Greece Close to Reach Debt Buyback Target

10 Dec 2012

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Prime Minister, Greece,  Antonis Samaras

(BLOOMBERG)  Greece is near to reaching its target in a buyback of sovereign debt that will unlock aid from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, according to a Greek government official.

The amount offered in the buyback of Greece’s bonds is close to 30 billion euros, the official at the Finance Ministry said on condition of anonymity, referring to the face value of the securities.

The transaction went “very well,” Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told reporters in Munich late yesterday after meeting leaders of the German state of Bavaria.
Domestic and overseas investors offered to sell back to Greece as much as 27 billion euros of their holdings of the nation’s bonds, state-run NET TV reported. Greek banks submitted offers of around 10 billion euros, while foreign investors, including hedge funds, offered as much as 16 billion euros, Kathimerini newspaper said.

Greece is using a 10 billion-euro loan from Europe’s bailout fund to repurchase debt it sold earlier this year and secure funds that have been blocked since June as the government tries to get its bailout program back after two elections and a deepening recession, reports Bloomberg.

The buyback was part of a package of measures approved by euro-area finance ministers on Nov. 27 to lower the nation’s debt to 124 percent of gross domestic product by 2020 from a projected 190 percent in 2014.

Greek Banks
Greek banks are set to offer their entire holdings of the nation’s government bonds to bridge any shortfall from the target amount, both NET and Kathimerini reported. The country’s banks held about 15 billion euros of the securities, while its pension fund from the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF had about 8 billion euros, according to a Nov. 27 draft report.

The buyback program will be successful and ensure payment of the next loan tranche from international creditors, Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said in an interview published in Athens-based Ta Nea newspaper. The program must succeed, Finland’s Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen said in another interview, published yesterday in newspaper Real News.

The buyback is focused on the 62 billion euros of bonds issued when Greece restructured its privately held debt in March. The prospects for a successful completion improved after the government increased the offer price above the closing level of Nov. 23, which euro-area finance ministers had said would be the maximum.

Buyback ‘Success’
The buyback is a success based on the reports and “will allow Greece to borrow 10 billion euros from the European Stability Mechanism to retire outstanding debt with a face value of 30 billion euros, reducing its net debt by 20 billion euros,” Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London, wrote in a note to investors.

The prices offered for Greek bonds maturing from 2023 to 2042 averaged 33.1 percent of face value, based on information in a statement from the Athens-based Public Debt Management Agency on Dec. 3. That compares with the average of 28.1 percent of face value on Nov. 23, according to a note from Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

The IMF set the 2020 debt-reduction target as a condition for continuing to fund a third of Greece’s bailout program. The fund will examine the results of the buyback before deciding whether to approve the disbursement of additional aid, Managing Director Christine Lagarde said after a euro-area finance ministers’ meeting on Nov. 27.

Tags: World, Business, Antonis Samaras

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