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Angola negotiates $6.2 billion debt relief from creditors: IMF

LONDON/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Angola will receive $6.2 billion in debt relief over the next three years thanks to agreements lined up with three of its major creditors, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a report released on Monday.

On Friday, Angola said it was close to striking debt agreements with a number of Chinese banks and government agencies.

The African oil exporter has buckled under a rising debt burden following a sharp decline in crude prices and amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Although debt is sustainable, significant vulnerabilities remain,” the IMF said in its report. “Debt dynamics are highly sensitive to further oil-price volatility.”

In a letter included in the report, the Angolan government, which has already sought relief from official bilateral creditors under an initiative backed by the Group of 20 (G20) wealthy economies, acknowledged its precarious position.

“To the extent that unforeseen risks to achieving the medium-term debt target materialise, we will act to mitigate those risks, including by seeking additional debt relief from a wider group of creditors,” it said.

Private sector participation in debt relief has become a hotly debated issue ahead of a decision by the G20 on whether to extend debt payment holidays beyond 2020.

While the World Bank has pushed for private creditors to shoulder some of the burden of debt relief, investors as well as some governments have argued this would endanger their access to international capital markets.

Asked about the prospect of compulsory private creditor involvement on Friday, Angola's Secretary of State for Budget and Investment Aia-Eza Silva told Reuters: "Our main focus now is to deal with the main creditors, our big (bilateral) creditors, and this is where we are putting our emphasis now." Meanwhile a 5% plunge in oil prices has added to the pressure on Angola's dollar bonds XS1318576086=TE, which dropped more than 4 cents in the dollar to trade at just over 86 cents, their lowest level since mid-July according to Tradeweb data.

CHINESE DEBT

Angola owes more than $20 billion to a number of Chinese entities, including $14.5 billion to the China Development Bank (CDB) [CHDB.UL], and nearly $5 billion to the Export-Import Bank of China (EximBank) 2544.HK. It has also borrowed from China's largest lender, ICBC.

While the IMF declined to name the creditors involved in the debt reprofiling deals, two private analysts following the negotiations said two of them were the CDB and EximBank.

Luanda struck a deal with one of its largest creditors, identified by the analysts as the CDB, in June, the IMF said. That agreement grants a three-year deferral of principal payments on three loans, with the largest one to be repaid over seven years thereafter.

An agreement with a second large creditor, identified by the analysts as EximBank, is being worked out with a similar reprofiling of principal payments, the IMF said in the report.

“The authorities have secured concrete and credible financing assurances from these creditors,” it said.

Meanwhile, discussions with a third creditor were ongoing, according to the report.

The Fund estimated that Angola’s debt-to-GDP ratio would steadily decline from just over 120% predicted for the end of the year to 37.8% by the end of 2030.

Reporting by Karin Strohecker in London and Joe Bavier in Johannesburg; Editing by Tommy Wilkes and Hugh Lawson

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