Argentina Update: Don't Hold Your Breath

Sep.22.09 | About: Barclays PLC (BCS)

After all the excitement yesterday, precipitated by a WSJ report, sell-side analysts have been pouring a bit of cold water on the idea that Argentina is about to reopen its 2005 debt exchange.

Certainly the markets don’t seem to think that something along the lines sketched by the WSJ is going to happen: the country’s defaulted debt is trading at about 29 cents on the dollar, while that kind of deal — complete with past-due interest and GDP warrants — would be valued at more like 45 cents (according to Barclays) or even 52 cents (according to Merrill Lynch).

The Barclays note, especially, is interesting, since Barclays (NYSE:BCS) is the main bank working on the deal. And this is what they have to say:

Our final assessment is that the ideas vented by the WSJ are unlikely to be the final proposal made to bondholders and that the process has a long way to go before the decision-makers give a go ahead to a specific proposal that can be seriously evaluated.

A generous deal might be more likely to get 75% take-up among the holdouts: that seems to be the critical mass needed for the markets to consider the old debt to have been restructured. But given that it’s still Nestor (rather than Cristina) Kirchner who is reportedly driving these things, and given that he’s very focused on domestic issues right now, it might well take a while to get there.