Greece plans to repay last IMF bailout loans early - sources

ATHENS, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Greece plans to repay more than 7 billion euros in loans from the International Monetary Fund and eurozone partners in the next two months, paying down the rest of the IMF funds it borrowed to prevent bankruptcy during the financial crisis, two officials said.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Thursday the Treasury would repay 1.8 billion euros ($2.03 billion) in IMF loans ahead of schedule, the last batch of a total 28 billion euros the lender provided in two bailouts between 2010 and 2014.

In addition, it would repay some 5.3 billion euros in loans from Greece's eurozone partners expiring in 2022 and 2023 by the end of the first quarter.

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"We plan to complete the repayment in the next two months," one official told Reuters.

"This will help us reduce our debt to GDP ratio. It will also send a signal to the markets that the Greek economy is strong and healthy," a second official added.

Athens needed three international bailouts from the European Union and the IMF between 2010 and 2015, totalling more than 260 billion euros. Since exiting the bailouts in 2018, it has relied solely on the markets for its financing needs.

Greece repaid about 6 billion euros to the IMF ahead of schedule in 2019 and 2021 and has 1.8 billion euros in outstanding loans due by 2024.

It started paying off the first bailout loans to its euro zone partners last year and wants to speed up the pace.

Disagreements and confrontations between the IMF delegation in Athens and successive Greek governments over the harsh austerity conditions imposed by the fund were frequent during the crisis years when Greece was in deep recession with unemployment reaching as high as 27%.

Greece expects to exit enhanced surveillance conditions that allow the European Commission to closely scrutinize its adherence to commitments in the summer. IMF could continue to provide advice and counsel.

The government is estimating the economy grew 9% in 2021 after the economy rebounded from the first wave of COVID lockdowns and forecasting growth of more than 5% this year. It has a cash buffer of about 32 billion euros, enough to cover at least three years of maturing debt.

($1 = 0.8846 euros)

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Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas Editing by Tomasz Janowski

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