UPDATE 1-German FinMin denies Greek debt restructuring plans

Sat Apr 16, 2011 12:02pm EDT

Related Topics

* Berlin long since preparing plans for restructuring -FT

* German govt agrees Athens cannot be forced into move -FT

* Restructuring not an issue for German govt -FinMin

(Releads with ministry denial)

BERLIN, April 16 (Reuters) - The German finance ministry on Saturday denied it was drawing up contingency plans for a Greek debt restructuring after the Financial Times reported the ministry was studying various options if Athens fails to meet its fiscal targets.

"There have been media reports today regarding German plans for Greek sovereign debt restructuring. These plans have no basis in reality," said Martin Kotthaus, spokesman for Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, in a written statement sent on Saturday.

Citing people briefed about Berlin's thinking, the FT wrote on Saturday that one plan involved swapping Greek debt at market prices for paper guaranteed by the eurozone, similar to "Brady Bonds" issued by South American countries in the late 1980s.

The other main option, the report said, entailed providing debt relief assistance by buying bonds from investors and then retiring the debt or extending their maturities -- a plan akin to the International Monetary Fund's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

"The government has long since started preparing for a Greek restructuring," the FT quoted one person briefed as saying.

"It's not pushing Greece into this. It knows that none of these plans will work if the Greeks don't want them."

The report said other options were also being considered but chancellery and finance ministry officials had spent time analysing these "market friendly" options. Leading voices in the German government believe a Greek debt restructuring is highly probable, people involved in the discussions have told Reuters.

The German chancellery declined to comment on the FT report, referring all media inquiries on the matter to the finance ministry.

In June the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission will examine whether Greece has met the prerequisites to receive the next tranche of its 110 billion euro bailout package.

In an interview in Die Welt published last week, Schaeuble said "additional steps" would need to be taken should the progress report in June conclude there are doubts about the fiscal sustainability, adding however any restructuring would have to be voluntary if done before 2013. [ID:nLDE73D05J]

So far Greece has received 53 billion in four separate payments.

(Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner, additional reporting by Matthias Sobolewski; Editing by Alison Birrane)

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