French banks set for Greek debt rollover
Move could fuel European effort
PARIS — French banks are ready to help troubled Greece by accepting a significant debt rollover, President Nicolas Sarkozy said yesterday, a move that could push other banks to pitch in to the Europewide effort to keep Athens from defaulting.
Sarkozy said the plan would see banks reinvest their Greek debt holdings into new bonds over 30 years. That would give Greece valuable funding to manage its huge debt load and buy it time to reform its economy.
French banks are among the biggest holders of Greek sovereign debt — some $21 billion — with Germany’s financial sector also heavily exposed, to the tune of $22.7 billion, according to the Bank of International Settlements.
Sarkozy urged others to follow the example of the French plan, which was presented yesterday at an international meeting in Rome where banks and financial institutions discussed what the private sector can do to save Greece from default.
The closed-door meeting was organized by the International Institute of Finance and the director-general of the Italian Treasury Ministry, Vittorio Grilli, in his role as president of the eurozone economic financial committee. It ended without a statement.
The LaPresse news agency, without disclosing its sources, said there was consensus on renegotiating Greek debt along the lines suggested by Sarkozy.
A spokesperson for the Treasury Ministry, speaking on the usual ground rule of anonymity, said “no decisions, either formal or informal, were taken. It was just an exchange of views today.’’
A report in Le Figaro newspaper says that the banks are ready to reinvest, or roll over, up to 70 percent of the Greek sovereign debt they hold. Asked whether the report was correct, Sarkozy said “yes.’’
“It’s a system that other countries could find useful,’’ he said of the plan.
“The idea is that we won’t let Greece fall, we will defend the euro, it’s in the interest of us all,’’ he told a news conference.
The proposed plan would have the benefit for banks of avoiding a complete rollover of their Greek debt, which is another idea that has been mooted in Brussels in recent days.
According to Le Figaro, half of banks’ Greek government debt would be reinvested in new securities with a much longer maturity of 30 years. Another 20 percent would be invested in a “zero coupon’’ bond, the interest on which would be reinvested in high quality government bonds to provide participating banks a guarantee for their Greek investment.
That would alleviate another stumbling block to finding a Greek solution — Germany’s resistance to giving private creditors a European guarantee for their loans to Greece.
A Greek default would have grave consequences on all 17 countries that use the euro and rock markets worldwide. European leaders are trying to get the private sector to take part in a new rescue package under discussion for Greece.