Some hedge funds have found a legal loophole they believe will force Greece to repay some of its debt in full, three sources close to the matter said on Thursday, in a move that would intensify the standoff between the country and its debtors.
Greece closed a bond swap offer to private creditors on Thursday after clearing the minimum threshold of acceptance to push the biggest sovereign debt restructuring in history.
Government officials said more than 75 percent of eligible bonds had already been committed resulting in losses of some 74 percent on the value of the debt in a deal that will cut more than 100 billion euros from Greece’s crippling public debt.
But because of a provision written into one particular bond, some hedge funds believe that Athens has already defaulted on that bond by asking bondholders to exchange their debt for new paper with a much lower value, according to the sources.
The funds are now trying to buy up enough of the bond — issued by state-owned Hellenic Railways and guaranteed by the government — to force Greece to repay them in full, to the tune of some 400 million euros (335.36 million pounds) .
If Greece refuses to do so, this may trigger similar provisions on other Greek railway bonds, potentially landing Athens with a bill of about 3 billion euros, with investors demanding immediate repayment, the sources said.
However, it is unlikely the hedge funds could derail the overall debt swap, which will shave more than 100 billion euros off Greece’s debt pile, a crucial precondition for receiving more international aid and staying in the euro.