Thursday, June 8

IMF chief urges all lenders to join Ukraine debt deal


KIEV: IMF chief Christine Lagarde pressed Ukraine’s hold-out creditors such as Russia and a handful of Western investment houses to write off some of the crisis-wrecked country’s massive debt.

Lagarde’s statement came as an International Monetary Fund mission arrived in Kiev to assess Ukraine’s committment to economic restructuring and belt-tightening measures that would warrant the release of another portion of its US$17.5 billion (15.7 billion euro) loan.

A group of smaller private lenders have reportedly refused to join a debt write-down agreement that Kiev struck with its four largest commercial bondholders last month.

Moscow is also demanding the December repayment of a US$3.0 billion bond it had issued to Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych in months preceeding to his February 2014 ouster by waves of pro-European protests.

“High participation by all concerned Eurobond holders in the upcoming debt exchange is paramount, since Ukraine lacks the resources under the programme to service its debts on the original terms,” Lagarde said in a statement.

“Together with the authorities and the Ad-Hoc Creditor Committee, I call on all creditors to support this offer.”

Franklin Templeton and three other financial titans agreed in late August to take either a cut or delay in repayment of some US$18 billion in Ukrainian Eurobonds.

But Kiev must ensure that a smaller group of commercial lenders that were not part of those discussions agree to the same terms.

Western media reports said that Aurelius Capital Management – the same US hedge fund now battling the government of Argentina – is not only balking but also has a big enough share of the bonds to sink the entire deal.

Moscow has also refused to discuss more lenient conditions with Kiev’s new pro-Western government.

The IMF’s managing director appeared to referring in part to Russia by insisting “that the (Kiev) authorities’ programme warrants the strong support of the international community.”

The Fund’s rescue is at the heart of a US$40 billion package that nations and international organisations earmarked for Ukraine at the start of the year.

But the entire deal hinges on Ukraine’s ability to restructure US$15.3 billion in debt over the coming four years.

The IMF has suggested that it would continue to issue Ukraine with new money as long as serious discussion with bondholders were underway. — AFP