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Usuario :    Artículo WSJ: HOLDOUTS - 12 enero 2016 . . .
 
 
 

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http://www.wsj.com/articles/argentina-seeks-to-end-dispute-with-creditors-1452631335 By RYAN DUBE Jan. 12, 2016 3:42 p.m. ET BUENOS AIRES—Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s government on Wednesday starts negotiations with creditors to end a long, bitter dispute and permit the country to tap financial markets for the first time in years, helping its battered economy recover. “We are ready to bring the matter to a close and negotiate a solution,” Mr. Macri said Tuesday. “I hope we can rapidly leave this issue behind because it limits our ability to grow." Officials will meet in New York with bondholders that had rejected previous debt restructurings following Argentina’s huge 2001 default. The meeting will include Argentina’s finance secretary, Luis Caputo, U.S. hedge funds that successfully sued Argentina for full repayment of the soured securities, and Daniel Pollack, a mediator appointed by U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa, who has overseen the case. Attorneys for a group of small Argentine creditors who also won court judgments in the U.S., where the bonds were issued, are also expected to participate. Ending the long-running saga is seen as crucial if Mr. Macri is to jumpstart a stagnant economy mired in double-digit inflation driven by the generous spending policies of his predecessor, Cristina Kirchner, and hobbled by a lack of access to capital markets. A settlement would lower borrowing costs for the government and corporations as Mr. Macri looks to overturn 12 years of populist policies. But the negotiations also carry political risk for a fledgling government in a country where many consider the creditors “vultures” out to gut Argentina. “Everybody wants a face-saving solution,” said Claudio Loser, an Argentine economist and former Western Hemisphere director at the International Monetary Fund. He said the government “wants to solve the problem, but politically they don’t want to appear [to be] selling off to the quote-unquote vultures.” The conflict is rooted in the 2001 default of some $100 billion of debt, at the time the largest sovereign default in history. The government convinced investors in 2005 and 2010 to exchange almost 93% of the defaulted bonds for new debt valued at about 33 cents on the dollar. The holders of the remaining 7% of the bonds have held out, hoping for a better deal. They include U.S. hedge funds such as Elliott Management Corp., which is headed by prominent Republican donor Paul Singer, and Aurelius Capital Management LP. Both snatched up debt on the cheap, betting they could get Argentina to pay the full amount. Elliott and Aurelius declined to comment. The holdouts also include thousands of smaller creditors in Argentina and Europe who bought the sovereign bonds at full value before the default. A settlement with all of the holdout creditors could cost Argentina about $10 billion, according to economists. Guillermo Nielsen, a former finance secretary who led the 2005 restructuring, said the Macri administration would likely cushion the blow of the payout by swapping the defaulted securities for new bonds rather than paying in cash. “Argentina can’t pay in cash, it is going to have to pay in bonds,” Mr. Nielsen said. “There will be a negotiation over what type of bonds Argentina is going to use to make the payments.” The talks have raised hopes for holdout creditors such as Carlos Ulla,who has waited almost 15 years for Argentina to pay back the savings that he and his late father lost in the default. “There is a lot of hope since Mauricio Macri’s election because clearly this is a government that is interested in returning to international markets,” said Mr. Ulla, a 57-year-old lawyer from Argentina’s northeastern city of Santa Fe. “I expect to receive 100%.” A deal would likely require approval from lawmakers to overturn legislation that prevents Argentina from providing the holdouts with better terms than previous restructurings. That could be a challenge in a Congress full of Kirchner loyalists. Axel Kicillof, Mrs. Kirchner’s former finance minister and a current congressman, described the holdout creditors as “intransigent” and their demands for full payment “unfair.” “If the government goes and negotiates, that doesn’t seem bad to me,” Mr. Kiciloff said in an interview. “What would be bad is if they go against the interests of Argentina.” Arturo Porzecanski, a professor of international economics at American University who has closely tracked the bond dispute, doubts there will be a quick settlement. He recalled Finance MinisterAlfonso Prat-Gay’s criticism of the restructurings in a 2013 court briefing as “extremely generous” to the bondholders due to an annual dividend linked to the country’s economic performance. Mr. Porzecanski also pointed to the Macri administration’s recent efforts to secure a loan from international banks worth some $5 billion by using its central bank to sidestep the court judgments, sending a bad message to holdout creditors. “That makes me skeptical that one or two trips to New York and they are going to smoke the peace pipe,” he said. “Don’t hold your breath.” Argentina’s Finance Ministry declined to make Mr. Prat-Gay available for an interview. Mr. Prat-Gay has previously said the government would be tough in negotiations. For investors, the prospect of Argentina settling its debt battles will mean a large chunk of new emerging-market debt offerings, saysGorky Urquieta, co-head of the emerging-markets debt team at New York-based Neuberger Berman, which holds Argentine bonds that were exchanged for the defaulted debt. Some Argentine companies have already been shopping themselves to foreign investors in anticipation of a deal with creditors. The firms expect a settlement would lead ratings companies to lift corporate debt in Argentina above its CCC status, making it easier to attract foreign investors. Alberto Bernal, chief emerging-markets and global strategist at Miami-based XP Securities, says many international investors would be happy to finance Argentine companies if a deal is reached. He expects a settlement this year, but says that would require creditors accepting less than the full value for their bonds. That won’t work for Horacio Vazquez, a 59-year-old electrical engineer who lost $73,000 and his job in the 2001 default. Months before, he had invested in sovereign bonds after seeing government advertisements. The years that followed saw him fighting for his savings to be repaid, which attracted scorn from a government that mocked him and other small Argentine holdouts as unpatriotic. “This has gone from being an economic necessity to a fight over principals,” he said at a Buenos Aires café. “After waiting 14 years, if the government doesn’t offer something convincing, we’ll continue without a deal.” —Julie Wernau in New York, and Taos Turner and Alberto Messer in Buenos Aires contributed to this article. Write to RYAN DUBE at ryan.dube@dowjones.com
 
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