UPDATE 2-Argentina pushes back target for Paris Club deal
* Argentina owes Paris Club more than $6 billion
* Economy minister says hopes for repayment plan by June
* Officials had aimed for deal by end of March (Adds comments by analyst, details)
By Helen Popper
BUENOS AIRES, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Argentina hopes to agree a debt repayment plan with the Paris Club of nations by June, Economy Minister Amado Boudou said on Monday, pushing back an earlier target for a deal.
Officials from Argentina and the Paris Club are working on a deal for the South American nation to repay more than $6 billion in defaulted debt to the creditor nations, one of the last vestiges of Argentina's 2001-02 economic crisis.
The change of target delays a deal that could help Argentina return to global credit markets and facilitate state loans to foreign companies operating in Latin America's No. 3 economy.
"We'd like to have this issue resolved in June, and we're working really hard with that in mind," Boudou told C5N television.
Argentine officials said previously they hoped to conclude talks on the repayment plan by the end of March, aiming for agreement by this week on exactly how much is to be repaid. For more see [ID:nN17232574].
Boudou had been expected to travel to Paris this week, but he said Finance Secretary Hernan Lorenzino was leading an Argentine delegation.
A Paris Club official said last week negotiators were close to agreeing a final figure on how much the country owes, leaving the repayment schedule as the main obstacle to a deal. [ID:nLDE70H1N1]
Traders and market analysts say Argentine debt spreads, as measured by JPMorgan's EMBI+ index 11EMJ, could tighten to about 400 basis points from the current level of about 470 if the Paris Club negotiations are successful.
"Despite the fact that they've been shifting the deadlines ... the important thing is that progress is being made," said Gustavo Ber, an economist at Estudio Ber consultancy, adding that expectations of a deal continued to support bond prices.
Argentina says it owed $6.03 billion in principal and interest at the time of the December 2001 default, with Germany and Japan holding 60 percent of the debt. Other countries, including Italy, the Netherlands and the United States, hold less than 10 percent each.
Local newspaper Pagina 12 has said the debt could rise to $9 billion, when including punitive interest charges after 9 years in default.
President Cristina Fernandez announced in November that Argentina had persuaded the Paris Club to negotiate a repayment deal without the usual oversight from the International Monetary Fund. [ID:nN15139120] (Additional reporting by Alejandro Lifschitz and Juliana Castilla; Editing by Andrew Hay)