June 23, 2020 / 10:14 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-Zambia's bondholders form group for debt talks

(Adds debt figures, background)

By Marc Jones

LONDON, June 23 (Reuters) - Ten of Zambia’s international bondholders have formed a creditor group ahead of what is expected to be a complex restructuring of its debts, they said on Tuesday.

One of the world’s largest copper producers, Zambia owes money to four main types of creditor. It has $3 billion of Eurobonds outstanding and owes $2 billion to commercial banks, $2 billion to the IMF and World Bank and a further $3 billion to China.

The new bondholder committee did not name any of its 10 members but said they were all based in the United States or Europe and in aggregate hold approximately 35% of the total amount of Zambia’s outstanding Eurodollar bonds.

“The Committee has organised to engage with Zambia with regard to its present situation, to facilitate communication among creditors, and to pursue any appropriate actions,” the group said in a statement from advisors Newstate Partners.

It added that it was “in close contact” with other bondholders representing an additional 30% of Zambia’s outstanding Eurobonds and that many of the holders were also significant investors in the Zambian domestic government bond market.

Zambia’s government appointed debt specialists Lazard in May to advise on a foreign-currency debt restructuring.

The government has said that debt totalled $11.3 billion as of the end of 2018. World Bank data estimates it added up to 45% of Zambia’s gross domestic product (GDP) last year, while its total debt stock was the equivalent to 89% of GDP.

Zambia was earlier this year listed among countries eligible for relief under the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative, which aims to help nations respond to COVID-19 health challenges and economic shocks.

This month it asked the Paris Club of creditor nations to let it suspend principal and interest payments on all its ‘official sector’ debt from May until the end of December. (Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Grant McCool)

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