Argentina will offer 500 million dollars in sovereign bonds to resolve disputes with corporations at a World Bank arbitration panel, a financial daily newspaper reported on Thursday.
Ambito Financiero reported on its website, without citing sources, that the payment would be made in sovereign bonds to five companies that have filed complaints over a range of grievances at the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.
The decision coincides with a sensitive time in Argentina’ battle in US courts with hedge funds that refused to take part in two debt restructurings following Argentina's 2002 default.
Argentina hopes the Obama administration will ask the US Solicitor General to present arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court on whether the case merits the court's attention, after a lower court ruled in favour of bondholders who will not accept reduced payments under a restructuring agreement.
The International Monetary Fund, France and some US officials have said they were concerned that if Argentina were to be forced to pay the non-participating investors, it would become more difficult for cash-strapped countries to restructure their debts in the future.
The Ambito Financiero newspaper said the companies to be paid include France's Vivendi SA, British electric and gas utility National Grid PLC and Continental Casualty Company, a unit of Chicago-based CNA Financial Corp. US-based water-company Azurix and Blue Ridge Investments, a subsidiary of Bank of America Corp, will also receive compensation, the report said.
Economy Minister Hernan Lorenzino, in Washington this week for World Bank and IMF meetings, aims to unlock up to 1.8 billion dollar credit lines from those institutions, the newspaper said.
Argentina's sovereign default in 2002 effectively ended the country's ability to tap global bond markets. Falling levels of foreign direct investment and a huge bill for gasoline imports have led to dwindling foreign reserves, making additional credit lines crucial to finance government spending and supply individuals and businesses with foreign currency.
In May 2012, the Obama administration suspended Argentina from the US Generalized System of Preferences program, which waives import duties on certain goods from developing countries, after Argentina failed to pay about 300 million dollars in compensation awards in disputes involving Azurix and Blue Ridge Investments. It was the first time a country had been suspended from the program for failing to pay an arbitration award.
The US imported 477 million worth of goods from Argentina under the program in 2011, which was about 11% of total US imports from the country that year.