country is one step closer to doing so as an important deadline is close to running out.

Today is an important day in the Argentine debt saga. It was the last day for Buenos Aires' major creditors to strike a deal with the government over the repayment of defaulted bonds.

The dispute over payment has gone of for years, pitting Argentina's formerly leftist government headed by Cristina Kircher against recalcitrant hedge funds in the United States. But ever since Argentina elected a new business-friendly president, Mauricio Macri, at the end of last year, things finally seem to be moving forward.

A district judge in New York, where the hedge funds in question are suing Buenos Aires, gave all plaintiffs involved until Feb. 29 to reach some agreement over settlement.

After that, he said he would lift a stay on a ruling that had prevented Argentina from paying back other creditors that had agreed to debt restructuring before it paid back so-called "holdout" creditors.

A game changer

The judge cited progress made since the election of Macri, the successor to Kichner, who famously referred to the holdout creditors as "vultures." In the judge's own words: "Put simply, President Macri's election changed everything."

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Argentina: no longer a tardy payer?

The promise to drop a court order preventing Argentina from issuing new bonds undercut much of the leverage the holdout hedge funds held over Buenos Aires, but it meant that some creditors who agreed to restructured debt may finally see their money soon.

Earlier this month, Argentina offered to pay $6.5 billion to some of the hedge fund creditors that had filed claims of about $9 billion.

Only a matter of weeks

The amount represented a 27.5 to 30 percent markdown, but a number of creditors have since agreed to broad terms of the agreement. As of last week, more precise details still needed to be ironed out before a final deal could be signed.

Being able to make good on outstanding bond payments would allow Argentina to reissue new bonds on international markets, thereby raising the money it needed without having to print it itself, which causes inflation.

Last week the government said it planned to borrow $15 billion once it regained access to debt markets to pay back its international creditors. That amount includes the $6.5 billion Argentina offered to pay some of its investors and payments to other bondholders who refused to take part in any deal.

On Sunday, Macri said he expected his country's legal trouble over unpaid debt to be resolved within weeks.

"I am confident the court proceedings with the creditors can be closed within a couple of weeks. Confident and optimistic," he told an Italian newspaper while visiting Rome.

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