March 2, 2020 / 1:24 PM / a month ago

Lebanon's advisers in talks with bondholders, no deal yet - source

BEIRUT, March 2 (Reuters) - Lebanon’s financial and legal advisers are in talks with holders of its dollar-denominated debt on a restructuring but have not reached a deal, a source close to the government said on Monday.

The country is widely expected to restructure the sovereign bonds after a long-brewing economic crisis, which came to a head last year as capital inflows slowed and protests erupted against Lebanon’s ruling elite over corruption and bad governance.

Lebanon has said it will announce a decision this week regarding its Eurobonds, which include a March 9 maturity of $1.2 billion. Lebanon also has Eurobonds maturing in April and June.

Beirut last week appointed investment bank Lazard and law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton as its financial and legal advisers on the widely expected debt restructuring.

“They are working day and night” to reach an agreement on an orderly restructuring, the source said, adding that Lebanon’s decision on the March 9 Eurobond must be announced by March 7.

Banks are imposing tight restrictions on access to deposits and transfers abroad, while the Lebanese pound has weakened by nearly 40% from its officially pegged rate.

Emerging markets investment manager Ashmore Group has attracted attention in Lebanon for accumulating more than 25% of the $2.5 billion of sovereign debt maturing in 2020, including $1.2 billion maturing on March 9, according to sources citing Bloomberg News data up to the end of 2019. (Reporting by Samia Nakhoul; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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