Greece's fate hung in the balance on Thursday as it waited to find out whether enough private lenders would sign on to a debt write-down deal for it to avoid going into default.
Officials in Athens and Brussels on Thursday were eagerly awaiting an evening deadline to find out whether enough private lenders will sign on to a debt write-down in order for Greece to avoid a disorderly default.
An organization representing private banks agreed last month to write off 53.5 percent of the bad Greek debt they hold, or 107 billion euros ($140 billion). This was a precondition for European Union leaders to agree to a second bailout for Greece, worth 130 billion euros.
For the deal to go forward, Athens needs at least 75 percent of the private lenders in question to sign on to it by 20.00 UCT on Thursday. Greece's hopes got a boost on Wednesday when a group of 30 lenders who hold almost 40 percent of its bad debt announced that they would take part in the write-down program.
"I welcome the statement by key creditor groups of their decision to participate in the voluntary debt exchange," Olli Rehn, the EU's economic and monetary affairs commissioner, said in a statement. "This demonstrates the growing support for the agreements reached in February."
Not a done deal
However, just hours before the deadline, doubt remained about whether enough creditors would sign on to the deal.
"It is impossible to be certain of the outcome of such a process," French bank BNP Paribas' Greek debt negotiator Jean Lemierre told the daily paper Le Monde. "But the success of the offer is in everyone's interest."
Eurozone finance ministers are to hold a conference call on Friday to decide whether to release the 130-billion euro bailout. Athens needs to receive the funds by March 20, when its next debt repayment of 14.5 billion euros in bonds is due.
Some observers fear that a disorderly Greek default could spark contagion among other countries that use the EU's common currency, the euro.
pfd/acb (Reuters, AFP)