Sri Lanka creditors form group for restructuring talks

Sri Lanka’s international creditors have formed a group to start debt restructuring talks with the embattled South Asian country.

The group has hired heavyweight legal firm White & Case while Colombo will be represented by Clifford Chance.

Amundi Asset Management, BlackRock, HBK Capital Management, Morgan Stanley Investment Management and T. Rowe Price Associates are among members of the group’s steering committee, which has Rothschild & Co as financial adviser.

“The group is broadly representative of Sri Lanka’s bondholder base, both by type of institution and by geography, and holds bonds across each outstanding series,” a White & Case statement said.

The group did not specify the percentage of bonds it holds on the outstanding $12.6 billion overseas sovereign debt.

Sri Lanka has also called in financial advisers Lazard as it prepares for the difficult task of renegotiating its complex web of creditors, including bilateral lending from Japan, India and China.

The creditor group said it was ready to engage in talks with both authorities and other creditors, adding that the country should “implement a package of meaningful reforms and fiscal adjustments”.

Economic mismanagement and the Covid-19 pandemic have left the country of 22 million people battling its worst financial problems since its independence in 1948.

A lack of foreign exchange reserves has stalled imports of essentials including fuel, food and medicines.

A privately held bondholder has sued Sri Lanka in the US District Court in Manhattan over the country’s alleged default on a $1 billion sovereign bond maturing next month.

Hamilton Reserve Bank demanded immediate payment of $257.5 million of principal plus interest, saying the country had stopped servicing its sovereign debt and missed payments on two other bonds, causing a cross-default.

An International Monetary Fund staff mission arrived in Sri Lanka early this week to continue talks on a bailout programme. (Reuters / Asia Financial)

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