Argentina faces default: Debt deadline set for 30 July

Billy Ehrenberg
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30 July is the day when Argentina either pays up or faces default (Source: Getty)

The deadline looms: 30 July is the day when Argentina either pays up or faces the furies of default, inflation and destitution.

The New York court where Argentina has been fighting its battle to avoid paying a group of hedge fund creditors (known collectively as NML) has ruled that Argentina cannot have another stay of execution. 30 July is inked in red.

Argentina's argument is that by agreeing to repayment terms favourable to NML it will be legally obliged under a clause in a bond contract to offer the same terms to all creditors. This bill, it says, could be $15bn and might bankrupt the country.

The debate goes back to 2001 when Argentina found itself in financial turmoil: gripped by hyper-inflation it defaulted on its debts. Around 90 per cent of bondholders accepted that they wouldn't receive the full totals owed and agreed to trim their deals - but not all.

Argentina claims those that didn't, NML, are vultures: they bought cut-price bonds in a failing economy and then refused to accept that default changes the rules of play. You get cheap bonds if you invest in an ailing nation because there is a risk of default, they argue, and you can't expect to get the same return if you lose.

NML argues it is fighting merely for what it is owed. Argentina has been paying back bondholders it doesn't see as carrion fowl, or trying to, and should have to pay all back at the same time. This is known as the pari passu clause.

Argentina has been fighting and stalling on this issue for months, perhaps because the clause forcing it to offer the more favourable repayment conditions to all relevant bondholders expires on 1 January 2015. The saga seems set to end before then however, and 30 July is the appointed date.

It has fought and lost in the US Supreme Court and it has just lost again. It is hoped that the country will settle and that the last legacy of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner won't be the deserts of financial ruin.

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