Argentina's Kicillof to hold news conference following U.N. address

NEW YORK Wed Jun 25, 2014 1:37pm EDT

Argentina's Economy Minister Axel Kicillof announces what the government will do following a major setback in its long-running legal battle against ''holdout'' investors in Buenos Aires June 17, 2014.      REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian

Argentina's Economy Minister Axel Kicillof announces what the government will do following a major setback in its long-running legal battle against ''holdout'' investors in Buenos Aires June 17, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Enrique Marcarian

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Argentina's Economy Minister Axel Kicillof will hold a news conference following his address on the country's debt situation to the United Nations, the country's U.N. ambassador said Wednesday.

Kicillof is due to speak at the U.N. on Wednesday regarding Argentina's ongoing legal battle with hedge funds who did not take part in the country's two debt restructurings following a 2001-2002 default.

Argentina's U.N. Ambassador Maria Cristina Perceval, who greeted Kicillof upon arrival earlier on Wednesday at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, said the minister would speak to the media after his U.N. address.

The speech is scheduled for 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) and the press conference is set for 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT).

A source familiar with Kicillof's plans said his entourage will be small, with just three or four people from his office.

Kicillof will also meet with lawyers for the Argentine government while in New York, a government source in Buenos Aires told Reuters on Tuesday, but it is unclear if he will meet with holdout investors.

The country defaulted on approximately $100 billion in debt in 2001-2002. Since then, it restructured that debt in a deal accepted by more than 90 percent of the holders of those bonds. The holdouts, however, have fought for more money, and won a legal judgment in 2012 for $1.33 billion.

A recent order by U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa has heightened the tension in the legal case. Greisa ordered Argentina to pay the holdouts along with its other creditors at a regularly scheduled coupon payment due June 30. Without a resolution, Argentina risks a technical default because they will not be allowed to pay the holders of the restructured debt.

Argentine officials, including President Cristina Fernandez, have said the country will not pay these investors, arguing it could face a potential demand of up to $15 billion from other holdouts not involved with the case, an amount representing more than half of the government's $28.5 billion in foreign currency reserves.

The United Nations trade agency, UNCTAD, weighed in on the case on Wednesday, echoing concerns voiced by the United States as well as the International Monetary Fund, that the ruling in favor of holdouts erodes sovereign immunity and is a set-back for the debt restructuring process.

However investors and legal advisors, alike, say the legal battle with Argentina is so unique and changes to the covenants in bond contracts have adapted to avoid such disputes that chances for a repeat situation have been dramatically reduced.

One indication that bonds issued under New York law are not being shunned, at least not so far, is last week's well-received 10-year issue by Ecuador. This was after Ecuador itself selectively defaulted on debt in 2008 after calling debt holders "monsters" and that the debt issued by past governments contained "illegalities."

"It is kind of ironic that the day after the Supreme Court came with this decision, we had not Peru, not Colombia, not Mexico, not even Brazil. We have freakin' Ecuador coming to the market with a $2 billion (bond) with a yield of less than 8 percent, and the deal was absorbed very well and the bond is flying now," Javier Kulesz, emerging market credit analyst at Nomura Securities said at a recent forum in New York.

Despite the tough public stance, markets believe the parties will eventually negotiate a solution. The price on the country's U.S. dollar-denominated 2033 discount bonds last traded at 87.5 cents on the dollar on Wednesday, yielding 9.93 percent. That's little changed on the day but just off Monday's high when it hit the best levels since August 2011.

One week ago, when the threat of a possible default rose, the price of those bonds fell to about 73.4 cents.

Insurance against a default on the country's debt has dropped in recent days. The annual cost to insure $10 million in bonds was lately about $1.397 million, down from $2.805 million last week.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Additional reporting by Daniel Bases in New York and Jeremy Gaunt in London; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Meredith Mazzilli)