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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Hedge funds are not really interested in an actual Greek rescue - only their profit matters
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hedge funds are not really interested in an actual Greek rescue - only their profit matters

Hedge Funds Bet on Profits from Greek Debt Talks

The negotiations over the Greek debt haircut are becoming increasingly suspenseful, with euro-zone finance ministers and the IMF pushing investors to accept greater losses. Hedge funds, more than any others, stand to profit, and are betting that the voluntary debt rescheduling will fail.

Who will bleed for Greece? For weeks, private creditors like banks and insurers have been trying to negotiate a debt rescheduling with the country without success. Even when they seem close to agreement, it remains unclear if all creditors are on board. In particular, hedge funds that own Greek bonds could have a significant interest in ignoring the results of the negotiations, instead preferring to focus on an official national default.

Bank representatives assume in the meantime that many hedge funds are not really interested in an agreement. With a controversial investment strategy they have assured themselves of profiting with either a low level of Greek bad debts, or a complete Greek bankruptcy.

At issue are Greek bonds with a total volume of about €200 billion. How many are owned by hedge funds is unclear, but the amount is estimated to be about €70 billion (including other funds).

The bondholders are expected to voluntarily give up 50 percent of their claims. Another 15 percent is to be compensated with either cash or secure bonds of the European rescue fund EFSF. The remaining 35 percent should come in the form of new Greek bonds, that will likely reach maturity in 30 years.

The amount of money the creditors will actually have to give up depends on the interest rates on the new bonds. The Institute of International Finance (IIF), which is leading the negotiations with Greece, is insisting on an average of at least four percent. The euro-zone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have instead insisted on rates lower than four percent, in order to make the burden on Greece more bearable. The banks calculate that this means they would actually lose closer to between 70 and 80 percent of their claims, and they are balking.

'Not Worried About Their Public Image'

For some hedge funds, the fight over interest rates has given them more incentive to push for a breakdown of the proposed plan. Officially, they are in the same boat as the banks and insurance companies. But in reality their interests are vastly opposed. "Hedge funds don't need to worry about their public image," one banker says. Their reputation has already been destroyed. Therefore, they can be relatively cavalier in gambling with the possibility of a Greek bankruptcy.

In an internal analysis of the German Savings Banks Association (DSGV), which represents the public banks, the hedge funds come off fairly badly. Wit the financial investors "only the performance" is most important. There is "hardly a political or economic corrective factor," such as long-term customer or contractual relations, the analysis says. Therefore, "one can conclude that they are not really interested in an actual Greek rescue."

i honestly don't think the hedge funds have EVER been seriously concerned about their reputation... it's always been about money - how much can be grabbed and how fast - and woe to anybody who gets in the way... matt taibbi's metaphor of a giant vampire squid glued firmly to the face of not only humanity but also to the planet is apt... they will suck the life out of anything and everything as long as there is money to be made...

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