Friday

18th Jan 2019

Greek finance minister tries to quash talk of ‘disorderly default’

The Greek finance minister on Friday attempted to quash talk of a “disorderly default” as the drumbeat of rumours of the country abandoning its effort to service its debts gathers pace.

Two papers reported that the minister, Evangelos Venizelos, had privately told MPs that the country was faced with three possible scenarios to exit its crisis, with one potential outcome a disorderly default.

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  • Orderly default, disorderly default or sticking to the austerity programme are Greece's options, the finance minister allegedly said (Photo: Nikita Avvakumov)

He allegedly said that the other two scenarios would be an orderly default involving a 50 percent haircut for holders of government bonds, or sticking to the current austerity measures in the hope of winning a second international bail-out.

On Friday, Venizelos put out a statement denying he had made such comments and said the government was committed to adhering to its internationally agreed debt-reduction targets.

“Greece has taken the final decision to do everything in its power in order for all the European Council decisions of July 21, vital both for the Euro Area and for Greece itself, to be implemented fully and on time,” he said.

“All other discussions, rumors, comments and scenarios that distract attention from this central goal and political obligation of Greece and of all the other euro-area member states and European institutions, do not offer good service towards our common European case.

The minister’s comments came as Deutsche Bank warned that EU financial institutions may have to swallow larger haircuts than previously agreed. In July, the Institute of International Finance brokered an agreement for banks to take a 21 percent cut on Greek bonds maturing in advance of 2020.

However, Deutsche Bank’s Charlotte Jones said on Friday that the private sector will likely have to accept losses of at least 25 percent, as the July agreement employed a government bond yield of nine percent as a baseline, but bonds have jumped sharply since the summer.

And Silvio Peruzzo, the Europe economist with Royal Bank of Scotland, told American news outlet CNBC that the risk of default had increased. “We think that at this stage, the risk of a default is clearly running very high moving towards the end of the year,” he said.

The increased talk of default at the end of the week came after the head of the Dutch central bank, Klaas Knot, on Thursday admitted that a Greek default scenario is being considered.

Business newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad asked the banker directly whether such an outcome is on the table. "It is one of the scenarios. I'm not saying that Greece will not go bankrupt," he said.

The same day, EU economy chief Olli Rehn warned against an “uncontrolled default”, leaving room for speculation that plans for a controlled default were being considered as the Dutch central bank chief had said.

"An uncontrolled default or exit of Greece from the eurozone would cause enormous economic and social damage, not only to Greece but to the European Union,” Rehn said.

Shares across Europe continued their decline on the back of the discussion of losses from sovereign debt exposure and the euro traded close to an eight-month low against the dollar.

Moody’s, the credit rating agency, downgraded the creditworthiness of eight Greek banks, and warned that further downgrades are on the cards. The move hit Greek stocks, which slid 4.3 percent mid-afternoon, with bank shares plunging more than eight percent.

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The head of an EU task force for Greece said on Thursday that the aim of the newly established body is to support the country as it attempts to slash its public debts. The team arrived in Athens as fresh figures put unemployment in the country at a record 16.3 percent, with 32.9 percent of young people out of work.

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