One Step From the Avalanche
argentina | by Edward Hugh | 06 Feb, 2004 at 12:32 PM | comments (0) | trackback (0)

Just to follow up on Marcelo's post, here are the details and some commentary. Perhaps the quote of the day comes from one Jonathan Binder:

"Life is going to be much more difficult for the government as a result of this,''

This certainly would seem to be a 'balanced' prediction.

Some Argentine military assets in the U.S. were frozen in a bondholders' lawsuit filed by EM Ltd., a fund controlled by Kenneth Dart, Argentine Economy Minister Robert Lavagna said at a news conference in Buenos Aires.

A judge in Maryland blocked Argentina from using or selling anything in four military warehouses in the U.S., two used by the air force and two by the navy. The freeze applies to the buildings and at least one airplane, as well as motors and weapons, defense ministry spokesman Fabian Dabul said in an interview. Argentina plans to appeal the order, which froze $3 million in assets, Cabinet Chief Alberto Fernandez said.

``It's about time,'' said Horacio Vazquez, head of the Argentine Bondholders Association, which represents 7,000 bondholders. ``The government has taken two years and has done nothing so the courts have had to step in.''

The ruling is another setback for Argentina in its effort to restructure its $99.4 billion defaulted bonds, a condition for the country to receive disbursements from the International Monetary Fund under a $13.3 billion aid agreement signed in September. Bondholders have rejected Argentina's offer to pay $250 for each $1,000 in face value on defaulted bonds.

``This is no surprise at all -- the sort of strategy Argentina is pursuing was bound to result in this,'' said James Barrineau, a senior vice president for emerging markets at Alliance Capital Management Co. in New York, which manages $145 billion in fixed income securities. He wouldn't say if he holds Argentine bonds.

John Missing, one of Dart's lawyers and a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton in Washington, didn't return calls seeking comment.

`Avalanche' of Rulings

The country's most-traded defaulted bond, the 7 percent bond due 2008, was trading at about 26 cents on the dollar. It was trading as high as 30 as recently as Jan. 9.

Lavagna said he didn't know the name the judge who issued the order. EM Ltd. has claims worth $270 million against Argentina, Lavagna said. U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa late last year ruled in favor of four funds with claims against Argentina, paving the way for them to try to seize assets.

Dozens of the investors, including Dart, president of Dart Container Corp. in Mason, Michigan, have initiated legal proceedings as a way to win a bigger settlement.

``There will be a an avalanche of these sort of rulings,'' said Jonathan Binder, former senior investment manager for Standard Asset Management, in Miami, who last week set up his own investment advisory company. Binder managed $1.2 billion in assets, including Argentine bonds, for Standard Asset.

``Life is going to be much more difficult for the government as a result of this,'' he said.

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