Tuesday, July 14, 2020
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ECONOMY | 25-02-2020 08:54

IMF hails 'productive' meeting with Guzmán, as minister faces creditors

Economy minister says Argentina is facing "a critical moment" ahead of meeting with private creditors and bondholders in Washington on Tuesday.

Economy Minister Martín Guzmán warned Monday that Argentina is facing "a critical moment" as he moves ahead with plans to restructure its heavy debt burden.

Speaking ahead of crunch meetings with private creditors on Tuesday in New York, Guzmán said the government was finalising a US$100-billion offer to bondholders. 

"We seek to continue deepening mutual understanding about debt sustainability issues, at a time that is critical because it is prior to a debt swap offer," he
said, speaking to reporters before a meeting in Washington DC.

The economy minister was speaking after talks with officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the US capital, which were hailed by Fund officials as "very productive."

"It was an opportunity to deepen the ongoing dialogue with the Argentine authorities based on the work of the recent technical mission of the IMF staff in Buenos Aires," said an IMF source. "The meeting was very productive," the source added.

Guzmán, who was accompanied by Sergio Chodos, Argentina's representative to the IMF, met with the Fund's chief Western Hemisphere director, Julie Kozack, and the organisation's head of mission for Argentina, Luis Cubeddu for the two-hour meeting.

"We continue with dialogue, seeking to continue deepening our understanding of debt and economy issues," Guzmán said in brief comments to the press.

Argentina's Ambassador to Washington, Jorge Argüello, is expected to join the officials in New York to act as a go-between for international organisations and Argentine officials. It is unknown which creditors Guzmán will seek to meet with, though reports in financial outlets in recent weeks have suggested that some investors and hedge funds are joining forces for negotiations. 

Argentina is expected to ask bondholders for a delay in payments until 2023 as it seeks to restructure debt and restore economic growth, in addition to requesting a haircut and talks over interest payments.

On Monday, Argüello also met with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, as contact with officials in Washington deepens.

The meetings are the latest in a string of high-profile tête à têtes for the economy minister, who career has been mostly academic before joining President Alberto Fernández's government. Over the weekend, he met with IMF chief Kristalina Georgiev and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the sidelines of the G20 summit of finance ministers and central bank chiefs in Saudi Arabia.

President Fernández is hoping to renegotiate US$195 billion of its US$311 billion foreign debt, including a deeply unpopular US$57 billion IMF bailout loan in 2018.

The Peronist leader, who took office in December, has refused the final US$13 billion disbursement of the loan, leaving Argentina's exposure  with the Fund at US$44 billion.

The United States' support for Argentina is crucial at this time – Washington holds 16.5 percent of the voting power on the IMF's board.

Over the weekend, Argentina announced that it would allow the IMF to conduct a so-called 'Article IV review,' a preliminary step that could eventually allow for a new programme with the IMF, the Economy Ministry said in a statement. 

Investors have been alert to developments this week since the organisation said creditors would need to make a “meaningful contribution” to lighten the nation’s staggering debt load. 

The Article IV consultation is an annual review process wherein a team of IMF economists visits a country to assess economic and financial conditions. Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner refused to undergo the assessment while in office, but her successor, Mauricio Macri, agreed to resume the process in 2016.

 

In a statement issued Monday, the government hailed the "important support" that Guzman won in Riyadh, which it said would improve "debt transparency and sustainability and encourage additional efforts to address vulnerabilities."

Guzman plans to meet on Tuesday in New York with holders of external public debt.

– TIMES/AFP/NA

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