January 30, 2020 / 1:35 PM / a month ago

Argentina sets timetable for bondholder offer as March deadline nears

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina will make an offer to creditors for the restructuring of its debt in the second week of March, according to a timeline released by the government late on Wednesday as a presidential deadline to deal with public debt nears.

The Ministry of Economy’s “external public debt sustainability unit” will meet beginning the first week of February to discuss the renegotiation with financial advisers and banks, the statement from the ministry said.

A mission from the International Monetary Fund, which has a $57 billion financing agreement with Argentina, will visit Buenos Aires from Feb. 12 to 14, according to the timeline.

The administration of President Alberto Fernandez has said it must restructure $100 billion in sovereign debt with its creditors, including the IMF, amid a steep recession and inflation of more than 50% in Latin America’s no. 3 economy.

Fernandez, who was inaugurated on Dec. 10, set a deadline of March 31 to deal with the public debt.

Beginning on Feb. 12, the government will present the “analysis of public debt sustainability” to Congress.

Meetings about the analysis will take place with bondholders during the third and fourth weeks of February, the statement said.

The structure of the offer will be finalized in the first week of March, and presented to bondholders the following week. The acceptance period for bondholders will expire in the third and fourth weeks of March.

Economy Minister Martin Guzman was in New York this week for meetings with IMF officials, which both sides called “positive.”

On Wednesday, Argentina’s lower house overwhelmingly approved a bill that would enable the government to handle the restructuring of bonds issued in foreign currency that it needs to negotiate with creditors.

The federal government’s restructuring of sovereign debt coincides with a proposal by its largest province, Buenos Aires, to bondholders to delay a $250 million amortization payment until May. Bondholders have until Friday to respond to the province’s proposal.

A lack of consent by holders of 75% of the debt needed to move ahead could push the province into default in days, if it does not make the payments.

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and John Stonestreet

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