- Progress has been made, a spokesman for private investor negotiators says
- Talks in Athens hinge on a plan that cuts the value of Greek government bonds in half
- The deal would mean losses for the private sector but give Greece breathing space
- Greece needs the deal in place to get more European bailout funds
Talks on restructuring Greek debt continued Saturday, with negotiators reporting some progress made toward reaching a deal with the nation's private creditors.
The negotiations with Institute of International Finance (IIF), which represents the private sector investors who own Greek government bonds, began Wednesday.
IIF spokesman Frank Vogl said Saturday: "Progress was made late yesterday and we believe this is now a very important moment."
The talks in Athens hinge on a plan that cuts the value of Greek government bonds in half.
The deal would result in significant losses for the private sector, which holds over €200 billion of Greece's €350 billion debt load.
But a restructuring of Greek debt would also provide much-needed breathing room for the nation at the center of Europe's debt crisis.
Two senior negotiators, Charles Dallara and Jean Lemierre, said Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos had been involved in the negotiations.
"Now is the time to act decisively and seize the opportunity to finalize this historic deal and contribute to the economic stability of Greece, the Euro Area and the world economy," their statement said.
Dallara and Lemierre left Athens Saturday but a team of experts and Greek government representatives continued to hold discussions, IIF spokesman Vogl said.
The deal is a key condition for Greece to receive additional bailout funds from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Without additional financial support, Greece may not be able to make a €14 billion payment it owes on bonds coming due March 20.
Under terms negotiated in December, the private sector agreed to voluntarily write down the face value of Greek government bonds by 50%. In exchange, investors would be given securities with longer maturities and lower interest rates.
But the talks broke down last week amid calls for the private sector to take larger write downs. Even a 50% reduction would result in lower interest rates, forcing bondholders to take even bigger losses.
The negotiations have also been hampered by disagreements over the stipulation that private sector investors voluntarily accept the write downs. This is important because a non-voluntary write down could trigger insurance contracts called credit default swaps, a development that could roil the financial system.