A group of hedge funds is threatening to block a last-ditch attempt to save Greece from defaulting on its huge debt pile, unless they are guaranteed a significant payout.
There will be a final attempt today – when a group representing Greece's private sector bondholders meet with senior ministers in Athens – to negotiate a writedown of the value of the country's debt ahead of a crucial bond repayment deadline next month.
Sources familiar with the talks, which collapsed at the end of last week, have said that a group of hedge funds is holding up the deal in order to ensure they make a fat profit, after snapping up Greek bonds at distressed prices.
Greece's official backers – European governments and the International Monetary Fund – have said they will not deliver the next tranche of bailout funds that Athens needs to redeem €14.4bn (£12bn) in maturing bonds on 20 March unless a deal to cut Greece's €355bn debt pile is concluded by the end of the month. Without the funds, Athens will be forced into a disorderly default, which could plunge the eurozone into further chaos.
Yet fears have grown in recent weeks that the hedge funds that are blocking the deal – which include Vega Asset Management, Och-Ziff, York Capital and Marathon Asset Management – do not consider the prospect of a disorderly default by Athens as a financial incentive to allow a voluntary writedown deal to proceed.
This is because these funds are believed to have purchased insurance policies on their holdings of Greek bonds, known as Credit Default Swaps (CDS). If Athens fails to pay its maturing debts in March, that would trigger large CDS payouts to these funds.
Charles Dallara, the managing director of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), and Jean Lemierre of the French bank BNP Paribas, have been negotiating on behalf of the private sector bondholders.
Last night Mr Dallara flew from Washington to Athens and talks will recommence this afternoon.