Argentina Reaches Partial Deal on Debt, But Holdouts Remain

Key Speakers At The SALT Conference

Paul Singer, president, co-chief executive officer, and co-chief investment officer of Elliott Management Corp.

Photographer: Jacob Kepler/Bloomberg
  • Montreux Partners, Dart Management accept settlement offer
  • Past offer had imposed losses of 70 percent on defaulted bonds

Argentina reached preliminary accords with two of the six biggest creditors that successfully sued the country over its $95 billion default in 2001 yet the leader of the so-called holdout funds, billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, wasn’t among them.

Montreux Partners LP and Dart Management Inc. accepted the offer, which would settle demands for $9 billion at an average 75 cents on the dollar, depending on the nature of the investor’s claim.

The agreements represent a partial victory for newly installed President Mauricio Macri, who is seeking to end a decade-long legal tussle with the creditors that has hampered Argentina’s access to international capital markets and created a drag on a dollar-starved economy. Talks between the government and representatives of the creditors have taken place over the past five days at the office of mediator Daniel Pollack in New York.

“This is the beginning of the end,” said Mauro Roca, an economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in New York. “This chapter will be closed this year.”

Argentina is still talking to the other holdouts and hopes that more funds may join the deal in coming days, Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay said in an interview with Radio Mitre on Saturday. The government offered to pay the bondholders in cash raised from issuing bonds abroad, sales that would require them to drop or suspend the lawsuits that prevent the country from accessing international capital markets.

Argentina’s offer includes three proposals that depend on the legal steps creditors have taken on their claims. Investors lacking a judgment and whose bonds include a so-called equal-treatment clause were offered as much as 72.5 percent on their claim, while investors with the same bonds who have a judgment will be paid 72.5 percent of the amount awarded by the court. Bondholders without an equal-treatment injunction were offered 150 percent of the principal amount of the bonds they own.

The agreement comes days after Argentina agreed to pay 50,000 Italian bondholders 54 percent of their $2.5 billion claim on defaulted debt in cash. 

The Italian accord and the one reached Friday are subject to approval from Argentina’s Congress, which would also need to repeal a law that prevents the country from providing the holdouts with better terms than those the nation offered in restructurings.

Argentina has been blocked from paying its overseas debt since mid-2014, when the U.S. Supreme Court left intact a ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa that it must reach an agreement with creditors whose bonds have an equal-treatment clause before servicing debt issued in the country’s two restructurings. Griesa must sign off on any agreement between the parties in order to lift the injunction. Argentina will ask him to lift the injunction after as many funds as possible have joined the accord, Prat-Gay said.

“This litigation has gone on for nearly 15 years since the original Argentine default of 2001, and the proposal by Argentina is an historic breakthrough,” Pollack wrote in the statement.

Montreux didn’t respond to two voicemails seeking comment. Dart’s press office declined to comment.

Four of the leading holdout creditors have yet to agree to a deal, Pollack said. Besides Elliott, other members of the group include Aurelius Capital Management, Bracebridge Capital LLC and Davidson Kempner Capital Management LLC. Spokesmen from Elliott and Aurelius declined to comment. Voicemails left at Davidson Kempner and Bracebridge weren’t immediately returned.

“It is my strong hope that, with continued negotiations those firms, too, will be able to resolve their differences and reach Agreements in Principle with Argentina,” Pollack wrote. “All concerned on the ‘holdout’ Bondholders side are working constructively to that end.”

Argentina, which borrowed more money internationally than any developing nation in the 1990s, defaulted in late 2001 following a four-year recession. A one-to-one currency peg to the dollar had made local companies lose competitiveness after Brazil, its largest trading partner, devalued its currency in 1999, causing growth in Argentina to stall.

(Corrects offer in 6th paragraph to show it pertains to those without injunction.)