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Greece Still Short of Reaching Debt Write-Off Goal

Police officers shout slogans as they protest against their pension fund's participation in the Greek bond swap in Athens March 7, 2012.
Police officers shout slogans as they protest against their pension fund's participation in the Greek bond swap in Athens March 7, 2012.

Greece is edging closer to its goal of getting the country's private lenders to eliminate $142 billion of the money it owes them, but remained short of the target as a Thursday deadline neared.

The Athens government says it needs the banks, pension funds and other financial institutions holding at least two-thirds of the country's private debt to agree to the write-down. But by Wednesday, agreements had only been reached covering 46 percent of the debt.

The debt write-down is part of Greece's effort to secure a new $172-billion bailout and avoid a default on its financial obligations.   

Five small Greek pension funds holding about one percent of the bonds eligible for the write-down have rejected the deal, as have several investment funds and Germany's best-selling newspaper, Bild. Greece says that if it hits the two-thirds threshold for the reduction, it could seek to force the deal on its remaining creditors.

One German investment trader, Andreas Lipkow, said he thinks that in the end, Greece will be able to cut enough of its debt.

"Yes there would legally be a default if the quota [of the Greek bond swap] will not be high enough, but I think that the pressure is high enough so that quota will be reached," said Lipkow. "I don't really see any repercussions for the international markets by a default by Greece as that is already anticipated by the markets. The ratings agencies have already reacted and downgraded the bonds, interesting for the markets would be mandatory CDS [Credit Default Swaps insurance] payoff, as that would become very expensive for some market participants."

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