di Tom Arnold e Adam Jourdan
LONDON/BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina said on Tuesday it had reached a deal with three creditor groups to restructure $65 billion (49.8 billion pounds) in sovereign debt, potentially helping it climb out of a damaging default and revive its recession-hit economy.
The Economy Ministry said in a statement https://www.argentina.gob.ar/sites/default/files/press_release_roa_2.pdf it would adjust some payment dates and legal clauses to sweeten what had been touted as its "final" proposal made in early July, without increasing the overall principal or interest payout.
A major grain producer and once one of the world's wealthiest countries, Argentina fell into its ninth sovereign default in May and is headed for an estimated 12% economic contraction this year on the back of two years of recession.
"Today (we) have reached an agreement that will allow members of the creditor groups and such other holders to support Argentina's debt restructuring proposal and grant Argentina significant debt relief," the ministry said.
That included the Ad Hoc Group, Argentina Creditor Committee and the Exchange Bondholder Group, a trio that united last month to oppose a previous government offer, sparking a deadlock that threatened to derail an eventual deal.
The ministry said it would extend the deadline for creditors to formally accept the new deal to Aug. 24.
It had been set to expire on Tuesday.
News of the deal helped lift the government's existing eurobonds by as much as 3 cents. They had rallied on Monday in anticipation.
The country had been at an impasse with creditors, which included big-name funds such as BlackRock <BLK.N> and Ashmore , over revamping the debt ahead of Tuesday's deadline. There was no immediate confirmation of an agreement from the creditor groups.
But investors were cheered.
"It is something that the main bondholder groups can accept," said Graham Stock, an emerging markets strategist at creditor BlueBay Asset Management, who like others said the net present value of the new offer was 54.8 cents on the dollar.
"The economic situation in Argentina is very challenging and a key focus for us was to make sure there was sufficient cash flow relief for the government in the short-term to help the government address coronavirus," he said.
Riccardo Grassi, risk manager at Mangart Capital Advisors, said the two sides had reached a "political compromise."
"I wouldn't say creditors are happy, but we are happy that this thing has been resolved," he added.
PAYMENT DATE CHANGES
As part of the deal, the government said it would adjust some payment dates for the new bonds set out in the offer to raise the proposal's value.
The offer will also adjust certain legal aspects of so-called collective action clauses (CACs), which determine how future changes can be made to bond agreements. These had become a key point of contention in the talks.
Some bondholders had feared Argentina would try to use the CACs to adopt a "Pac-Man" strategy of attempting to get them on board one at a time.
Carlos de Sousa of Oxford Economics said the changes and the accord with major creditors meant a deal was almost in the bag.
"It should be straight forward now to achieve the required qualified majorities for a successful debt exchange," he said.
Under the deal, payment dates on the new bonds will be Jan. 9 and July 9, instead of March 4 and Sept. 4. The new bonds will begin amortizing in January 2025 and mature in July 2029.
President Alberto Fernandez and Economy Minister Martin Guzman had been adamant that Argentina was unable to improve the offer made in early July, though people close to the talks said there could be wiggle room to sweeten the offer.
Argentina struck a $57 billion loan deal with the IMF in 2018 and has said it will seek a new program with the fund after it wraps up its talks with private creditors.
(Reporting by Tom Arnold and Adam Jourdan; Additional reporting by Marc Jones, Rodrigo Campos and Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Steve Orlofsky)