US bondholder files legal action against Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has been sued in the US by a bondholder after the South Asian nation defaulted on its debt for the first time in history while struggling to stop an economic meltdown.

Hamilton Reserve Bank Ltd., which holds more than $250 million of Sri Lanka’s 5.875% International Sovereign Bonds due July 25, filed the suit Tuesday in a New York federal court seeking full payment of principal and interest.

Sri Lanka, an island nation off the southern tip of India, fell into default in May after the expiry of a 30-day grace period for missed interest payments on two of its sovereign bonds. It was the first sovereign debt default by the country since it gained independence from Britain in 1948.

Hamilton Reserve, based in St. Kitts & Nevis, said in the lawsuit that the default is being “orchestrated by officials at the highest levels of government,” including the ruling Rajapaksa family, and accused Sri Lanka of excluding bonds held by domestic banks and other interested parties from an announced debt restructuring.

“As a result, these favored Sri Lankan parties stand to be paid principal and interest in full, while the Bonds — which are also broadly held by US retirement systems including Fidelity Investments, BlackRock, T. Rowe Price, Lord Abbett, JPMorgan, PIMCO, Neuberger Berman and other US investors — remain indefinitely in default and unpaid, causing American retirees tremendous suffering from potentially massive losses of up to 80% of their original investment value,” lawyers for Hamilton Reserve said in their complaint.

A group of Sri Lanka’s largest creditors, including Pacific Investment Management Co., T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and BlackRock Inc., has been set up and restructuring talks are expected to start soon, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the arrangement who requested anonymity ahead of a formal announcement. (Courtesy Bloomberg)

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