Fernandez Says Paris Club Agrees to Talks Without IMF

The Paris Club of creditor nations accepted Argentina’s request to hold talks on restructuring its estimated $6.7 billion of debt without the oversight of the International Monetary Fund, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said.

Fernandez said in a nationwide broadcast from Buenos Aires that she hopes to have the defaulted debt renegotiated by 2011. Argentina won’t have to pay fees as the talks won’t involve banks, companies or advisors, the president said.

The Paris Club “has accepted Argentina’s position to negotiate its debt without IMF intervention,” Fernandez said. “The negotiating should be realistic, which means it should involve a payment plan that will allow us to sustain the country’s economic activity and grow with social inclusion.”

Argentina owes the Paris Club, an informal association of creditors that includes the U.S., Germany and Japan, about $6.7 billion in defaulted debt. In June, the government of South America’s second-biggest economy restructured $12.2 billion in bonds that were held out from a 2005 exchange. The country defaulted on $95 billion in bonds in late 2001.

Fernandez on Sept. 2, 2008 had announced plans to tap central bank reserves to pay down Argentina’s debt to the creditor group. The government had to shelve the plan once the global financial crisis took hold following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. less than two weeks later.

‘Positive Event’

Argentina’s credit rating was raised by Standard & Poor’s in September, saying the country’s “strong” economic expansion is helping it make debt payments.

S&P raised Argentina’s foreign and local debt ratings one level to B, in line with Bolivia and Honduras and five steps below investment grade. The increase matches a move made by Fitch Ratings in July.

An agreement with the Paris Club is not “a rating change trigger, but it’s definitely a positive event in the sense that Argentina will continue to normalize its relationship with the international community,” said Sebastian Briozzo, a Latin America director at S&P, in a telephone interview in Buenos Aires, before today’s announcement.

“If that issue is solved, it will be very positive in terms of allowing Argentina to receive more funds from foreign direct investment,” Briozzo said.

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