Greece may get 11-yer period to repay bailout - IMF

IMF's Mission Chief for Greece Poul Thomsen addresses journalists during a news conference in Athens November 23, 2010. REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis

ATHENS (Reuters) - The EU and the IMF could extend the period in which Greece must repay its bailout loans by five years, to make it easier for it to service its debt, a Greek newspaper said on Saturday, citing an IMF official.

“We have the possibility to extend the repayment period ... from about six years to around 11,” the newspaper Realnews quoted Poul Thomsen, the IMF official in charge of the Greek bailout, as saying in an interview.

Greek, EU and IMF officials have repeatedly mooted the possibility of extending the period in which Greece must repay its 110 billion euro (93 billion pound) bailout loans.

But the IMF official was more specific on how the repayment period could be stretched after Greece receives its last instalment in 2013.

Most critical are the first two years, when the bulk of the debt to the EU and IMF falls due. Under current repayment schedules, Greece’s gross borrowing needs will balloon above 70 billion euros a year in 2014-15 from around 55 billion euros a year in 2011-2013.

“(As things stand now) Greece must repay the bulk of its 110 billion euro loans in the first two years after the programme expires,” Thomsen told Realnews.

“This (the extension) would give markets the signal: ‘Don’t worry about the repayment of the 110 billion euros, this is not going to affect your claims’,” he added.

Greece in May became the first euro zone member to turn to its partners and to the IMF for help to avoid bankruptcy, signing up to a bailout agreement in exchange for draconian austerity measures.

Reporting by Harry Papachristou; Editing by Kevin Liffey