Argentina has new bond swap plan: same terms, no end date
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - President Cristina Fernandez on Wednesday proposed a new bond swap offer aimed at "holdout" creditors who have refused to settle with Argentina over its record $100 billion default in 2002, differing in one way from prior deals: it is open-ended.
By dropping the expiration date for the offer, Fernandez says the bill she submitted to Congress on Wednesday shows Argentina's goodwill before U.S. courts who have criticized the country's hardline treatment of dissident bondholders.
U.S. judges have complained that Argentina's prior two restructurings, in 2005 and 2010, included "lock laws" shutting out creditors who didn't accept a steep discount on their bonds within months.
On Friday, Argentina lost an appeal of a U.S. court order requiring it to pay $1.33 billion to the holdouts. Fernandez is appealing the ruling and also trying to swap foreign debt for bonds governed by Argentine rather than U.S. law.
The swap for Argentine bonds would protect payments on restructured debt from the ruling in New York - evidence that Argentina is as defiant as ever, dissident bondholders argued in a Wednesday court filing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"It makes a mockery of Argentina's assurance to the Second Circuit ... that it was not 'devising schemes to evade the injunctions,'" wrote lawyers for a group of the holdouts, asking the high court not to take up the case.
The dissident bondholders led by NML Capital Ltd, a unit of Paul Singer's Elliott Management Corp, are demanding full payment on the defaulted debt. They have argued that Argentina cannot deny them their due while paying investors who agreed to restructurings.
But the 93 percent of bondholders who renegotiated debts, accepting less than 30 cents on the dollar, now worry that Argentina's refusal to pay holdouts in the face of court orders could freeze payments on restructured bonds as well.
The new, open-ended bond-swap would offer holdouts the same terms as the 2010 swap. With Argentina's Congress controlled by lawmakers allied with two-term president Fernandez, the bill is expected to pass.
Argentina has so far avoided a new debt crisis thanks to the restraint of judges who last week issued a stay order delaying implementation of their decision pending review by the U.S. Supreme Court, which could take months.
In a direct plea to the U.S. Supreme Court, Fernandez on Monday urged justices to overturn Friday's ruling by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered her government to pay the holdouts.
Paying the holdouts 100 cents on the dollar would undermine future sovereign debt restructurings, the president argued.
Economy Minister Hernan Lorenzino told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that the government's latest measures are meant to ensure it can keep paying holders of restructured debt while coaxing the holdouts to accept the same terms.
"This is a concrete proposal that not only affirms that Argentina is willing to pay, but will continue to be willing to pay," Lorenzino said.
(Additional reporting by Juliana Castilla in Buenos Aires and Nate Raymon in New York; Writing by Hugh Bronstein and Brad Haynes; Editing by W Simon, Leslie Adler and Tim Dobbyn)
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