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Argentina: Sovereign finally closes debt restructuring

Argentina's bond exchange is finally done but the sovereign continues to face pressure from the World Bank

It was one of the longest-awaited press releases in recent memory. "Argentina announces settlement of its successful exchange offer" was the headline; the date at the top was June 10 2005. No-one imagined it would take anywhere near so long, but now the largest bond exchange in history has been officially concluded.

It was probably also the most lucrative bond exchange in history for the banks involved. A total of $62.3 billion of bonds was tendered into the exchange, of which $36.75 billion went through Euroclear and Clearstream. Barclays, UBS and Merrill Lynch shared a fee of 35 basis points between them, which on $36.75 billion comes to about $43 million each. In a market where Deutsche Bank bids 1bp on a $300 million El Salvador deal, for total fees of $30,000, it's safe to say that $43 million is a lot of money.

Then again, this deal was more difficult than a typical bond issue – or, indeed, any previous debt restructuring. With 152 bonds in eight different jurisdictions, the sheer logistical obstacles facing any kind of successful restructuring were enormous. Yet in the end, for all of the bellyaching from unhappy creditors about the terms of the deal, none of them complained about its mechanics, which went completely smoothly.

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