We will shortly present an extended analysis of just why the broader media is once again wrong in their interpretation of who has the upper hand in the Greek bankruptcy "fresh start" negotiations (because while Greece may not have formally filed bankruptcy, or insolvency, or whatever one wishes to call it, the talks right now are basically determining what post-reorg Greece will look like, and specifically its fresh start accounting balance sheet with or without an EOD trigger), and why hedge funds have controlled the process all along.
In the meantime, 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.
In the meantime, some more details from Dow Jones:
IIF spokesman Frank Vogl said that Dallara had a personal engagement in Paris and had to leave but that a team remains in Athens. Dallara is not expected to return to the Greek capital over the weekend.
A Greek Finance Ministry official said the IIF chief will continue negotiations with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos by phone later Saturday.
The talks, which started up again this week after nearly breaking down a week earlier, come as Greece scrambles to put together a debt-restructuring plan ahead of a Monday meeting of euro-zone finance ministers in Brussels where the debt deal is expected to top the agenda.
However, this now appears unlikely.
"We may not be able to reach a deal before Monday's eurogroup. This is unfortunate because the finance ministers were supposed to have crucial talks on the (second) bailout loan provided there was a deal on the haircut," a senior eurozone government official said.
What this means is that with the March 20 cash outflow "hard deadline" now less than two months away, and absolutely no trace of a deal on the table, the haed default deadline is starin Europe in the face, even as everyone has been giddily gobbling up risk assuming everything is taken care of.
Reaching a deal with private creditors is a key precondition for Greece to receive a fresh, EUR130 billion bailout from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund.
The aim is for a voluntary restructuring of some EUR206 billion of debt Greece owes its private creditors by exchanging old bonds for new ones worth half the value. That would wipe out EUR100 billion worth of Greece's EUR360 billion debt pile--saving the country some EUR4 billion a year in interest payments--but forcing steep losses on bond holders.
The two sides appeared to be closing in on a deal that would give creditors new bonds paying a 3.5% coupon for shorter maturities and rising to a cap of 4.6% on longer-dated bonds. The average coupon would amount to around 4%
Earlier, people familiar with the matter said that the IMF and Germany don't believe Greece's debt would return to sustainable levels if the average coupon on the new bonds is around 4%, pushing for a lower coupon.
"We were discussing technical and legal issues having agreed in principle to an average coupon of 4%, but the IMF insists this won't be enough to bring (Greece's) debt back to sustainable levels," said another person with knowledge of the talks. This is the second
intervention by Germany and the IMF in debt talks in the last eight days over the coupon rate.
The representatives of Greece's private creditors left Athens unexpectedly on Saturday without a deal on a debt swap plan that is vital to avert a disorderly default, sources close to the negotiations told Reuters.
Negotiations will continue over the phone during the weekend but it is unlikely that an agreement can be clinched before next week, the sources said, as Athens races against the clock to strike a deal.
The IIF said on Friday that the elements of the deal were coming into place, adding: "Now is the time to act decisively and seize the opportunity to finalize this historic deal and contribute to the economic stability of Greece, the euro area and the world economy."
And to think: a €9 billion hedge fund blocking position is all it would take to kill all this "decisiveness" and the "opportunity." Much more on this topic shortly, in a post to cover the downside scenario, which now appear inevitable, next steps.