But wait, we thought Greece and the ECB had an upper hand? Wouldn't they exercise said upper hand by now, considering its now 9pm in Greece on a Sunday, the day before the critical European finmin meeting by which point the Greek deal was supposed to be in place?
Yesterday, Reuters' blogger Felix Salmon in a well-written if somewhat verbose essay, makes the argument that "Greece has the upper hand" in its ongoing negotiations with the ad hoc and official group of creditors. It would be a great analysis if it wasn't for one minor detail. It is wrong. And while that in itself is hardly newsworthy, the fact that, as usual, its conclusion is built upon others' primary research and analysis, including that of the Wall Street Journal, merely reinforces the fact that there is little understanding in the mainstream media of what is actually going on behind the scenes in the Greek negotiations, and thus a comprehension of how prepack (for now) bankruptcy processes operate. Furthermore, since the Greek "case study" will have dramatic implications for not only other instances of sovereign default, many of which are already lining up especially in Europe, but for the sovereign bond market in general, this may be a good time to explain why not only does Greece not have the upper hand, but why an adverse outcome from the 11th hour discussions between the IIF, the ad hoc creditors, Greece, and the Troika, would have monumental consequences for the entire bond market in general.
We were not at all surprised to learn this morning that not only has an agreement not been met ahead of Monday's critical Eurozone FinMin meeting (the first of many for 2012) in Brussels, but talks have "stalled". Dow Jones reports: "Talks between Greece and its private sector creditors over a debt writedown plan appeared to stall Saturday as the banks' top negotiator left Athens amid signs of fresh disagreements over how much Greece would pay its bondholders in the future. Officials close to the talks said they may not conclude before a meeting Monday of euro-zone finance ministers where a second bailout which will keep Greece from defaulting is supposed to be discussed. Without a deal on the write-down of the debt held in private hands, the loan can't be released. Institute of International Finance chief Charles Dallara, who has been negotiating with Greek officials on the bond swap plan for the last two days, left Athens Saturday as hurdles remained over the interest rate the new bonds would pay private sector creditors. "Right now there are no talks. There will be consultations with the EU and the IMF to determine where we stand and then we'll see. It (negotiations) has again become complicated with the new demands over the coupon," said a person with direct knowledge of the talks." Which is why any statements that Greece, or the ECB, has all the leverage are total rubbish - if Greece wanted to get the deal done over Hedge Funds' dead bodies, it would have. It hasn't. And yes, a forced cram down of UK-indentured Greek bonds is still a possibiliy, but we will shortly make all too clear that should Greece proceed with this last ditch scorched earth approach, it would mean a complete overhaul of the entire PIIGS bond market, and why a sell off in €800 billion of it would be imminent.
We have been rather vociferous in our table-pounding that even if a Greek PSI deal is achieved (in reality as opposed to what is claimed by headlines only to fall apart a month later), then Greece remains mired in an unsustainable situation that will likely mean further restructuring in the future. JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest agrees and notes that Debt/GDP will remain well above 100% post-deal but is more concerned at the implications (just as we noted earlier in the week) of the process itself including ECB preferred credit status, retroactive CACs (law changes), and CDS trigger aversions. In his words, the debt exchange is a bit of a farce and we reiterate our note from a few days ago - if this deal is so close, why is the 1Y GGB (AUG 2012) price trading -8.75% at EUR 28.75 (or 466% yield) and while longer-dated prices are rallying (maybe bear flattener unwinds), the moves are de minimus (-17bps today on a yield of 3353bps?) as selling pressure is clearly in the short-end not being rolled into the long-end as some surmise.
Headlines for now but the inevitable has become well 'evitable' as EK goes BK...headlines via Bloomberg:
- *KODAK FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY IN NEW YORK
- *EASTMAN KODAK SECURES $950M IN DEBTOR-IN-POSSESSION FINANCING
- *KODAK TO MONETIZE NON-STRATEGIC INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY :EK US
- *EASTMAN KODAK SAYS NON-U.S. UNITS NOT INCLUDED IN U.S. FILING
- *KODAK SAYS CHAPTER 11 A `NECESSARY STEP', `RIGHT THING TO DO'
- *KODAK EXPECTS TO PAY EMPLOYEE WAGES-BENEFITS :EK US
We guess the 128% stock rally from 1/6 to 1/11 can be ignored now (and the Einhorn rumors)
Update: the NYT chimes in, just to make the point all too clear: "Hedge Funds May Sue Greece if It Tries to Force Loss"
Five minutes before market close yesterday, Bloomberg came out with an "exclusive" interview with Marathon CEO Bruce Richards, who may or may not be in the Greek bondholder committee any longer, in which the hedge fund CEO said that the Greek creditor group had come to an agreement and that the thorniest issue that stands between Greece and a coercive default (and major fallout for Europe) was in the bag, so to say. To which we had one rhetorical comment: "Well as long as Marathon is talking for all the possible hold outs..." As it turns out, he wasn't. As it further turns out, Mr. Richards, was just a little bit in over his head about pretty much everything else too, expect for talking up the remainder of his book of course (unsuccessfully, as we demonstrated earlier - although it does beg the question: did Marathon trade today on the rumor it itself spread, based on information that was material and thus only afforded to a privileged few creditors, especially if as it turns, the information was false - we are positive the SEC will be delighted to know the answer). Because as the supposed restructurng expert should know, once you have a disparate group of ad hoc creditors, which is precisely what we have in the Greek circus now, there is nothing even remotely close to a sure deal, especially when one needs a virtually unanimous decision for no CDS trigger event to occur (yes, ISDA, for some ungodly reason, you are still relevant in this bizarro world). Which also happens to be the fascination for all the hedge funds, whom we first and then subsequently repeatedly noted, are holding Europe hostage, to buy ever greater stakes of Greek bonds at 20 cents on the dollar. Because, finally, as the FT reports, the deal is nowhere in sight: "Several hedge fund managers that hold Greek debt have said they have not been involved in the talks and will not be agreeing with the “private sector involvement” (PSI) deal – which centres on a 50 per cent loss on bondholders’ capital and a reduction in the interest they receive... Even members of the committee concede the process is unlikely to succeed in time for the crunch date: a €14.5bn bond repayment falling due on March 20." But, wait, that's not what Bloomberg and Bruce Richards told us yesterday, setting off a 100 point DJIA rally. Time to pull up the Einhorn idiot market diagram once again.
- Here we go again: IMF Said to Seek $1 Trillion Resource-Boost Amid Euro Crisis (Bloomberg)
- China said to Tell banks to Restrict Lending as Local Officials Seek Funds (Bloomberg)
- EU to Take Legal Action Against Hungary (FT)
- Portugal Yields Fall in Auction of Short-Term Debt (Reuters)
- US Natural Gas Prices at 10-Year Low as Warm Weather Weakens Demand (Reuters)
- German Yield Falls in Auction of 2-Year Bonds (Reuters)
- World Bank Slashes Global GDP Forecasts, Outlook Grim (Reuters)
- Why the Super-Marios Need Help (Martin Wolf) (FT)
- Chinese Vice Premier Stresses Government Role in Improving People's Livelihoods (Xinhua)
Late night media is abuzz with two reports, one from the NYT and one from The Telegraph, which unfortunately confirm Credit Suisse's decision to ignore the Greek situation entirely due to openly contradictory news.
- From The Telegraph: Greece prepares to give way to banks to secure debt deal
- From The NYT: Greek Premier Says Creditors May Be Forced to Take Losses
Which, of course, is the oldest trick in the book - when in doubt, leak opposing news, in this case whether or note the Greek default will be coercive or not, in hopes the good news trumps the bad, and nobody notices.
Bloomberg Reports That Greek Private Creditor Deal Near, At 32 Cent Recovery, According To Hedge Fund InvolvedSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/17/2012 17:26 -0400
Last year it was bank posturing, coupled with Germany and the rest of the Eurocore countries, when it comes to Greece. Now it is the hedge funds. Bloomberg has reported that the Greek private creditors have "reached a deal" with Greece on existing debt which "would give creditors 32 cents per euro", or a 32% recovery according to Marathon Asset Mgmt CEO Bruce Richards, who until recently was a bondholder, but recently has been rumored to have dumped his holdings, which makes one wonder why or how he is talking for the creditor committee. Of course, with Greece now a purely bankruptcy play, we expect various ad hoc splinter "committees" to emerge, coupled with an equity committee as well (yes yes, we jest). Bloomberg reports also that Richards is "highly confident" a deal will get done. Nonetheless, the Marathon CEO expects Greece won’t make the €14.5 billion ($18.5billion) bond repayment scheduled for March 20. However, he does see a deal with creditors to be in place before then. For now the Greek government has declined to comment. We fully expect the IIF's Dalara to hit the airwaves shortly and to make it all too clear that the implied 68% haircut is sheer lunacy. Naturally, should this deal come to happen, we can't possibly see how Portugal, Spain or Italy would then sabotage their economies just so they too can enjoy 68% NPV haircuts on their bonds. Finally, even if Marathon likes the deal, all it takes is for one hedge fund hold out to necessitate the application of Collective Action Clauses which would blow the deal apart, create a two-tiered market, and effectively create the perception that the deal was coercive.
When yesterday we presented the view from CLSA's Chris Wood that the February 29 LTRO could be €1 Trillion (compared to under €500 billion for the December 21 iteration), we snickered, although we knew quite well that the market response, in stocks and gold, today would be precisely as has transpired. However, after reading the report by Credit Suisse's William Porter, we no longer assign a trivial probability to some ridiculous amount hitting the headlines early in the morning on February 29. Why? Because from this moment on, the market will no longer be preoccupied with a €1 trillion LTRO number as the potential headline, one which in itself would be sufficient to send the Euro tumbling, the USD surging, and provoking an immediate in kind response from the Fed. Instead, the new 'possible' number is just a "little" higher, which intuitively would make sense. After all both S&P and now Fitch expect Greece to default on March 20 (just to have the event somewhat "priced in"). Which means that in an attempt to front-run the unprecedented liquidity scramble that will certainly result as nobody has any idea what would happen should Greece default in an orderly fashion, let alone disorderly, the only buffer is having cash. Lots of it. A shock and awe liquidity firewall that will leave everyone stunned. How much. According to Credit Suisse the new LTRO number could be up to a gargantuan, and unprecedented, €10 TRILLION!
Time for the dominos to fall where they may: head of sovereign ratings at S&P Kraemer spoke on Bloomberg TV, and said the following:
- KRAEMER: GREECE, CREDITORS `RUNNING OUT OF TIME' IN DEBT TALKS -BBG
- KRAEMER: EURO LEADERS HAVEN'T TACKLED CORE UNDERLYING PROBLEMS -BBG
- KRAEMER SAYS EUROPE MUST DEAL WITH IMBALANCES, COMPETITIVENESS -BBG
And the punchline:
- KRAEMER SAYS HE BELIEVES GREECE WILL DEFAULT SHORTLY - RTRS
The only thing he did not add is that the default will be Coercive. What happens next is anyone's guess, but whatever it is it is certainly priced in. Also, let's not forget that the inability of the market to react to any news ever again is most certainly priced in.
The Rise Of Activist Sovereign Hedge Funds, The "Subordination" Spectre, And The Real "Coercive" Restructuring ThreatSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/16/2012 10:52 -0400
When Zero Hedge correctly predicted the imminent rise of the "activist sovereign hedge fund" phenomenon first back in June 2011 (also predicting that the "the drama is about to get very, very real") few listened... except of course the hedge funds, such as Saba, York, Marathon, and others, which realized the unprecedented upside potential in such "nuisance value", long known to all distressed debt investors who procure hold out stakes, and quietly built up blocking positions in European sovereign bonds at sub-liquidation prices. Based on a just released IFRE report, the bulk of this buying occurred in Q4, when banks were dumping positions, promptly vacuumed up by hedge funds. More importantly, we learn from IFRE's post mortem of what is only now being comprehended by the market as having happened, is the realization that the terms "voluntary" and "collective action clauses" end up having the same impact as a retailer (Sears) warning about liquidity (and the result being the start of the death clock, with such catalysts as CIT pulling vendor financing only reinforcing this) to get the vultures circling and picking up the pieces that nobody else desires. As a reminder, it was again back in June we predicted that "the key phrase (or two) in the proposed package: "Voluntary" and "Collective Action Clauses"." Why? Because what this does is unleash the prospect of yet another word, which is about to become one of the most overused in the dilettante financial journalist's lingo: "subordination" or the tranching of an existing equal class of bonds (pari passu) into two distinct subsets, trading at different prices, and possessing different investor protections (we use the term very loosely) with the result being an even greater demand destruction for sovereign paper.
- Jon Huntsman Will Leave Republican Presidential Race, Endorse Mitt Romney, Officials Say (WaPo)
- Dont laugh - Plosser: Fed Tightening Possible Before Mid-2013 (WSJ)
- Greece’s Creditors Seek End To Deadlock (FT)
- France Can Overcome Crisis With Reforms – Sarkozy (Reuters)
- Nowotny Says S&P Favors Fed’s Bond Buying Over ECB’s ‘Restrictive’ Policy (Bloomberg)
- Bomb material found in Thailand after terror warnings (Reuters)
- Ma Victory Seen Boosting Taiwan Markets as Baer Considers Upgrading Stocks (Bloomberg)
- Japan Key Orders Jump; Policymakers Fret over Euro (Reuters)
- Renminbi Deal Aims to Boost City Trade (FT)