South America

Argentina’s Mendoza province, famed for its bodegas and Malbec grapes grown in the shadows of the Andes, has formally launched a debt restructuring process after missing an initial payment deadline on a 2024 bond, Reuters reported. The regional government said in a statement on Friday that it had opened an invitation to holders of around $590 million of the 2024 notes, which could see new debt instruments issued. The missed payment is still within a grace period.

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Investors holding several of Ecuador's sovereign bonds said Thursday that they had formed a committee to conduct talks with the government over a debt restructuring plan as the nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, LatinFinance reported. "The committee is representative of Ecuador's bondholder base and includes holdings across each series of the bonds," the institutional bondholders said in a statement. The committee added that it has hired BroadSpan Capital and UBS as financial advisers in the negotiations.

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Argentina's Buenos Aires province extended on Thursday the deadline for debt restructuring talks with its creditors to June 19, saying there could be room for negotiation with its creditors, WHTC reported. The province pushed out the deadline, previously set for Friday, after failing to reach a deal with bondholders, but said in a statement that it would "intensify the dialogue with investors who have not yet accepted the proposal" for about $7.148 billion in debt.

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Simultaneously grappling with surging deaths from Covid-19, recession and a weak currency, Brazil at least won’t have problem finding dollars to pay for imports and service its foreign debt in the aftermath of the pandemic, Bloomberg News reported. As Brazilians stop traveling and spending money abroad, the country’s long-running current account deficit is narrowing fast and could even become a surplus this year. In April alone, it was a positive $3.8 billion, the highest ever according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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As another debt deadline came and went this week, Argentina found itself in a familiar place: immersed in recession, beholden to the International Monetary Fund and at cross purposes with private lenders. If the coronavirus pandemic has bought Argentina some international indulgence, as the IMF made clear in a statement on June 1, it hasn’t eased the country’s burden or lifted uncertainty, Bloomberg News reported. Argentina surely deserves debt relief, but also a credible way forward. Borrower and creditors alike reckon that a deal will emerge; they have been inching closer for weeks.

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IMF officials say Argentina can still improve its restructuring offer on $65bn of debt with foreign creditors as it continues negotiations after slipping into default last month, the Financial Times reported. “There is still room for Argentina to increase payments to private creditors,” Julie Kozack, deputy director for the IMF’s western hemisphere department, told the Financial Times on Tuesday.

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Ecuador is kicking off the first round of creditor talks this week with the goal of releasing an initial debt restructuring offer as early as late June, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter, Bloomberg News reported. President Lenin Moreno’s administration is pressing to avoid a hard default and to regain access to credit markets. The South American nation plans to convene a call with its biggest bondholders, including a group led by BlackRock Inc.

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Aerolineas Argentinas will begin negotiations with unions to suspend the contracts of thousands of employees until August after the flag carrier’s income plunged about 97% due to the coronavirus outbreak, it said on Monday, Reuters reported. The airline, which is staying afloat largely through state support, will pay workers’ social security and make smaller, spot payments during the proposed two-month suspension, it said in a statement. A source told Reuters the carrier aims to suspend some 8,000 of its 12,000 employees.

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Argentina may have to dole out at least $880 million in subsidies this year to keep its state airline afloat, further weighing on government finances after the nation’s ninth sovereign default, Bloomberg News reported. Aerolineas Argentinas President Pablo Ceriani said the carrier’s budget shortfalls, up from about $680 million last year, will persist until demand rebounds, which isn’t expected for a couple of years.

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Argentina and its key bondholders are getting closer to a $65 billion debt restructuring deal after the country defaulted on its overseas debt for the ninth time in its history, Bloomberg News reported. While still at odds over several key issues, the latest changes in the proposals by the government and two groups of creditors published Thursday signal the difference between both sides is narrowing. Argentina is now weighing extending the deadline for its offer beyond June 2, giving the parties more time to reach a deal, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

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