ATHENS Dec 9 Greece may ask additional offers
from bondholders in a debt buyback plan that forms part of its
international bailout, Greek officials said on Sunday.
The invitation might be renewed on Monday to top up the
offers already received, three officials close to the
proceedings told Reuters. "It's possible," a senior government
official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Another government official and a banker confirmed the move
was under consideration.
Athens plans to buy back bonds with a face value of about 30
billion euros at deeply discounted prices to lower its debt
load. A deadline for bondholders to submit offers expired on
Friday. A Greek government official said on Saturday that Athens
had received offers of about that sum.
The officials' comments confirm a report earlier on Sunday
by television station Mega, which said that Athens was very
close to hitting the 30-billion euro mark and that it might
renew the invitation for a short period to collect additional
bids from Greek banks on standby to provide them.
By Friday Greece received offers for at least 15-16 billion
euros from foreign investors and about 10-11 billion from Greek
banks, Mega said.
Greek banks, which hold about 17 billion euros of bonds,
said on Friday they would participate in the deal but did not
reveal how many of their bonds they were willing to exchange.
Their boards authorised management on Friday to offer up to 100
percent of lenders' bondholdings.
The buyback accounts for about half of a 40-billion euro
EU/IMF debt relief package for Athens agreed in November. Its
success will ensure that the IMF, which contributes about a
third of Greece's bailout loans, will stay on board of the
Greece and its international lenders have shied from setting
a binding target for the plan, apart from saying that Athens
should spend at most 10 billion euros on it. Officials told
Reuters the aim was to purchase about 30 billion euros of debt,
thus reducing Greece's debt load by a net 20 billion euros.
Greek bankers had been reluctant to take part in the scheme,
for fear of foregoing future profits on their Greek bonds.
However, they have to make sure it succeeds because they
depend on the bailout funds that Athens stands to receive if the
buyback succeeds and its bailout to continue smoothly.
Almost 24 billion euros from the 34.4 billion euros Greece
stands to receive from its lenders later this month will be used
to refloat Greek banks, whose capital has been largely depleted
by the country's debt crisis.
Another source told Reuters that Greece might have secured
additional financing from its lenders for the plan and could be
re-opening it to attract additional interest from foreign
"In the knowledge that the buyback will succeed, investors
might be willing to increase their offers," he said.