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A New Twist in the Argentine Debt Saga

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, president of Argentina, speaks to Economy Minister Axel Kicillof in Buenos Aires on Sept. 30
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, president of Argentina, speaks to Economy Minister Axel Kicillof in Buenos Aires on Sept. 30Photograph by MartinZabala/Xinhua Press/Corbis

A new player has emerged in the Argentine debt drama. The question is why, and what does it mean?

Last week, Kenneth Dart, the billionaire heir to a Styrofoam cup fortune, jolted the Argentine debt negotiations by asking a New York judge to force Argentina to pay his bonds in full, too. Like Elliott Management’s Paul Singer, who has led a group of holdout bond investors trying to compel the Argentine government to reach a settlement with them, Dart is known as a “vulture investor” who has made a career of buying defaulted debt and then suing to be repaid at full value. Dart, it turns out, owns more defaulted Argentine bonds through his fund EM Ltd. than Singer’s fund NML Capital does, with $595 million worth to NML’s $503 million. Until now, though, he has remained quietly behind the scenes, as Singer and four other investors publicly battled the Argentine government through the U.S. court system. His sudden appearance shows that settling with Singer’s group of holdouts may not actually solve Argentina’s problems.