Argentina will pay US$6B Paris Club debt

September 2, 2008 6:30:05 PM PDT
Argentina will pay its entire US$6.7 billion debt to the Paris Club of lending nations, President Cristina Fernandez said Tuesday, shoring up sagging investor confidence and opening the door to needed new capital as its economy slows.The payment, which will tap about a sixth of the country's US$47.1 billion in foreign currency reserves, "confirms one more time Argentina's willingness to meet its international obligations," Fernandez told a news conference.

Markets reacted positively to the news and bond prices rallied.

But some analysts warned that while the move may reassure local and foreign investors, it signals no shift in the fiscal policies they were most concerned about.

"The government believes this could open lines of credit and ease financing conditions for infrastructure projects and the private sector," wrote Daniel Kerner, Latin America analyst at the Eurasia Group in New York, in a note to investors. But, he added, "the risk is that the government feels this is all it needs to do."

The Paris Club is an umbrella group of wealthy creditor nations including the Germany, Japan, Italy, the Netherlands and the U.S.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack welcomed news of the planned Paris Club payment, saying in a news release that it "represents an important first step in the consolidation of Argentina's position in international markets."

Argentina defaulted on about US$95 billion in bonds in 2001, the largest default by any nation in history. Former President Nestor Kirchner, Fernandez's husband, restructured most of that debt in 2005 and repaid a US$9.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund in 2006, but left the Paris Club debt outstanding, prompting criticism from international lenders.

Fernandez also announced new public spending, unveiling a series of government-backed, low-interest loans for small and mid-size businesses, and decreeing a set of measures to protect local industry against cheap imports.