The managing director of the Institute of International Finance, a group representing around 400 banks and financial organisations, met representatives from the European Central Bank, the Greek government and the eurozone in Rome to try to break a deadlock over how private creditors might voluntarily maintain their exposure to Greek sovereign debt.

It was the latest in a series of meetings among the parties in recent weeks, but there is little sign of a deal coming together. Thursday’s meeting broke up after approximately four hours with no conclusion. To avoid a debt default by Greece, eurozone finance ministers are trying to put together a second international bailout by mid-September. A private sector debt rollover, in which investors would buy new Greek bonds as existing ones matured, is an important part of the new rescue plan.

A source at the Italian Treasury told Reuters that Thursday’s meeting discussed ideas beyond a complex French proposal to roll over up to 70 per cent of maturing Greek debt, but there was no clarity on what the other options on the table were. In a reflection of how expectations for a breakthrough in the IIF-led talks have declined, one banking source commented ahead of the meeting: “The circus moves to Rome.”

Yields on government bonds of indebted eurozone states rose to euro-era highs on Thursday because of concern that any scheme to have private investors pay in a rescue of Greece could be applied to the debt of other countries too. The Irish ten-year bond yield jumped more than 0.7 percentage point to 13.42 per cent. In Frankfurt, the European Central Bank raised its key interest rate for the eurozone by a further 0.25 percentage point to 1.50 per cent. The hike aims to curb inflation but will also increase borrowing costs and increase pressure on banks in Greece, Ireland and Portugal, as well as other at-risk eurozone states such as Spain. However, Spain attracted strong demand when it sold 3 billion euros of three- and five-year bonds, partly because of buying interest from Spanish banks which traditionally purchase their own country’s debt.

This suggested Madrid was not close to losing the ability to fund itself in the markets at affordable rates.


The next bailout of Greece, which follows agreement in May 2010 on 110 billion euros of emergency loans, is expected to total around 115 billion euros and will aim to fund Athens until late 2014. Of the total, eurozone governments want the private sector to provide 30 billion euros via the debt rollover. Greece itself would provide a further 30 billion euros to the package by selling state assets, and the remainder would come from the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

Eurozone finance ministers will discuss the outlines of the new rescue plan in Brussels on July 11, but no firm decisions are expected then because the private sector’s role remains unclear. Partly because of the insistence of the ECB, governments and banks have been trying to put together a Greek debt rollover which would not prompt credit rating agencies to declare a default – even a limited or “selective default”.

This is, however, proving very difficult. Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager told a Dutch newspaper on Thursday that the private sector’s involvement had to be substantial. If that meant putting pressure on investors to take part, then so be it, he said. “I think we need to accept that a voluntary contribution is not realistic,” he told Het Financielle Dagblad. “If a compulsory contribution from the banks leads to a short and isolated (credit) rating event, then that is not so bad.”

Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, which represents European countries, said during a visit to Slovakia on Thursday: “These are decisive times for the euro area. I’m confident we can overcome these difficulties and become stronger.”

Source: Athens News