US court tells Argentina to spell out bond offer

A US appeals court in New York has told Argentina to spell out its offer to settle a suit by holders of defaulted bonds that Buenos Aires brands "vultures," court documents showed Friday.

But Argentine President Cristina Kirchner insisted that while the country was willing to repay its debts, it would not grant the so-called vulture funds better terms than those agreed upon in past restructurings.

Argentina's lawyer suggested in a hearing Wednesday that the government was willing to repay the debt via an unstated formula different from what the bondholders -- US hedge funds -- were demanding.

The court therefore ordered Argentina to submit in writing the "precise terms of any alternative payment formula and schedule to which (the country) is prepared to commit" by March 29.

Under the order, Buenos Aires must detail how and when it would repay the bonds, and what assurances it would provide about repayment.

Argentina defaulted on some $100 billion in debt in 2001, and has since restructured its debt twice, covering around 75 percent of the nominal value of the bonds.

But hedge funds NML Capital and Aurelius Capital Management, which bought up some of the original defaulted debt at steep discounts, refused to go along with the restructurings and are suing to recover 100 percent of the bonds' value, a total of $1.3 billion.

In an October ruling, a New York judge said Argentina would have to repay both sets of the bonds. The added $1.3 billion burden, however, could strain the country's finances and force it into default on all the bonds again.

In Buenos Aires, Kirchner said Argentina would agree to pay the hedge funds at the same discounted value and on the same schedule as the other creditors.

"Our offer to these 'vulture funds' is that they receive the money in the same way as those who are being paid back today, with the same 'haircut' and the same timetables," she told Argentina's congress.

"If there is a judge or a country that chooses to harm 93 percent of bondholders in order to favor seven percent, I start to doubt whether that can be called justice," she added.

"We are willing to pay these 'vulture funds' but not under better terms, because we would be committing a crime, cheating and defrauding 93 percent of creditors."

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