Guys, Argentina isn’t going to default.
Yes, the media is enjoying the possibility of catastrophe, and Argentines themselves have fatalism in their DNA, but it’s not going to happen.
Why? Because both parties (Argentina and the group of holdout hedge funds, NLML) want to negotiate, and in this case — no matter how defiant President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner sounds — that’s all that really matters.
This is the financial case of the decade. On Monday the Supreme Court decided it would not hear the case between Argentina and a group of bondholders that purchased the country’s debt after its collapse in 2001. This group, known as NML and led by hedge fund manager Paul Singer, refused to restructure that debt in 2005 and 2010 when other bondholders did. NML is asking to be paid $US1.7 billion for that debt.
Argentina, calling those hedge fund managers “vultures” has always refused. Partly on principle, and also partly because paying NML (or even negotiating with them) would trigger a clause in their agreement with other bondholders. That trigger would force the country to also pay other bondholders $US15 billion — and Argentina can’t afford that. It would mean disaster.
The only way to avoid the trigger is to show that it was forced to pay NML (keep that in mind).
In November of 2012, Judge Thomas Greisa in New York City mandated that Argentina pay NML every last cent. Since then, until Monday, Argentina has appealed every which way in order to avoid default.
Tuesday night, Economy Minister, Axel Kicillof, suggested that Argentina swap 92% of the bonds in question here, and replace them with bonds under Argentine jurisdiction, rather U.S. jurisdiction.
The bond swap is a risky deal, and some Argentine lawmakers have said that it’s impossible to do. Think of it as smoke and mirrors — a part of Argentina showing the bondholders that it is truly exhausting every possible option, that it is being forced to do this. That way, it won’t trigger the $US15 billion payout.
Both Fernandez and Kicillof, in their speeches, made it clear that the country was willing to negotiate. To do that, though, they have to go back to the lower Court that mandated they pay the holdouts and talk to Judge Griesa and come up with a plan.
Again, they have to go to the brink before they can negotiate. And this bond swap plan is some out-there-stuff that looks a lot like the brink.
According to Argentine paper, La Nacion, Griesa has called for the parties to meet in New York City on Wednesday at 2:00 pm. NML has always maintained that it’s willing to negotiate, Argentina just hasn’t been able to come to the table til now.
In a speech today, Alejandro Vanoli, President of the Argentine Securities Commission, said that the country may try to use the bond swap deal as a bargaining chip.
But from the looks of things, this is shaking out exactly the way it has to for the country to avoid default.
Sorry to spoil the Doomsday festivities.
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