The Eurosystem And Greek Government Debt

Some bonds of the Greek government mature on March 20. The total principal amount is €14.5bn.

The focus in the financial markets is what will happen to these securities and everyday we read about negotiations with the creditors on “private sector involvement (PSI)”. For the latest see this WSJ article Greece Private-Sector Creditors Meet in Paris.

According to The New York Times DealBook

Brokers estimate that of the 14.5 billion euros of these bonds outstanding, the largest holder is the European Central Bank, which bought these securities in 2010 at a price of around 70 cents in an early, ultimately futile attempt to boost Greece’s failing bond market. The brokers say that 4 billion to 5 billion euros of bonds are owned by hedge funds at an average cost of around 40 cents to 45 cents, with some of the larger positions being held by funds based in the United States that have large London offices.

Let us look at what may happen as far as the Eurosystem is concerned on March 20. Let’s assume that the Eurosystem holds €10bn of the maturing issue – €3bn each by De Nederlandsche Bank and the Bank of Greece and €4bn by the European Central Bank. And that the remaining €4.5bn are held by hedge funds.

Let’s assume that the hedge funds will be paid 15 cents for every € of bond held and are issued new restructured debt securities – i.e., €675m (Plus what about the final coupon payment?)

Question:  Where does Greece get the €10.675bn from?

The ECB is opposed to losses on the Eurosystem’s holdings as per this Bloomberg report from today so it may get a preferred creditor status.

The Eurosystem and the Greek government cannot roll the debt as it will violate the Treaty. So some official creditor or a group of creditors (EFSF?) will have to purchase €10bn+ of bonds from the Greek government before March 20 who will then pay €3bn each to the De Nederlandsche Bank and the Bank of Greece and €4bn the European Central Bank (plus coupons) on March 20 who will then later purchase the bonds from the group of official creditors!

The same holds even if the Eurosystem takes some loss.

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