The still-roiling dispute over Finland’s insistence on some sort of collateral to guarantee its portion of the new €109bn Greek bail-out only got slightly closer to resolution Friday, and more senior finance ministry officials – this time department deputies – will take up the issue Monday on yet another conference call.
As we reported last week, Friday’s teleconference mulled a proposal to broaden the collateral deal so that non-Finns can participate, and to have the Greek side put up non-cash assets instead of the current bilateral deal, which would have Athens put about €500m cash into a Finnish escrow account.
An official briefed on Friday’s call told Brussels Blog that a consensus appeared to be building around the non-cash plan, which would use Greek government shares in state-owned enterprises or “illiquid” real estate assets as collateral. But time is running short.
Several officials noted that the German government is due to present legislation to the Bundestag by the middle of this week that contains all the elements of the July Greek deal, including new powers for the €440bn eurozone bail-out fund – powers many officials believe are the key weapon against any renewed short-term market sell-off.
In order to get a comprehensive legislative package before the Bundestag the Finnish dispute must be resolved, another eurozone official said, giving negotiators only a few days.
One issue negotiators are struggling with is what assets could be used as collateral, since most of Greece’s most valuable state-owned properties are already in the queue to be sold as part of a massive €50bn privatisation programme.
Officials noted, however, that by IMF estimates, Greece has as much as €280bn in state-owned real estate – some of which is simply not ready for sale. Some of that could be earmarked as bail-out loan collateral without messing up the privatisation plans.
That leaves the sticky issue of default, since some analysts have warned that any collateral deal could trigger a default ruling from rating agencies, which tend to look askance on deals that treat some sovereign creditors differently than others. For a good analysis of this issue, check our colleagues over at FT Alphaville, who have written about it extensively.
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