Germany ready to shift on ESM bondholder losses -- sources

BRUSSELS Sun Dec 4, 2011 2:33pm EST

BRUSSELS Dec 4 (Reuters) - Germany is prepared to soften language in the euro zone's permanent bailout mechanism compelling bondholders to accept losses, in exchange for much stricter budget rules, four sources have told Reuters.

The shift would not completely remove the possibility of private bondholders having to accept losses in the future, but it would align the statutes of the European Stability Mechanism more closely with IMF rules, creating a level playing field for private buyers of euro zone sovereign debt.

While acknowledging movement in Germany's position, a senior euro zone source emphasised that it depended on securing agreement among the 17 euro zone countries on stricter budget oversight, sanctions for those that miss macroeconomic targets and the possibility of taking transgressors to court.

The source said private sector involvement (PSI) -- the ability to have banks and insurance companies share losses when a sovereign defaults or restructures its debt -- would not disappear from the ESM, "but the wording could be eased".

A second source said the aim was for the language in the ESM's treaty, which has already been drafted, to be altered so it was more closely aligned with international practice, a move that would reassure bond markets.

"We hope to have the PSI rules in the ESM being fully in line with international practice and IMF rules," the source, a senior European Union official, said.

"There is also a French push to have PSI written down not in the ESM treaty itself but in the annexes" of the treaty, although it remains unclear whether that will be accepted.

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