Argentina expects debt negotiations to begin January 13: official

Argentina's President Mauricio Macri waves after being sworn-in to office at the Argentine Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 10, 2015. REUTERS/Andres Stapff

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina expects to resume long-awaited debt talks in New York next Wednesday with U.S. hedge funds suing the country over defaulted sovereign bonds, a finance ministry source said on Friday.

The South American country’s new center-right president, Mauricio Macri, needs to resolve the decade-long legal battle to restore investors’ battered confidence and regain access to global credit markets.

A U.S. court-appointed mediator last month met Finance Secretary Luis Caputo and said afterwards that he expected “substantive negotiations” to begin in the second week of January. Rumors had been swirling in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, of a Wednesday or Thursday start next week.

Asked if Caputo would meet with mediator Daniel Pollack and the hedge funds on Wednesday, a finance ministry official who declined to be named said “yes”.

The official said Caputo’s travel plans had not yet been finalized.

The funds, led by billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, are suing Argentina for full repayment of debt the country defaulted on in 2002. A large majority of creditors accepted about 30 cents on the dollar in 2005 and 2010 restructurings.

Talks between the so-called holdout funds and former President Cristina Fernandez collapsed in July 2014, leading Argentina to fall back into default. Fernandez called the holdouts “vultures”.

Macri has promised to haggle hard but also expressed confidence a deal can be reached this year.

Reporting by Buenos Aires newsroom; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Richard Lough and Andrew Hay