Swap deadline looms for Greek foreign law bonds

Published April 4, 2012 3:27PM (EDT)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Investors holding Greek government bonds issued under foreign law face a Wednesday night deadline to decide whether to agree to swap them with new securities worth less than half their original value.

The government has already extended the deadline twice. The swap for private holders of bonds issued under Greek law was carried out last month. The exchange will complete the biggest debt writedown in history, relieving the crisis-hit country of just over half its €205 billion ($271.5 billion) pile of debt held by banks, pension funds and other private investors.

The deal is intended to secure Greece's long-term debt sustainability, bringing the amount owed to its creditors to around 120 percent of gross domestic product by 2020, from nearly 170 percent now.

Last month, Athens swapped bonds worth €177 billion ($232 billion) issued under domestic law for new ones, forcing investors to take a cut of about 75 percent on the real value of their investment. Greece also enacted legislation forcing holdouts into the deal, after 83.5 percent of private investors agreed to join up to the deal.

Wednesday's deadline affects €28.5 billion worth of bonds issued under foreign law or by state enterprises.

"The offer that has been made is the best one possible," government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said. "There will not be a better one."

The original deadline of March 9 has been extended twice to secure higher voluntary participation by holders of the foreign law bonds.

The debt reduction deal was essential for Greece to secure funds from a multibillion euro second international bailout, and to prevent the country from a potentially catastrophic default that could have dragged down the euro.

The interim governing coalition, formed late last year to resolve a severe political crisis, has pledged to call elections after it finalizes the debt deal and pushes through legislation necessary to secure the second bailout. Although no date has been set, the polls are widely expected to be held on May 6.

Kapsis said the exact timing of the elections would be announced next week.

By Salon Staff

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