VENEZUELA'S SELECTIVE DEFAULT
REUTERS - Venezuela's cash-strapped government said a plan to refinance some $60 billion of bonds was successfully underway after a creditors' meeting in Caracas, but a ratings agency declared the nation in selective default over missed coupon payments.
President Nicolas Maduro's negotiating committee met briefly on Monday with investors but offered no firm proposals on its intention to reformulate Venezuela's crippling foreign debt amid an unprecedented economic meltdown.
"The process of refinancing Venezuela's foreign debt began with resounding success," a government statement said late on Monday, amid the impact of U.S. financial sanctions and unfair assessments by international rating agencies.
The 100 or so participants in Monday's meeting included bondholders from Venezuela, the United States, Panama, Britain, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Japan and Argentina, the statement said.
"The start of this refinancing of our debt ratifies our full intention to comply, as we have always done, with all our obligations," it said.
Bondholders, however, saw things differently.
Participants in the meeting came away still confused over how Venezuela plans to avoid a default, given the parlous state of its finances, and how any refinancing could be worked out given President Donald Trump's sanctions.
The U.S. measures essentially block the issuing of any new Venezuelan debt, while there are also sanctions on chief negotiators, Vice-President Tareck El Aissami and Economy Minister Simon Zerpa, for drug and corruption charges.
"Nothing of substance happened," said Raymond Zucaro, chief investment officer at Miami-based RVX Asset Management, who did not attend Monday's meeting. "The patient is still on a critical life support system."
Further complicating the situation, S&P Global Ratings declared Venezuela in selective default after it failed to make coupon payments on bonds due in 2019 and 2024 within a 30-day grace period. The agency warned there was a strong chance it would miss further payments within three months.
S&P said in a statement late on Monday that Venezuela had failed to make $200 million in coupon payments for its global bonds due 2019 and 2024 within a 30-calendar-day grace period.
Bondholders had told Reuters on Monday they had not yet received payments on the 2019 and 2024 bonds but remained unconcerned by the delay, which they said was partly due to increased bank vigilance of Venezuelan transactions in the wake of U.S. sanctions.
S&P said it had lowered Venezuela's long-term foreign currency rating to 'SD', and cut its long- and short-term foreign currency sovereign credit ratings on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to 'SD/D' from 'CC/C.
"Our CreditWatch negative reflects our opinion that there is a one-in-two chance that Venezuela could default again within the next three months," S&P said in its statement.
The ratings agency said it would raise its long-term foreign currency sovereign issuer credit and issue ratings to 'CC' if Venezuela solved its default on the overdue coupons and remains timely on other payments before the restructuring is completed.
Four years of recession in the South American OPEC member, fueled by failing socialist economics and a plunge in global oil prices, has taken a punishing toll on Venezuelans.
Many citizens skip meals or suffer from malnutrition and preventable diseases because they cannot find food and medicine or simply cannot afford them due to triple-digit inflation.
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