Greece has persuaded the vast majority of its private creditors to accept huge losses and take part in a landmark debt swap that may help save the country from a damaging default.
The Finance Ministry in Athens said Friday that private-sector holders tendered 85.8 percent of the €177 billion ($234 billion) in bonds regulated by Greek law. The agreement instantly wipes €105 billion ($139 billion) from Greece's crippling debt burden and clears the way for the country to get a second, multibillion-dollar loan package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
The swap deal's success means conditions are now set for that rescue, said Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, head of the euro zone group of finance ministers that has been overseeing the Greek crisis.
I welcome the significant progress achieved in the preparation of the second Greek adjustment program, Juncker said after a teleconference with his fellow ministers. He said he was encouraged by the high private-sector participation in the exchange offer, Dow Jones MarketWatch reported.
Holders of Greek-regulated bonds who didn't voluntarily sign up for the restructuring and swap will now be forced to participate through a mechanism called collective-action clauses, bringing the total restructured to 95.7 percent, or $261 billion, according to the Finance Ministry.
We have achieved an exceptional success ... and I believe everyone will soon realize that this is the only way to keep the country on its feet and give it a second historic chance that it needs, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told parliament Friday, the Associated Press reported.
After a very long time this is a very good day, he said.
The new bonds will have a face value less than half the previous securities, reduced interest rates and longer maturities, leaving the institutional creditors that accept the deal with losses exceeding 70 percent.
Attention now focuses on finance ministers from Greece's EU partners. They'll decide whether to go ahead with the second bailout package in a conference call set for later Friday. The rescue loans are designed to prevent Greece from defaulting on a March 20 bond redemption.
Officials from the International Swaps and Derivatives Association will meet Friday to determine if a credit event, or technical default, has occurred in Greece. Pending the meeting's outcome, a decision will be made on whether to pay out credit default swaps, a form of insurance against restructurings such as Greece's.
Also Friday, the Greek ministry said holders of Greek bonds regulated internationally representing €20 billion in debt had also agreed to the swap deal. The deadline for any remaining bondholders to sign up has been extended to March 23.
Greece had until Thursday evening to reach the agreement threshold with creditors.