US firm makes surprise offer for Greek bonds

A US investment firm is offering to buy as much as 10 percent of all outstanding Greek government bonds in an offer that surprised traders both because of its low price and its unexpected origin.

Japonica Partners, a Rhode Island-based firm not known for previous investments in government debt, launched a tender offer for up to 2.9 billion euros in face value of Greece’s bonds, the firm said in an e-mailed statement on Monday.

Japonica said it had set a minimum purchase price of 45 percent of face value and would determine the price through an unmodified Dutch auction, under which investors can specify the price they are willing to pay.

That offer is well below current market prices for Greek bonds – at least one maturity traded above 60 percent on Monday.

One Athens-based bond trader said the offer seemed too low to have any prospects of success.

The offer period, set to expire on July 1, was also unusually long, he added.

“It’s a strange offer,” said the bond trader, who declined to be named.

A senior official from the Greek Finance Ministry told Reuters the ministry had had no contacts with Japonica.