Lebanon kicked off talks to restructure its $90 billion debt pile on Friday with a promise to present a comprehensive recovery plan for its “broken” economy before the end of this year, Bloomberg News reported. In a video presentation to bondholders, Lebanon’s top finance officials said the economic overhaul would require external funding, but did not set concrete targets for cutting the deficit or restoring growth and spoke only in general terms about the steps required.
Chairman of the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) Salim Sfeir announced plans to donate $6 million to government hospitals battling coronavirus, in a press conference yesterday, the Middle East Monitor reported. The money from the ABL will be used to purchase 120 respirators for treatment of coronavirus patients across Lebanon, according to a statement from Sfeir’s office. During a meeting between Sfeir and Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Tuesday, ABL’s chairman handed the government a cheque for the $6 million and said that “today Lebanon is enduring a great national trial.
Lebanon faces a complex and difficult debt restructuring that could take up to two years, Morgan Stanley has estimated, though the recent slump in its bonds has left them looking cheap even if the harshest scenarios play out, Reuters reported. Lebanon, one of the most indebted countries in the world, suspended payments on all $31.3 billion of its international ‘eurobonds’ this month, declaring that it could no longer repay them.
Lebanon will begin the process of restructuring its roughly $30 billion of Eurobonds with an investor presentation on March 27, despite the coronavirus outbreak roiling global markets and paralyzing travel, Bloomberg News reported. The government, which defaulted this month, asked its financial adviser, Lazard Ltd., to initiate talks with investors, the Finance Ministry said in a statement Monday. The government “is developing a sustainable macroeconomic plan to redress the Lebanese economy,” the ministry said.
Sovereign bond restructurings are rarely smooth. Lebanon’s looks like it will be particularly rocky. The rules underpinning the nation’s looming debt overhaul may complicate efforts to gather enough support to change the terms of its bonds, Bloomberg News reported. At the same time, they could protect the country from some of the issues that left Argentina with lengthy court battles.
With distressed debt investors and emerging markets funds suddenly faced with one of the sharpest asset price falls in a generation, Lebanon picked the wrong time to go bankrupt, Reuters reported. Funds are still circling as the clock ticks down on Lebanon’s first sovereign default, but some may not buy until after the government unveils plans to revamp the debt and reform its economy, and the dust settles on a global asset plunge.
With Lebanon in default for the first time in its history, banks are in crisis and the economy is in freefall. But one sector is booming: property. Desperate for a safe haven for their cash, citizens and professional investors have been buying up real estate at levels not seen for years in Lebanon’s previously stagnant property market, the Financial Times reported. At one central Beirut real estate agent, where the five-member team has toiled for months to the sound of the protests that have engulfed the Lebanese capital since October, the clients just keep calling.
Investors in Lebanon’s dollar debt are nursing big losses after the government failed to repay a $1.2bn bond due on Monday, triggering the country’s first ever sovereign default, the Financial Times reported. Lebanese dollar bonds have since lost half of their value, with the March bond trading at roughly 28 cents on the dollar on Tuesday, down from 57 cents on Friday. London-based asset manager Ashmore owned more than 25 per cent of the bond at the end of last year, according to fund filings compiled by Bloomberg.
Lebanon is set to default on its debts for the first time on Monday as its foreign currency reserves plummet to critically low levels, the Financial Times reported. Prime minister Hassan Diab has said that Lebanon will not be able to pay a $1.2bn Eurobond that matures on Monday as the country’s economic crisis deepens. The government is now preparing for negotiations with its creditors as it grapples with debts of more than $90bn, equivalent to about 170 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Lebanon’s financial prosecutor has frozen the assets of almost half the crisis-hit country’s banks and their executives, piling further pressure on an already stressed financial sector, the Financial Times reported. The move against the banking sector, once seen as the pillar of Lebanon’s economy, comes as Beirut’s worst financial crisis for decades pushes the heavily indebted government towards its first default, and as popular fury towards the country’s ruling classes has focused on financial elites.