Venezuela misses coupon payment and is declared in ‘selective default’ by S&P

Posted on November 15, 2017

The last three weeks have definitely been high-pressure ones for President Maduro, as the international community is watching over his shoulder to finally determine whether the country has succumbed to a default situation or not.


Both government officials and the President himself haven’t been clear on their position regarding future payments to bondholders, and this has caused increasing confusion among traders and investors who after hearing a few statements on the matter were left wondering whether they should start calling their lawyers or wait a little bit longer than usual to get paid.


Nevertheless, Standard & Poors, the renowned credit rating agency, has taken a step forward into what could be the first severe downgrade for Venezuelan bonds, after they have declared that the country is on “selective default”.


According to the agency’s ratings definitions, a selective default (SD) is declared “when S&P Global Ratings believes that the obligor has selectively defaulted on a specific issue or class of obligations, but it will continue to meet its payment obligations on other issues or classes of obligations in a timely manner” .


This downgrade comes after the government failed to make coupon payments for its bond issues maturing in 2019 and 2024, even after a 30-day grace period.


Certainly, even though there hasn’t been an official recognition that a default situation is occurring, the signs are clearly there, and it is just a matter of time until the government fails to make another payment or to officially acknowledge the obvious. The clock is ticking for a government that’s struggling, with fewer alternatives each day that passes.


A meeting with investors took place in Caracas on Monday, but results were far for promising, as after 25 minutes of blaming U.S. sanctions and other elements as the circumstances that have led to this situation, no concrete proposals were presented to the audience. Ironically, the government cataloged the meeting as “a resounding success”, even though an attendee reportedly left the room when he realized that one of the sanctioned government officials was leading the meeting.


It remains unclear which path the government will pursue to deal with this situation. They also need to tread lightly with the already battered population, who are currently facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that includes food and drug scarcity and a profound deterioration of public services and infrastructure.


Many have already fled the country to look for new opportunities, and this situation might worsen the scenario, as access to foreign currency, which is already heavily restricted, might become even more limited, even for businesses looking to fill their shelves during the holidays.


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