Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank has announced it will begin efforts to refinance its massive debt ahead of a crucial meeting on Monday with the commonwealth’s creditors. The move will involve private negotiations with undisclosed bondholders and will include a mix of cash payments, reissued securities or a combination of both, according to a notice dated July 9 that was published Friday on Electronic Municipal Market Access.
“Such purchases may have a positive or negative impact on the market price for any GDB notes,” the commonwealth’s chief financial authority said. The island is trying to lower its interest rates after years of borrowing under restrictive terms. For example, a $3.5 billion bond issue in 2014 will require the island to pay $4.22 billion in interest payments alone over the next 20 years, and it won’t begin to pay down the principal until 2021.
Puerto Rico has about $72 billion in debt, of which about 16 percent is owned by U.S. mutual funds and 21 percent is held by hedge funds, according to a CNN analysis earlier this month, citing data from Morningstar. The rest of the debt is owned by individual investors who for years were willing to take a chance on (and profit from) Puerto Rico’s troubled economy. Lenders now face the prospect of losing money if part of the island’s debt is written off or if the island lowers its interest rate burdens.
Gov. Alejandro García Padilla announced in late June that the island can’t pay back all of its debt and is seeking to restructure it and postpone bond payments. The governor made clear that the island is committed to eventually paying off the money it borrowed but that his government is seeking to extend payment deadlines and reduce its interest burdens.
GDB President Melba Acosta told reporters on Tuesday that officials will meet with creditors this coming Monday at Citigroup offices in New York.