What Is The PSI And What It Means for Holders of Greek Bonds – An Overview of the Initial and Modified PSI program

Following the Eurozone Summit on July 21st, European leaders worked out on a solution for the Greek sovereign debt problem, along with a new bailout package, proposing to private holders of Greek Government bonds a voluntary debt exchange program, with new longer-maturity-bonds and a 21% haircut on their nominal value.

In late August, the Greek government revealed more details on the process, recognizing that without the voluntary debt restructuring, the ability to meet future obligations, it would become problematic. Although it was clarified which bonds will be included in the exchange program (see diagram below), as well as the proposed options for the Greek Bond Holders, the PSI (Private Section Involvement) program failed to materialize, mainly because of the deterioration of the financial situation of Greece and the indecisiveness of EU politicians to reach a common agreement on the actual handling of the oveall debt problem in the area.

On the 26th of October, EU leaders came up with a modified PSI program, much more realistic than the initial one and it remains to be seen if this time it will go through and get executed.

In this article we explain the details and implication of the initial PSI program and then we overview the modified PSI, decided on the 26th of October.

The 4 options of the (initial) PSI

In the initial design of the PSI program, there were four options, with the first two relating to an exchange of 100% of the nominal value of Greek government bonds and the remaining 2 choices requiring a 21% “haircut” on their nominal value. Apart from the fourth option that was offering an exchange of old debt with the acquisition of a 15-year, 6,20%  fixed rate coupon bond, all the remaining options required the exchange of old bonds with new ones, with average maturity of 30 years.

Which part of the Greek debt is included in the PSI?

The diagram above shows the total amounts that were planned to be included in the  PSI program, based on the original design. Given the ECB’s statement that it will not participate to any exchange program, the PSI was referring only to Greek debt holders besides the ECB, with total capital in Greek bonds of about 60bln for the period 2011-2014 and 90bln for the period 2014-2010.To activate the program, the Greek government had required 90% as a minimum participation, i.e. they anticipated the acceptance of bond exchange of total amount 135bln [90%(60+90)]until 2020, hoping that a significant proportion will choose to proceed to an exchange of bonds, with a 21% haircut (getting higher coupon in return), something that didn’t happen.

The biggest part of these debt is in Greek and European banks’ hands (see in detail the following list of the largest holders of Greek bonds), and that’s one of the reasons for the sharp drop of their stock prices for the past months.

Most private investors chose to go with the first option of the PSI, stating that they are willing to exchange the present issues with new ones, of 30-year-maturity, avoiding the choices that included the 21% haircut.

The new PSI, as it was decided on 26/10, 50% Haircut for Greek Debt Holders

During the Summit of 26/10/2011, EU leaders decided on a series of new measures, to ensure the viability of the Greek debt, but also the overall normalization and convergence of European economies. Among these, lies the decision for a modified PSI for Greek Bonds, requiring a voluntary “haircut” of 50% on the nominal value of Greek Bonds.

The “haircut” of 50% in the value of bonds, automatically makes necessary the recapitalization of the European banking system, which is why the EU leaders have agreed to strengthen the EFSF (European Financial Stability Fund) with more funds. The funds of the EFSF will now reach 1 trillion in an effort to stabilize and support the weak sovereign countries. The Eurozone countries will contribute to the new PSI with total capital of 30bil million, with further potential funding until 2014 of extra 100billion euros.

So, which bonds will get a “haircut”?

Regarding Greece the proposed haircut concern issues of about 200bln (including all maturities, even beyond 2020), still excluding though the bonds owned by the ECB. It is not certain though that all private sector’s holders will participate in the modified PSI and the first estimations talk about volunteer participation rate of 50-70%. The 15-page statement of European leaders was fairly vague and does not get into details on several topics, which may be the “thorns” in the implementation of new decisions. It is noticeable that neither for Greece, nor the rest of the eurozone, there exists an explicit mention of development measures to be taken in order to end the crisis, but only general references on that matter.

If I am an individual holder of Greek Government bonds, do I have to join the modified PSI?

Private investors who chose to invest part of their savings in Greek government bonds, it is probable that they will not be affected by any haircut that may occur. The PSI refers to the voluntarily acceptance of bond exchange+haircut by  banks, pension funds, and insurance companies. Still, we need to be cautious on that because there is huge distance from the political decision to the actual implementation of such programs.

UPDATE: The Greek government voted ex-post the inclusion of CACs (Collective Action Clauses) forcing the majority  of Greek government bondholders to accept the haircut of 53,5% in the nominal value of their bonds. There is a huge ethical issue with that decision and a lot of the private individual are taking Greece to  courts.

When will the modified PSI eventually get implemented?

It is estimated that the implementation of the final program of PSI can be held in early 2012. But first, it is necessary that EU leaders agree and clarify the precise terms of exchange and strengthen the support mechanism in the Eurozone. European leaders stated that they are determined to give a solution, but there is still a long way to the effective implementation of decisions of October 26th and certainly, there is no time for celebrations for Greek Politicians.

The new PSI provides significant liquidity to Greece, but there are many details to be clarified and doubts regarding needed growth measures, the effectiveness of tax administration, spending cuts and the success of privatizations. All these are structural reforms that no Greek government managed to achieve until now, so it remains to be seen if the current one will succeed. The distribution of the Greek debt has changed a lot since the beginning of the sovereign crisis (see an earlier post , where I describe and actually forecast this re-distribution) making it much harder for Greek politicians to negotiate the terms of any future bailout package.