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Sri Lanka snubs first economy-linked debt restructure offer from bondholders

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has “serious reservations” about the current structure of a GDP linked bonds outlined in the first proposal made by bondholders to restructure debt, though some value recovery instrument can be considered, the Finance Ministry said.

“The authorities have already expressed to the bondholders’ advisors their serious reservations about the construct of the Macro-Linked Bonds proposed by the Group,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

Bondholders are proposing a so-called state contingent bond, with a payout linked to the future dollar GDP of Sri Lanka, due to disagreements about the future growth and exchange rate projections in an International Monetary Fund agreement which they think is too pessimistic.

“The authorities understand that the Group may have diverging views on the GDP and exchange rate trajectories projected as part of the IMF-supported program,” the statement said.

“The authorities are therefore ready to discuss a potential value recovery instrument if structured appropriately, taking into account the position of other creditors.”

Bondholders have proposed a dollar GDP linked bond with a 20 percent hair-cut and interest running up to 9.5 percent to be paid in cash and in kind, but they will fall and futher haircuts to be made later if GDP growth is lower than initially expected.

Related Sri Lanka bondholders propose up to 9.5-pct dollar GDP linked ‘downside’ bonds

READ MORE: Statement from ad hoc bondholder group with corrected annexes

The pay in kind coupons are expected to be consolidated into the principal amount.

Value recovery instruments issued in past restructurings are “upside” instruments that accrue value if the economy performs better than expected with for example higher oil revenues in an oil producing countries. VRIs are usually also separate from the bond.

Surinam which went through a restructure, also has a VRI.

The full statement is reproduced below:

18.10.2023

Sri Lankan government’s statement on the Ad Hoc Group of Bondholders’ communique, dated October 13th 2023

The Government of the Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka (“Sri Lanka”) has taken good note of the Ad Hoc Group of Bondholders’ (the “Group”) statement dated October 13th and accompanying debt restructuring proposal relating to Sri Lanka’s outstanding international bonds.

The authorities of Sri Lanka wish to acknowledge the Group’s proposal, and further clarify that this proposal has not received a favorable response from Sri Lanka.

The authorities and their advisors intend to take the necessary time to consider the proposal and assess its compatibility with the parameters in Sri Lanka’s IMF-supported program and the comparability of treatment principle, compliance with both of which is an imperative for the authorities.

The authorities have already expressed to the bondholders’ advisors their serious reservations about the construct of the Macro-Linked Bonds proposed by the Group.

Sri Lanka invites the Group to further engage with the country’s debt advisors, under existing NDAs, to progress the matter in a reasonable and viable way.

It is the authorities’ belief that the indicative debt restructuring scenario shared with commercial creditors in May 2023 provided a robust basis for engagement.

The authorities understand that the Group may have diverging views on the GDP and exchange rate trajectories projected as part of the IMF-supported program.

The authorities are therefore ready to discuss a potential value recovery instrument if structured appropriately, taking into account the position of other creditors.

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IMF official: Sri Lanka’s road ahead is challenging, critical to keep up with reform momentum

ECONOMYNEXT –International Monetary Fund’s First Deputy Managing Director Gita Gopinath said Sri Lanka’s future with many reforms are challenging, but it is critical to keep up with the reform momentum.

Gopinath stated this after meeting the island nation’s State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe, and Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena on the sideline of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington.

“I commended them on hard-won economic gains in the past year. The road ahead is challenging and it’s critical to keep up with the reform momentum,” Gopinath wrote on her X platform.

Under IMF programme, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has implemented a raft of hard reforms including higher taxes.

Sri Lanka agreed to the IMF programme after it declared bankruptcy with sovereign debt default in April 2022.

Semasinghe after the meeting tanks Gopinath for acknowledging Sri Lanka’s economic progress.

“Our discussion was insightful and productive, and we appreciate the opportunity to delve into the challenges and opportunities ahead,” the State Finance minister said in his X platform.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to our reform agenda and eagerly anticipate continued collaboration with the IMF to advance our shared goals.”

Sri Lanka was compelled to go for IMF after the unprecedented economic crisis which was followed by a political crisis that ousted former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government who were legitimately elected.

The IMF programme has included reforms in state-owned enterprises, fiscal sector and financial sectors to ensure debt sustainability.

The global lender also has pledged its support to speed up the island nation’s lingering debt restructuring process with private creditors including sovereign bond holders. (Colombo/April 22/2021)

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Sri Lanka motor racing crash claims 7 lives, 4 critical

ECONOMYNEXT – A deadly accident at motor Race Sri Lanka’s hill country town of Diyathalawa has claimed at least 7 lives police said, after a racing vehicle, in the seasonal Fox Hill Super Cross ploughed in to spectators after running off the track.

Another 21 spectators were injured Sunday, and hospitalized and at least four were critical, police said.

Thousands of people come to watch the Fox Hill Super Cross race, which is usually held in April, as large numbers of people head to the cooler climes in the hills.

According to footage taken by spectators one car overturned on the side of the track.

Sri Lanka’s Newsfirst television said Marshalls were waving flags to caution other vehicles, when another car went off the track and crashed into spectators. (Colombo/April21/2024)

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Widespread support for Sri Lanka debt workout, reform progress at IMF/WB meet: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – There was widespread support for Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring and acknowledgement of progress made under an International Monetary Fund program, at meeting of the fund and World Bank, State Minister for Finance Shehan Semasinghe said.

“The strides made in our economic recovery and financial stability have been acknowledged as significant advancements towards our country’s prosperity by our stakeholders and international partners,” Minister Semasinghe said in an x.com (twitter) post after attending the meetings.

“Further, it was heartening to note the widespread appreciation and support for Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring process.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to reaching the restructuring targets and confident of smooth progress in the continued good-faith engagements for a speedy debt resolution that will ensure debt sustainability and comparability of debt treatment.”

Sri Lanka ended a first round of talks with sovereign bondholders in March without striking a deal but some agreement on the basis for a deal.

An initial deal with bilateral creditors have been reached, but they may be awaiting a deal with private creditors to sign formal agreements.

International partners have appreciated reforms made under President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister Semasinghe said.

“It was great to engage in productive bilateral discussions with all of whom appreciated the recent economic developments, progress in debt restructuring, strengthening of tax administration, and ongoing governance reforms,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has been allowed to re-appreciate by the central bank amid deflationary monetary policy, bringing tangible benefits to people in the form of lower energy and food prices, unlike in past IMF programs.

Electricity prices were cut as a strengthening currency helped reduce the cost of coal imports.

Related Sri Lanka central bank mainly responsible for electricity price cut

The currency appreciation has also allowed losses to the Employment Provident Fund imposed to be partially recouped, helping old workers near retirement, as well as raising disposable incomes of current wage earners on fixed salaries.

Related Sri Lanka EPF gets US$1.85bn in value back as central bank strengthens rupee

The IMF, which was set up after World War II to end devaluations seen in the 1930s after the Fed’s policy rate infected other key central banks, started to actively encourage depreciation after a change to its founding articles in 1978 (the Second Amendment).

The usefulness of money as a store of value, or a denominator of current and future values then decline, leading to loss of real savings, real wages and increases in social unrest.

Before that, members who devalued more than 10 percent after printing money for growth or any other reason, faced the threat of suspension from the organization as punishment.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has appreciated to around 300 to the US dollar now from 370 after a surrender rule was lifted in March 2023.

But there is no transparency on the basis that economic bureaucrats are allowing the currency to gain against the US dollar (the intervention currency of the central bank).

The rupee is currently under pressure, despite broadly prudent monetary policy, due to an ‘oversold position’ in the market after recent appreciation made importers and banks to run negative open positions as the usefulness of the currency as a denominator of future value declined with sudden strenghtening. (Colombo/Apr21/2024)

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