Suriname bondholders threaten to reinstate payments over IMF agreement

LONDON (Reuters) - Suriname Eurobond creditors accused the government on Friday of breaching its obligation of negotiating its debt overhaul in good faith and threatened to reinstate payments they previously agreed to defer.

Suriname, battling high inflation and the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, accused the bondholder committee of making false statements and urged it to “reconsider this ill-informed course of action.”

Creditors last month agreed to defer payments on $675 million in bonds, but on Friday said Suriname had not allowed them sufficient participation in a $690 million staff-level financing deal with the International Monetary Fund.

“The committee believes that Suriname has already breached its obligation to negotiate in good faith, as required by the terms of the Eurobonds,” the creditors said in a statement.

Therefore, the committee said, it was positioned to exercise the Eurobond’s “termination trigger”, that would reinstate the payment and other obligations deferred by creditors.

Creditors will not able to do that before June 3.

In an emphatic press statement, Suriname said creditors had been given ample opportunity to provide feedback.

“There are few - if any - examples of sovereigns in debt distress which have made such efforts to be transparent with private creditors before [a] staff-level agreement,” Suriname said.

“The people of Suriname will bear much of the burden of the adjustments needed to create a brighter future, but Suriname’s international creditors will need to make a substantial contribution.”

It is the latest debt overhaul effort in the central and South American region to be beset by acrimony. Holders of Belize’s so-called ‘Superbond’ this week urged the government to agree to an IMF programme as that country’s bid for its fifth debt restructuring in 15 years threatens to turn sour.

Suriname’s creditors also said they will not be able to consider debt relief proposals that take no account of the offshore oil and gas projects under development.

“You cannot just ignore that there will be a massive positive impact from oil and gas on fiscal and debt sustainability, and then for the purpose of a staff-level agreement, you’re ignoring it,” said one source close to the creditors.

Suriname in its statement said that the IMF had recommended excluding unproven oil reserves in its debt sustainability and macroeconomic analysis.

The creditor committee holds in aggregate 43% of the 2023 and the 2026 bonds.

Its members include Franklin Templeton Investment Management Limited, Eaton Vance Management, Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. LLC and Greylock Capital Management LLC.

Suriname’s closely held 2026 bond was quoted at 70 cents in the dollar on Friday.

Reporting by Tom Arnold and Karin Strohecker, additional reporting by Ank Kuipers in Paramaribo; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Sonya Hepinstall