* Austria weighs debt haircut for some bondholders - finmin
* Hypo chairman Liebscher resigns amid policy split
* Fitch backs Austria's top AAA rating, cites sound state
(Recasts with Liebscher exit, Nowotny named head)
By Michael Shields
VIENNA, Feb 21 Austria named central bank
governor Ewald Nowotny to lead an advisory task force on Hypo
Alpe Adria on Friday after its previous head quit
following public splits with the government over how to deal
with the bailed-out bank.
Klaus Liebscher, a former central bank governor, resigned as
head of the task force set up to advise the government on how
best to wind down the lender after he came under criticism from
the public and politicians. He also quit as Hypo chairman.
Liebscher, Nowotny and the FMA market watchdog have warned
the government not to play with fire by letting the nationalised
bank go bust - but Finance Minister Michael Spindelegger again
refused to rule this out on Friday.
Spindelegger also said some Hypo bondholders may face a debt
haircut - something Liebscher has warned could ruin euro zone
member Austria's reputation as a borrower.
The split has highlighted market worries about the dangers
posed by Hypo, which Austria had to take over in 2009 after
breakneck expansion at home and in the Balkans pushed it to the
brink of insolvency.
Ratings agency Fitch maintained its top rating and stable
outlook for Austria on Friday but said Vienna's failure to lay
out a clear strategy for Hypo raised "concerns about policy
coherence and credibility in the near term".
Spindelegger told reporters he may ask holders of bonds
guaranteed by Hypo's home province of Carinthia to share the
costs of winding down the bank, whose chronic need for capital
has been a drain on state finances.
"We have to look at this and see from a legal perspective
whether it is possible to go in this direction," he said.
Spindelegger hired ex-Morgan Stanley banker Dirk Notheis to
join a separate team of financial, legal and insolvency experts
to advise the government on the best way forward, including
whether some bondholders could take a haircut.
"We have part (of the Hypo debt) with federal guarantees
that we will of course service," he added, reiterating that
Carinthia had a moral obligation to contribute.
Carinthia guarantees cover around 12.5 billion euros ($17.1
billion) of Hypo debt and federal guarantees around 1.2 billion.
"A QUICK BUCK"
Unlike Greece and Cyprus, where international lenders
insisted some private creditors take losses as part of
government bailouts, Austria is among the euro zone's stronger
However, it has had to bail out some of its banks which had
overstretched themselves and lent heavily in central and eastern
Europe in the run-up to the global financial crisis.
It has taken a tough line on bailouts for other euro zone
states and Spindelegger's comments reflect common sentiment in a
financially conservative country where media often equate people
who buy stocks or bonds with ruthless speculators.
The task force, set up last year, is drawing up proposals by
early March on creating a "bad bank" that may absorb up to 19
billion euros of assets from Hypo, a step that could boost state
debt to around 80 percent of economic output.
Spindelegger said he did not prefer the bad bank model over
other options and that the government had to be open to various
possibilities as it decides by end-March how to proceed.
"An insolvency scenario is not on the table, but as I have
always said there are no taboos," he added.
He said negotiations with former Hypo owner BayernLB
- which is fighting to get back 2.3 billion euros in
funds frozen at Hypo and which has a say in creating any bad
bank - had not begun.
"At the moment there is nothing to negotiate yet. First we
need to know what we want," he said.
The finance ministry had said on Thursday that Hypo
creditors should contribute to the costs of winding down the
lender, perhaps via insolvency or voluntary debt haircuts even
though state guarantees cover most of the debt.
(Reporting by Michael Shields and Wayne Cole; Editing by Ruth
Pitchford and Pravin Char)