March 4, 2020 / 7:23 PM / in a month

Bondholders meet with Argentina's economy minister as restructuring deadline looms

BUENOS AIRES, March 4 (Reuters) - Argentina's minister of economy met with representatives of several major creditors, including asset management firm Pimco, a company executive and a ministry source said on Wednesday, as separate talks continued with the International Monetary Fund.

"We accepted an invitation to visit the ministry to discuss a range of issues (with Economy Minister Martin Guzman) on a one-to-one basis," said Pramol Dhawan, head of the emerging markets portfolio management team at Pimco, a major holder of Argentine debt. Pimco is a unit of Allianz SE.

"We look forward to continuing the discussions with them over the coming weeks as we assess the relative merits of different creditor committees, although we have so far abstained from involvement in any such committee."

Guzman also held talks with officials from Gramercy Funds Management, Fintech, BlackRock Inc and Ashmore Group , the ministry source said.

The government of Latin America's No. 3 economy is gearing up for the renegotiation of about $100 billion in sovereign debt amid an economic crisis that has sapped the peso currency and sent bonds tumbling.

Asked if Guzman had met with the funds, the source said, "Yes" without offering further details. "I don't know if they are still in Buenos Aires," the source added.

Center-left President Alberto Fernandez has said the nation cannot pay until it revives its stalled economy.

Guzman warned in February that bondholders were likely to find negotiations "frustrating," spurring speculation among investors that they could be in for haircuts on debt.

The government said on Sunday that it hired Lazard as financial adviser and Bank of America and HSBC as debt placement agents for the debt restructuring process it hopes to close by a deadline of March 31. Meanwhile, a technical team from the International Monetary Fund, which in 2018 agreed to a $57-billion financing program with Argentina, is also in Buenos Aires this week.

An IMF source said on Tuesday that meetings with the government had been "very productive" and that the team's mission was aimed at "deepening the understanding of the authorities' economic program, including their debt strategy."

Also on Tuesday, the Economy Ministry said it was calling on holders of external public bonds to report their holdings before March 16 so it could begin facilitating communication about the upcoming debt restructuring.

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; additional reporting by Rodrigo Campos in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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