By Balazs Koranyi
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Greece is looking to strike a deal this weekend to repay early about half of the loans it received from the International Monetary Fund, in a bid to lower the euro zone member’s burden of debt servicing, a senior official said on Friday.
IMF loans, issued to Greece as part of the country’s bailouts since 2010, cost Athens around 5 percent annually and are now more expensive than financing in the market, where 10-year benchmark bonds trade at around 3.3 percent.
“The IMF repayment will be agreed on this weekend,” the senior official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters on the sidelines of the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.
The official said Germany and the Netherlands were resisting the move, worried the IMF would want to withdraw from the periodical reviews of Greek reforms by its lenders, but would not derail the move.
“They’re getting reassurances that the IMF will remain part of the review, so they’ll drop it. They’ll repay about half, between 4-5 billion (euros),” the official said.
The euro zone bailout fund, which under the rules would have to be repaid the same amount, is likely to waive this right, content with Greece’s improved debt sustainability that such an operation would produce, the fund’s chief Klaus Regling said last week.
Reuters reported on April 3 that Greece was considering a bond issue in late June to raise money for the repayment.
Greece, the euro zone’s most indebted state with a debt load equivalent to 180 percent of annual output, must repay about 9.3 billion euros of loans to the IMF by 2024.
That debt carries rates of up to 5 percent, compared to about 0.9 percent for loans from euro zone governments through the bailout fund.
Greece has received more than 280 billion euros from its euro zone partners and the IMF since 2010. It has repaid more than 15 billion euros of short-dated loans to the IMF since 2010.
Athens has a cash chest of more than 27 billion euros from money raised from markets and unused bailout loans. That amount would suffice to keep it afloat up to 2021 without raising fresh cash from markets.
(Writing by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Paul Simao)