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Let's not forget Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann was Merkel's economic advisor until she chose him to succeed Axel Weber earlier this year. So, we can either assume they were on the same page on no bondholder bailouts until 2013 or, more cynically, as you say, that Merkel has no position of her own and just does what is personally politically expedient hoping nobody calls her out on her change of opinion.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 01:54:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You have to educate me on this: does bondholder bailout and early rollover intersect?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 05:08:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Voluntary early rollover" means I hold a Greek bond and the Greek government sells me a new bond, the proceeds of which they use to buy the old bond.

Whether or not this involves a loss for me or is done "at par", I fail to comprehend how this could constitute a "credit event" in the eyes of anyone.

Now, if people perceive the I bought the new bond under duress, maybe they'll call it a default, but they don't have a legal leg to stand on.

This can also be done as a bond swap. I swap my existing bond for a newly issue bond, and I agree with Greece that the bond is worth the same as the old one. Mark-to-market and hold-to-maturity accounting issues galore, as you can imagine. Credit rating agencies have said they would interpret most bond swaps as a credit event. But if you structured it as two bond purchases as above, it wouldn't be.

A "maturity extension" can be seen as a bond swap. I exchange a bond maturing in 5 years for a bond maturing in 10 years. For the same book value, the 10-year bond would have smaller periodic payments, improving Greece's ability to pay. Longer maturities have higher sensitivities to interest rates higher downside risk, and might lose market value quickly. If the maturity extension is at a loss, it would be a credit event if "involuntary", yatta yatta bing bing.

These are all examples of "debt restructurings".

A "default" is a failure to meet obligations as they mature. Evidently, if restructurings are "voluntary" there's no "default".

This has nothing to do with mathematical finance and everything to do with law and politics, evidently, though faulty accounting principles help obfuscate the issues. As does jargon.

"Bondholder bail-in" means forcing bondholders to realise losses on their bond portfolios. A "bond rollover" or "bond swap" or "maturity extension" or "debt restructuring" is a "bail-in" if it involves a loss for the bondholder.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 05:20:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Crucially, creditor countries in the Eurozone have insisted that the EFSF is not allowed to loan money to Euro member states for the purposes or repurchasing bonds in the open market.

For instance, Greece could repurchase its own bonds at yields of 20-something percent when they issued them at yields below 5%, realising major gains.

This the Aust(e)rians interpret as an EFSF subsidy, fiscal transfer and market manipulation, so they disallow it.

They also want to prevent the EFSF from buying sovereign bonds in the secondary market (since they failed to close that loophole in the Lisbon Treaty charter of the ECB).

The wrangling over the interest rate being charged by the EFSF to Greece, Ireland and Portugal is related to this.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 06:13:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On second thought, I may have been confused: I was interpreting "bondholder bailout" as bailing out private holders of Greek bonds in case of a Greek default, while you probably meant bondholders participating in Greece's bailout... financial terms are difficult.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 05:23:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Bailout" and "bailin" are not financial terms, they're colourful metaphors.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 05:26:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann was Merkel's economic advisor until she chose him

(For clarity, I note that this is what I meant by "the fact of being a political nominee".)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 05:18:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Back to no bondholder bailouts until 2013: can you find the original news report behind this? I could only track down this (a press conference with Juncker in March):

Auf gar keinen Fall können wir jetzt innerhalb der Laufzeit des EFSF ‑ das will ich noch einmal ganz deutlich sagen, weil das oft missverstanden wird ‑ eine verpflichtende Beteiligung privater Gläubiger einführen, die es bis 2013 nicht gibt.Within the term of the EFSF, no way can we now - I want say this very clearly once more, because it is often misunderstood - introduce a mandatory participation of private creditors, which there won't be until 2013.

My emphasis. Schäuble's proposal is supposed to be voluntary, while the opponents argue that rating agencies won't see it as voluntary...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 06:07:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh. So that's where 2013 comes from:

EFSF FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT (pdf):

11. TERM AND LIQUIDATION OF EFSF

...

(2) The euro-area Member States undertake that they shall liquidate EFSF in accordance with its Articles of Association on the earliest date after 30 June 2013 on which there are no longer Loans outstanding to a euro-area Member State and all Funding Instruments issued by EFSF and any reimbursement amounts due to Guarantors have been repaid in full.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 06:17:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would look for accounts of the 18 October 2010 Deauville summit between Merkel and Sarkozy.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 06:19:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hm? I found the Schäuble position in Merkel's reply to a question at the 19 October 2010 press conference after the Deauville meeting:

REGIERUNGonline - Pressekonferenz Merkel, Sarkozy und Medwedew in Deauville AP - Press Conference Merkel, Sarkozy and Medvedev in Deauville
Ich habe immer wieder gesagt, dass die Fonds, die wir jetzt für die Rettung des Euro aufgelegt haben - sowohl bezüglich Griechenlands als auch für den Gesamt-Eurorettungsschirm -, die 2013 auslaufen, auf gar keinen Fall einfach so verlängert werden können. Deshalb heißt es heute, bereits Vorsorge zu treffen und zu überlegen: Was tun wir dann? Wir sind uns einig, dass wir einen Rettungsmechanismus brauchen, der aber dauerhaft und qualitativ anders beschaffen ist. Ich glaube, es ist ein sehr gutes Signal, dass Deutschland und Frankreich gemeinsam gesagt haben: Wir brauchen dazu eine Vertragsänderung, und diese Vertragsänderung beinhaltet einen Mechanismus, bei dem auch die Gläubiger finanziell an der Beseitigung einer schwierigen Situation für den Euro beteiligt werden. Das ist ein großer Fortschritt.I said agai and again that the funds we created to save the euro - both for Greece as well as for the aggregate euro rescue package - which expire in 2013, can in no case be just extended. That is why already today, one has to prepare and think about what we will be doing then. We agree that we need a rescue mechanism that is designed to be durable and qualitatively different. I think it's a very good signal that Germany and France have said jointly: for that, we need a treaty amendment, and this treaty amendment includes a mechanism in which the creditors, too, will participate financially in the solution of a difficult situation for the euro. This is a big step forward.

I failed to find the actual Deauville Declaration on the government site, but here is a copy of the German version, and here is the French Presidential office's English translation. The relevant part:

The amendment of the Treaties will be restricted to the following issues:

* The establishment of a permanent and robust framework to ensure orderly crisis management in the future, providing the necessary arrangements for an adequate participation of private creditors and allowing Member States to take appropriate coordinated measures to safeguard financial stability of the Euro area as a whole.

On the German government site, there is a copy of an op-ed for Handelsblatt by an advisor of the financial ministry (Schäuble), which comments the issue thusly:

Entscheidend für die Eindämmung der Staatsverschuldung ist die Beteiligung der Gläubiger an den Kosten der Sanierung überschuldeter Länder, also ein funktionierendes Verfahren für staatliche Insolvenzen. Dabei bezieht sich die Insolvenz lediglich auf die Bedienung der Staatsschulden, nicht auf sonstige staatliche Aktivitäten, und sie beinhaltet auch nicht den Ausverkauf staatlichen Vermögens. Es geht also um etwas anderes als eine private Insolvenz.Crucial to curbing the national debt is the participation of creditors in the costs of rehabilitating over-indebted countries, that is a working process for state insolvencies. The insolvency relates only to the servicing of public debt, not to other government activities, and does not include the selling off of state assets. That is, this is about something different from a private bankruptcy.
Wenn so ein Verfahren erreicht wird, sind Sanktionen der EU gegen Schuldensünder notfalls entbehrlich. Länder, bei denen eine Überschuldung droht, werden früher als bisher hohe Zinsaufschläge zahlen müssen und den Zugang zu weiteren Krediten verlieren. Genau in diesem Punkt geht die Erklärung von Merkel und Sarkozy weit über das hinaus, was die Van-Rompuy-Task-Force vorgeschlagen hat. Während die Task-Force eine Gläubigerbeteiligung nicht einmal erwähnt, ist nun vorgesehen, ein solches Verfahren im Rahmen einer Vertragsänderung einzuführen...If such a process is reached, the EU sanctions against debt sinners are expendable if necessary. Countries threatened with over-indeptedness will be required to pay high interest rate surcharges earlier than previously and lose access to further loans. Exactly at this point is the statement of Merkel and Sarkozy going far beyond what the Van Rompuy Task Force has proposed. While the Task Force did not even mention creditor participation, it is now foreseen to introduce such a procedure as part of a treaty amendment...
Entscheidend ist nun die Art und Weise, in der Insolvenzverfahren und Hilfen kombiniert werden. Wichtig ist zunächst die Reihenfolge. Die Beteiligung der Gläubiger muss am Anfang stehen. Diese Beteiligung erfolgt im Wesentlichen in Form eines "Haircuts", also einer pauschalen Kürzung der Forderungen. Erst dann kann das betreffende Land Hilfen erhalten. Keinesfalls dürfen die Hilfen vorher gewährt werden. Denn sonst besteht die Gefahr, dass es nie zur Beteiligung der privaten Gläubiger kommt und die Steuerzahler letztlich doch die Kosten der Sanierung tragen.Now the decisive issue is the way and method of the combination of the bankruptcy process and bailouts. Of foremost importance is the order. The participation of the creditor must appear at the beginning. This participation takes place mainly in the form of a "haircut", i.e. a sweeping reduction of claims. Only then can the country receive assistance. Under no circumstances may the aids be granted beforehand. Otherwise the danger exists that it will never come to the involvement of the private creditors and in the end the tax payers will pay the price of the rehabilitation.

This was not merely about early rollover but participation in a default, and an apparently mandatory one. So I would conclude that Merkel's March 2011 comments were probably motivated by the financial sphere's negative reaction to the Deauville proposal, saying "don't be scared, me and Sarko only proposed this for after 2013".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 07:14:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The insolvency relates only to the servicing of public debt, not to other government activities, and does not include the selling off of state assets.

...oh was that long ago...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 07:16:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So I would conclude that Merkel's March 2011 comments were probably motivated by the financial sphere's negative reaction to the Deauville proposal, saying "don't be scared, me and Sarko only proposed this for after 2013".

March? Merkel's position since October has been no losses for private bondholders before 2013

Germany's Angela Merkel, by contrast, pushed ahead with her plan to set in concrete the principle that government bondholders should be prepared post-2013 to suffer losses if a government can't pay its bills. She got her way and EU governments this month backed the principle as part of a future financial-rescue regime. Do note, however, that even conservative Angela Merkel kicked the can down the road a couple of years like any run of the mill politician is likely to do.

Even so, Ms. Merkel's decision to be explicit about the possibility of future bondholder losses spooked the markets. There, a little more ambiguity might have been a good thing. Usually markets tend to like certainty but it is apparent that bondholders of sovereign debt dislike the certainty that in the future they will have to share in losses due to governments having a solvency problem and restructuring, really defaulting, on government bonds.

Of course, if you tell the markets you'll allow defaults after 2013, you won't be able to place any bonds in the open market with maturities after 2013...

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 07:18:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Merkel's position since October has been no losses for private bondholders before 2013

For October, that's interpretation, for March, it's explicit. (And before Merkel and Sarko brought that proposal in, there was no one proposing it for any time including after the ESFS, either.)

Either way, there is no contradiction between the Schäuble proposal and either the Deauville Declaration or Merkel's March 2011 promise that I can see, and all of them seem motivated by appeasing the don't-spend-our-precious-tax-euros members of the own camp.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 07:25:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, let's be precise: Merkel's position since October has been no mandatory losses for private bondholders before 2013.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 07:29:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The distinction between voluntary and involuntary bailins is academic. If the bondholder arrives at an agreement with the bond issuer there's nothing Merkel or anyone else can say about it.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 08:12:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that I was afraid to ask :

why would a sane bond-holder accept a "voluntary" bailin?

The Nonsense of purely voluntary Bail-ins

A purely voluntary maintenance of exposure at current market rates would make the sovereign's debt even more unsustainable and, in time, will ensure a default on the new bonds. The only way to prevent the coupon/yield on the new bonds from being close to market rates and thus unsustainable would be to provide the new bonds with seniority or some collateral; but both options are undesirable as a rollover is not a case of "debtor-in-possession" financing and thus doesn't justify such credit sweeteners.

 

If, instead the rollover occurs at original coupon or well below market rates, so as to provide Greece with some debt relief, the rollover option is not purely voluntary and has coercive elements; thus, it is not different in any substantial way from the orderly debt restructuring, or reprofiling, that the ECB and other official sector folks so vehemently oppose.



It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Thu Jun 16th, 2011 at 09:56:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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