Sovereign Debt Restructuring’s Loaded Cases

The Institute for International Finance’s annual survey of  its restructuring principles and investor relations trends, prepared under joint public-private sector senior executive direction, covered a half-dozen country cases and forty active communications programs as the joint tracking begun in the early 2000s reflected this year’s sharp capital flow predicted pick up from $750 billion to $1 trillion.  The group noted that a brief July scare around advanced economy central bank liquidity moderation was a minor repeat of the 2013 Federal Reserve taper tantrum and that rising emerging market foreign currency denominated sovereign and quasi-sovereign obligations posed risks, even as systemic crisis was not flagged. The workouts in the report were relatively minor but could be revisited in the near future and also represent troubling precedents. Belize was back for a third round on its $525 million original “super bond” after natural disaster aggravated fiscal and current account deficits. A creditor committee was formed one week after the government sought relief, and 90 percent of holders agreed to lower coupons and an equal installment amortization schedule from 2030-34. Consent solicitation replaced a formal exchange offer due to collective action clause provisions, and negotiations took less than six months, with financial and legal advisers paid for under the previous agreement. Mozambique defaulted on a Eurobond and two loans and proposed to swap state tuna company-owned for sovereign claims in a “compact timeframe” without full consultation. Exit consents applied in the March 2016 operation which got 100 percent acceptance for extended maturities at a 10.5 percent yield. After the deal officials revealed another $1 billion in outstanding credit, prompting IMF program cutoff and an external audit which found that half the proceeds could not be traced. Parliament and the local courts declared the official guarantees illegal, and international banks leading the syndicate are reportedly under US Justice Department investigation. Informal discussions have been held with creditors, who are pressing for a fresh Fund arrangement and debt sustainability analysis with recognition of existing cash flow help in a “cautionary tale,” according to the IIF.

Venezuela is in full-blown crisis with total foreign debt estimated at $150 billion, or 150 percent of GDP, and liquid reserves at $2 billion following a series of state oil company re-profiling and new finance transactions last year. Chinese debt for petroleum exports has already been restructured, and the central bank sold a $3 billion PDVSA bond at a one-third discount to a US asset manager in May in a controversial placement which catalyzed momentum for Treasury Department sanctions against future debt or equity purchase. President Maduro has delayed almost $4 billion in payments due the last quarter and ordered his Vice President, under previous bilateral curbs as an individual for alleged drug trafficking, to lead comprehensive restructuring talks with all commercial and official creditors with a wide disparity in geopolitical and instrument composition. The IMF may be called in to verify statistics, but Caracas with its dueling parliaments and record inflation and violence will remain at the opposite extreme of the IIF’s data and investor outreach winners. Almost half the countries tracked were in the top quartile with  Indonesia, Mexico Turkey with the highest score followed by Brazil, Russia, South Africa and Poland in need mainly of restructuring  information and network links.