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UPDATE 2-Icelandic officials, U.S. funds meet to resolve offshore crown issue
March 1, 2017 / 3:00 PM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 2-Icelandic officials, U.S. funds meet to resolve offshore crown issue

* Iceland says has meet with U.S. funds who hold frozen bonds

* Resolving deadlock who help remove remaining capital control

* Loomis Sayles says it did not attend meeting (Adds comment from Loomis Sayles that it did not attend meeting)

By Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir

REYKJAVIK, March 1 (Reuters) - Icelandic officials have met with foreign funds to discuss ending a standoff over more than $1 billion of assets frozen by Iceland in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the finance ministry said on Wednesday.

Some U.S. funds that refrained from taking part in an auction last year to unlock their assets - because they considered the terms unfavourable - waged a legal fight in Icelandic courts and at the European Free Trade Association’s Surveillance Authority.

A finance ministry spokeswoman said a report by news website Visir that the assets could be unlocked at a considerably more favourable rate than last year’s auction was broadly accurate. She said meetings had been held but declined to offer further details.

Visir reported that Icelandic officials had met Autonomy Capital, Eaton Vance, Loomis Sayles and Discovery Capital in New York this week, though Loomis Sayles contacted Reuters to say that it had not attended or been invited to the meeting.

Visir cited people with knowledge of the funds’ claims as saying they would not be willing to discuss selling their assets for a price less favourable than 130 to 140 crowns per euro.

The range compares with 190 crowns per euro in last year’s auction and a current exchange rate that strengthened to the highest since 2008 on Wednesday, at 112.25 crowns.

It has soared from a market price of just below 140 crowns per euro when that auction was held, and appreciated more than 10 percent against the dollar, euro and the British pound in February alone.

At the end of 2016, total offshore crown assets amounted to 191 billion crowns ($1.79 billion), down by 128 billion since end-March last year, the central bank said in January.

The offshore assets were moved into separate locked accounts last year as Iceland prepared the delicate process of removing capital controls that were imposed in 2008 when the country’s banking system collapsed.

Icelandic officials have said the full lifting of capital controls, including resolving the offshore crown issue, would be revisited at the start of this year while the central bank chief has said capital controls could disappear in 2017.

Last week, Iceland’s central bank said it would consider offering exemptions to its Foreign Exchange Act for derivatives trading, in another step towards the full lifting if capital controls.

Autonomy Capital declined to comment, Eaton Vance did not immediately respond to a request for a comment while Discovery Capital could not be immediately reached. (Additional reporting by Daniel Dickson in Stockholm and Marc Jones in London; writing by Daniel Dickson; Editing by Dominic Evans and John Stonestreet)

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