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ECONOMY | 04-02-2020 16:36

BA Province surprises with plan to pay bond, and then restructure

Axel Kicillof declared that the province will use its proper resources in order to realise a US$250 million bond payment to avoid default. The Governor looks to reassure creditors about Buenos Aires ability to honour its debt.

Argentina’s biggest province surprised creditors by saying it will make a US$250 million bond payment to stave off a hard default after it failed to gather enough support from investors for a delay.

Buenos Aires province will use money from its coffers to make the principal payment, Governor Axel Kicillof told reporters in the city of La Plata, days after insisting his government didn’t have the necessary funds. 

The province will then start the process of restructuring its foreign-currency debt, in tandem with the national government’s efforts, Kicillof declared.

The announcement assuages concerns that Buenos Aires will enter a tumultuous default this month amid a nationwide economic crisis and a plunge in the value of the peso. 

First steps

Investors have been viewing moves by Kicillof, a former economy minister, and his treatment of creditors as a first test as President Alberto Fernandez formulates his own strategy for seeking debt relief from both private bondholders and the International Monetary Fund.

“The province always sought to find a constructive solution in good faith,” Kicillof told reporters.

The notes due 2021 edged lower, slipping 0.2 cent to 50.9 cents on the dollar during midday trading in New York. The notes had traded as high as 69.5 cents in early January.

The province sparked a plunge in the bonds when it asked holders last month to allow the government to delay the capital payment, originally due January 26, to May 1. 

Buenos Aires only received consent from 50 percent of bondholders, below the 75 percent necessary for the change in terms to take effect. 

The province had extended the deadline on its proposal four times, and improved the terms of its offer ahead of the deadline. 

The grace period for the bond payment, after which it would have been in default, was set to expire on February 5.

Kicillof said his efforts to delay the payment were blocked by one fund that showed “enormous intransigence” and used its large stake to block the proposal. 

When asked by a reporter, the governor confirmed the fund was Fidelity.

The province, home to about 40 percent of Argentina’s population, faces another US$700 million in principal payments in June, according a report published by Portfolio Personal Inversiones.

The Federal region faces about US$3 billion in maturities due this year.

by Scott Squires and Jorgelina do Rosario, Bloomberg

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