- John Barrdear - http://john.barrdear.com -

Ecuador defaults. Wait, no. Yes. Maybe?

Felix Salmon points out the absurdity [1] of the situation:

A couple of major developments on the Ecuador front: yesterday, finance minister Elsa Viteri came out with the rather stunning decision that the country would make the coupon payments on its 2015 global bonds [2] — despite deciding to default on the 2012s and the 2030s. And today, the Ecuador CDS auction [3] closed at 31.375%, meaning that anybody holding an Ecuador CDS will receive 68.625 cents on the dollar.

Viteri’s decision opens up a major legal battle: there’s no doubt that Ecuador’s legions of creditors will attempt to attach those coupon payments the minute they arrive in the US. And I, for one, can’t imagine for a second that holders of the 2012s and the 2030s will take Ecuador up on any forthcoming offer to buy their bonds back at 30 cents on the dollar when the country is happily paying the 2015s in full.

This is not the first time Ecuador has tried to pay some foreign creditors without paying others who are pari passu. Ten years ago it tried a very similar trick with its Brady bonds — with disastrous results. But I don’t think that Ecuador has any grand strategy here; instead, the most likely hypothesis is that a well-connected financier has greased enough palms to make sure that he gets paid out on both his 2015s and his credit default swaps.

What all this means in practice is that Ecuador is now behaving so erratically that there’s no point even attempting to deal or negotiate with the present administration in anything like good faith. Instead, the holders of the 2015s will thank their lucky stars and hope that they actually receive their money; the professional vultures will be spending a lot of time in federal court in lower Manhattan; and most of the rest of the holders of the 2012s and the 2030s will simply wait for the next Ecuadorean president to come along. Because this one just isn’t acting logically.