PM says Greek pension funds won't join debt buy-back


Greek pension funds will not take part in a debt buy-back that is a key part of the country's international bailout, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in a newspaper interview.

Greece must conduct the deal by Dec. 13, before it receives more than 30 billion euros ($39 billion) in bailout payments from the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund.

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Athens has said it is vital the buy-back is successful, but it must attract enough interest from bondholders, who need to decide whether to participate in the process, to ensure the country's debt is deemed viable in the coming decade.

"The debt buy-back does not concern the pension funds," Samaras was quoted as saying in an interview with Sunday's Proto Thema newspaper.

"We wouldn't erase the debt even if we took the funds' bonds. These are seen as arrears of the state to itself."

Greek pension funds hold more than 8 billion euros out of a total 63 billion euros of Greek bonds held by private investors. Greek banks are estimated to hold nearly 17 billion euros.

Most of their capital has been already wiped out by an earlier debt cut in March and they must be recapitalised with more than 40 billion euros in bailout funds.

International lenders have agreed the bonds would not be purchased for more than the closing price on Nov. 23.

On the secondary market, Greek bonds eligible under the buy-back ranged from 25.15 to 34.41 cents in the euro at the close of trading on that date, according to Reuters data.

Greece aims to cut its overall indebtedness by spending 10 billion euros from its rescue package to buy back about 30 billion euros of bonds for less than it would have to pay if its creditors held them to maturity.

Samaras said that Greek banks would benefit from the voluntary debt buy-back deal, since they held Greek bonds at lower prices on their books.

"The banks won't lose out because (the bonds) on their books are down at a lower price," he said. "They won't lose any of their capital but will end up with more liquidity.