Citi Expects A 76% Haircut On Greek Debt (And 95% If Country Waits 4 Years) For Debt/GDP Ratio Back Down To 60%

Yesterday we learned that in borrowing a page right out of 2010, when the Greek government was mounting a full frontal assault against CDS traders everywhere (only for Eurostat to tell us that CDS traders had absolutely no impact on Greek solvency), Greece is once again scapegoating unrelated third parties for its problems. In this particular case Citi London trader Paul Moss, who is being interrogated by Interpol because of a recap email indicating Greece may, gasp, restructure (or, as it isknown in enlightened circles, conduct a "liability management exercise"). Yet when Greece reads the following note by Citi's Stefan Nedialkov, it will most likely issue a cease and desist order in perpetuity against Vikram Pandit's bank. Nedialkov's summary (released one day after Moss' April 20 note): "If a 42% haircut is taken in addition to these measures, we estimate Debt/GDP falls to below 90% in 2013 and below 60% in 2020." The problem is that the market will likely give Greece at most a few months of breathing room in exchange for just a 90% debt/GDP reduction. If truly engaging in a liability exercise of some nature, Greece will likely pursue a permanently viable option. And as Nedialkov indicates, in order to achieve a far more credible 60% debt/GDP ratio, the country would need to take a 76% haircut now, or do nothing for five years, and eliminate a whopping 94% of its debt in 2015. Since the market is already expecting roughly a 50% haircut it remains to be seen just how much further bond prices will plummet, and how much bigger the ultimate impairment on Citi debt, and European banks, Greek pension funds and local bond investors, will ultimately be. One thing is certain: with Greek 2012 debt/GDP expected to peak at 159.4%, the country will restructure, and a a vast swath of insolvent European banks are about to see the tide go out.

Some more color from Citi, which is sure to get the Greek inquisition on the heels of Nedyalkov: "Citigroup said that no country with a debt-to-GDP ratio of over 150 percent has “ever avoided a default.” Greece’s austerity measures aren’t achieving the “desired results as quickly as hoped,” it said."

And some more:

In Figure 11, we illustrate the path of Debt/GDP under some of the above scenarios. Privatisation appears to be the most effective solution on its own, with the Debt/GDP ratio at c.150% in 2020 vs. 175% in the base-case scenario, according to our estimates. Better yet, all options (short of haircut) taken together would bring the ratio down to c.110% in 2020. And if a 42% haircut is taken in addition to these measures, we estimate Debt/GDP falls to below 90% in 2013 and below 60% in 2020.

Most disturbing is Citi's sensitivity on the type of haircut needed in order to bring total debt down even more: Cut 76% of the debt now (to get Debt/GDP to a healthy 60%), or wait until 2014... and impose a 95% haircut.

As for the debtholders, we believe that most have come to the conclusion that some sort of haircut is needed, especially as the austerity measures are not bringing in the desired results as quickly as hoped. At this point, debtholders would rationally want to minimise the amount of haircut taken. In Figure 13, we calculate the “incremental” haircuts debtholders would suffer if they were to wait a certain number of years from today. For example, to bring the Debt/GDP ratio down to 90% in 2011 would mean a 52% haircut, 63% haircut in 2012, 68% in 2013, 70% in 2014 and 70% in 2015. Hence, the marginal haircut (“damage”) from waiting longer diminishes quickly — this is in-line with the expected recovery in the primary government balance and the return of real GDP growth. Therefore, we see two rational strategies for debtholders:

Option 1 — “Act Now”: Insist on restructuring as soon as possible in order to avoid more haircutting in later years. The market (see Figure 14) seems to be voting for “Act Now”, or rather act within the next two to three years. The yield on the 3Y GGB is 21.1% compared to the 30Y yield of 9.6%.

Option 2 — “Pretend and Forget”
: as the “haircut curve” starts to flatten out beyond year 2015, debtholders could close their eyes, help refinance maturing Greek debt, and hope that Greece slowly finds its way out. But this could be a long wait and may require concessions such as extending maturities. In addition, no country with Debt/GDP ratio of more than 150% has ever avoided a default anyways. Why would Greece be different?

As for the analysis of which European banks will suffer the biggest capital income in case of a 50-60% haircut, not surprisingly the list is topped off by France, Germany, Austria and Belgium. Here's to hoping (as the EU is currently doing) that these banks can easily digest the capitaliaztion hit should "assets" have to be written down post a restructuring.

Full Citi report below (just to give Interpol a headstart on their latest witchhunt):

Citi Barber-ians

h/t hugovanderbubble