Greece poised for bond swap and bailout approval

March 12, 2012 - 8:16 AM
Greece Financial Crisis

Greeces' Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, speaks during a conference of PASOK socialist party at Faliro near Athens, Saturday, March 10, 2012. Greece's private creditors agreed Friday to take cents on the euro in the biggest debt writedown in history, paving the way for an enormous second bailout for the country to keep Europe's economy from being dragged further into chaos. (AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece is on Monday set to swap privately held bonds issued under Greek law with new ones worth less than half their original value, just days after the country secured the biggest debt writedown in history.

The debt-ridden country will also be hoping that its second international bailout will be finalized later when the finance ministers from the 17 eurozone nations meet in Brussels.

Securing the writedown was one of the most important preconditions before funds from the euro130 billion ($172 billion) bailout could be released — without the bailout, Greece faced defaulting on its debts in less than two weeks time when a big bond redemption was due.

The ministers will be meeting in an atmosphere of relative calm in the markets following Greece's achievement last week in getting the vast majority of its investors to agree to the debt-reduction deal.

Greece's bond swap plan got the support of 83.5 percent of private investors, even though the deal will see them face real losses of more than 70 percent on their holdings of Greek debt. Of the investors holding the euro177 billion ($234 billion) in bonds governed by Greek law, 85.8 percent agreed. The deadline for foreign-law bonds has been extended to March 23.

As well as being integral to the release of the second bailout, the bond swap, known as the Private Sector Involvement, is considered to be essential to getting Greece's public finances back on track. However, many in the markets think that it won't be enough and that Greece will have to reduce its debt burden further in the coming years.

The task facing the country, which is due to hold elections within the next couple of months, is tough.

"The budget must be balanced; otherwise we won't be able to borrow from anybody," government spokesman Panagiotis Kapsis said on Greek radio.

Greece has been locked out of the markets by sky-high interest rates and has been relying on funds from an initial euro110 billion ($145 billion) bailout since May 2010.

Despite receiving more than euro70 billion ($92 billion) of the initial rescue loans and passing a series of austerity measures, the country remains unable to service its debts as the economy has plunged into a deep recession.

European leaders agreed last October that Greece needed a second bailout if it was to avoid a disorderly default that could have dragged down the euro.