* Holders of ‘superbond’ hire legal counsel
* Belize government wants tough debt haircut
MEXICO CITY, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Belize bondholders on Tuesday rejected a new offer from the country’s government on restructuring its $550 million “superbond” and said they had hired lawyers after the expiry of a reprieve on legal action.
Belize, which says it cannot afford to meet rising interest payments on the bond, revised its offer last week after shocking investors with its original suggestion that they take a haircut of up to 45 percent.
But a committee set up to represent bondholders said the new proposals still fell short and they had hired law firm Arnold & Porter to act as their legal counsel.
Bondholders had agreed not to pursue legal action for 60 days after Belize paid half of the $23.5 million interest payment due in August. But the grace period has now expired.
“Unfortunately, it seems we may be missing the window for a timely resolution,” said AJ Mediratta, of Greylock Capital Management, co-chair of the bondholders committee.
“The committee will be spending the next few weeks evaluating its options, but remains strongly committed to a good-faith collaborative process and will make itself available to the (government of Belize) as required.”
The revised offer included a lower haircut of 33 percent and an initial interest rate of 4.5 percent that would step up to 6.75 percent after five years - more than the 3.5 percent interest Belize originally proposed.
Another option involved no haircut but lower interest rates over 40 years, from 50 years originally, and a grace period of 10 years on principal repayments, from 15 years originally.
The committee urged Belize to reconsider its counter-offers, which the country had rejected as inadequate.