Category Archives: Greferendum

13/7/15: A Promise of a Deal = An Actual Surrender

So we finally have a 'historic' agreement on Greece. You know the details:

  1. Tsipras surrendered on everything, except one thing.
  2. One thing Tsipras 'won' is that the assets fund (to hold Greek Government assets in an escrow for Institutions to claim in case of default) will be based in Greece (as opposed to Luxembourg), managed still by Troika (it remains to be seen under which law).
  3. IMF is in and is expected to have a new agreement with Greece past March 2016 when the current one runs out. So not a lollipop for Tsipras to bring home.
  4. All conditionalities are front-loaded to precede the bailout funding and Wednesday deadline for passing these into law is confirmed. 
Bloomberg summed it up perfectly in this headline: EU Demands Complete Capitulation From Tsipras.

Remember,  Tsipras went into the last round of negotiations with the following demands:
Source: @Tom_Nuttall

And that was after he surrendered on Vat, Islands, pensions, corporation tax - all red line items for him during the referendum.

Reality of the outcome turned out to be actually worse. 

The new 'deal' involves a large quantum of debt (EUR86 billion, well in excess of Greek Government request from the ESM) and the banks bailout funding requirement has just been hiked from EUR10-25 billion to 'up to EUR50 billion', presumably to allow for some reductions in ELA. 

The new 'deal' only promises to examine debt sustainability issue. There are no writedowns, although Angela Merkel did mention that the plan does not rule out possible maturities extensions and repayment grace period extensions. This, simply, is unlikely to be enough.

The 'deal' still requires approval of the national parliaments. Which can be tricky. Here is the table of ESM capital subscriptions by funding nation:

Tsipras also lost on all fronts when it comes to privatisations. In fact, even if the future Government lags on these, the EU can now effectively cease control over the assets in the fund and sell these / monetise to the fund itself. Not sure as per modalities of this, but...

Detailed privatisation targets are to be re-set. Let's hope they will be somewhat more realistic (home hardly justified in the context of the new 'deal'):

To achieve this, EU had to literally blackmail Tsipras by rumour and demands:

Source: @TheStalwart

Source: @Frances_Coppola

And so the road to the can kicking (not even resolution) is still arduous:
 Source: @katie_martin_fxs

My view: the crisis has not gone away for three reasons:
  1. Short-term, we are likely to see new elections in Greece prior to the end of 2015;
  2. We are also likely to see more disagreements between the euro states and Greece on modalities of the programme; and
  3. Crucially, over the medium term, the new 'deal' is simply not addressing the key problem - debt sustainability. 
For the fifth year in a row, EU opts for kicking the same can down the same road. 

7/6/15: Greece Needs a Structured Euro Exit: Sinn

As the saying goes... can't have a Greece drama without Target 2 drama... Hans Werner Sinn on Greek referendum results:

In simple terms: make Grexit. As this stage int the game, I agree - facilitated (using European financial and investment supports) exit by Greece from the euro area is the optimal resolution path to the crisis.

The arguments about new costs are irrelevant: Greek debts are currently unrepayable and will not be made good by any structural reforms. In fact, the debts are holding back the effectiveness of such reforms and will likely wipe out all and any benefits of devaluation that can be gained from conversion into drachma. Whether Greece remains in the euro area or exits, either path will require a write-down of more than 30% of Greek Government debt (my estimate - at least EUR125 billion, in line with recent IMF estimate, although my estimation is higher, since the IMF assessment was prepared prior to the Greek economy deteriorating further and the country fiscal position weakening beyond April 2015 assessments) and some additional assistance (in form of investment funds from the EU) to the tune of EUR20-30 billion over 3 years.

The write-downs should be carried out via ECB and monetised as a part of the ECB QE (wiping out the losses) so the only new call on EU funds will be investment funding. Drachma return will have to be used to carry out immediate fiscal adjustment (so there will be plenty of pain and reforms on that front).

Chart below (source: Open Europe) shows the breakdown of Greek debt by holding:

Ex-IMF official sector holdings are at 68%. IMF should, by all possible metrics, take a bath too, but it won't, so the 9% of the total liabilities held by the IMF is not at play. Banks can take a haircut, but that will require recaps (Greek banks) and/or is utterly immaterial in quantum of debt held (1% for Foreign Banks). Other bonds above are predominantly short-term stuff that can be haircut. No matter how you spin the numbers - Eurozone holdings will have to be cut by more than a half.

5/7/15: Votes are in… What’s next for Greece?

With over 75% of votes counted in the Greek referendum, 61.6% of the votes counted are in favour of 'No'.

So what's next? Or rather, what can [we speculate] the 'next' might be?

Possible outcome: Grexit

  • This can take place either as a part of an agreement between Greece and Institutions (unlikely, but structurally less painful, and accompanied by debt writedowns, a default or both), or
  • It can take place 'uncooperatively' - with Greece simply monetising itself using new currency (more likely than cooperative Grexit, highly disruptive to all parties involved and accompanied, most likely, by a unilateral/disorderly default on ECB debt, IMF debt, EFSF debt and Samurai debt. Short term default on T-bills also possible).
Either form of Grexit will be painful, disruptive and nasty, with any positive outcome heavily conditional on post-Grexit policies (in other words, major reforms). The latter is highly unlikely with present Government in place and in general, given Greek modern history.

Grexit - especially disorderly - would likely follow a collapse of the early efforts to get the EU and Greece back to the negotiating table. Such a collapse would take place, most likely, under the strain of political pressures on EU players to play intransigence in the wake of what is clearly a very defiant Greek stance toward the EU 'Institutions' of Troika. 

Key to avoiding a disorderly / unilateral Grexit will be the IMF's ability to get European members of the Troika to re-engage. This will be tricky, as IMF very clearly staked its own negotiating corner last week by publicly identifying its red-line position in favour of debt relief and massive loans package restructuring. The EU 'Institutions' are clearly in the different camp here.

EU Institutions will most likely offer the same deal as pre-referendum. Greece will be 'compelled' to accept it by a threat of ELA withdrawal, but, given the size of the Syriza post-referendum mandate, such position will not be acceptable to Greece.  In the short run, ECB can allow ELA lift to facilitate transition to new currency, but such a move would be difficult to structure (ELA mandate is restrictive) and will result in more debt being accumulated by the Greek government that - at the very least - will have to guarantee this increase.

Problem with Grexit, however, is that we have no legal mechanism for this, implying that we might need a host of new measures to be prepared and passed across the EU to effect this.

Which brings us to another scenario: Status Quo

In this scenario - no player moves. We have a temporary stalemate. Greece will be cut off from ELA and within a week will need to monetise itself with new currency. 

Why? Because July 10th there is a T-bill maturing, default on which would trigger a cascade of defaults. Then on July 13th there is another IMF tranche maturing (EUR451 million with interest). Non-payment of either will likely force EFSF to trigger a default clause. Day after, Samurai bonds mature (Yen 20bn) - default here would trigger private sector default. More T-bills come up at July 17th and following that interest on private bonds also comes up on July 19th (EUR225 million). And then we have July 20th - ECB's EUR3.9 billion due, with additional EUR25mln on EIB bonds. Non-payment here will nearly certainly trigger EFSF cross-default.

Most likely scenario here would be parallel currency to cover internal bills due, while using euro reserves and receipts to fund external liabilities. Problem is - as parallel currency enters circulation, receipts in euro will fall off precipitously, leading inevitably to a full Grexit and a massive bail-in of depositors prior to that. Political fallout will be nasty.

Most likely outcome is, therefore, a New Deal

This will suit all parties concerned, but would have been more likely if Greece voted 'Yes' and then crashed the current Government. This is clearly not happening and the mandate for Syriza is now huge. Massive, in fact. 

So there will have to be a climb-down for the EU sides of the Troika. Most likely climb-down will be a short-term bridge loan to Greece (release of IMF tranche is currently impossible) and allowing use of EFSF funds for general debt redemptions purposes. 

The New Deal will also involve climb-down by the Greek government, which will, in my view, be forthcoming shortly after Tuesday, especially if ECB does not loosen ELA noose. 

Bad news is that even if EU side of Troika wants to engage with Greece, such an engagement will probably require approval of German (and others') parliament. Which will require time and can risk breaking up already fragile consensus within the EU. In fact, only consensus building tendency in the wake of today's vote is for a hard stand against Greece. Even in an emergency, EU is very slow to act on developing new 'bailouts' - in Cypriot case it took almost a year to get a deal going. For Portugal - almost 1.5 months. Urgency is on Greek side right now, not EU's, so anyone's guess is as good as mine as to how long it will take for a new deal to emerge.

That said, short-term approach under the status quo scenario above might work, as long as:
  1. Greece engages actively, signalling willingness to deal;
  2. Greece does not monetise directly via new currency (IOUs will do in the short run); 
  3. IMF puts serious pressure on Europe (unlikely); 
  4. ECB plays the required tune and keeps ELA going (somewhat likely); and
  5. There is no fracturing of the EU consensus (if there is, all bets are off).
In a rather possible scenario, EU does opt for a new deal with Greece, which will likely involve pretty much the same conditions as before, but will rely on removing IMF out of the equation altogether. In this case, EUR28.7 billion odd of Greek debt held by the IMF gets transferred to ESM. The same will apply to ECB's EUR19 billion of Greek debt. The result will be to cut Greek interest costs (carrot), and involve stricter conditionality and cross-default clauses (stick). Euro area 'Institutions' therefore will end up holding ca 73% of all Greek debt in that case. Terms restructuring (maturities extension) can further bring down Greek costs in the short run. 

The negative side of this is that such a restructuring & transfer will be challenged in Germany and Finland, and also possibly in the Netherlands. 

It is. perhaps, feasible, that a new deal can involve conversion of some liabilities held by the euro area institutions into growth-linked bonds (I am surprised this was refused to start with) and/or a direct conditional commitment (written into a new deal) to future writedowns of debt subject to targets on fiscal performance and reforms being met (again, same surprise here). Still, both measures will be opposed by Germany and other 'core' economies. 

Either way, two things are certain: One: there will be pain for Greece and Europe; and Two: there will be lots of uncertainty in coming weeks.

As a reminder of where that pain will fall (outside Greece):
Source: @Schuldensuehner 

4/7/15: Timeline for Greece and Some Anchoring

Greece timeline for the weekend:

Greece has missed the IMF and ECB payments this week with both non-payments having potential for triggering a mother of all defaults for Greece: the ESM/EFSF loans call-in (EUR145bn worth of debt).

The EFSF/ESM decision so far has been to 'ignore' the arrears, noting that non-payment to IMF qualifies as "an event of default":

"The Board of Directors of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) decided today to opt for a Reservation of Rights on EFSF loans to Greece, after the non-payment of Greece to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Following the IMF Managing Director's notification of the IMF Executive Board, this non-payment results in an Event of Default by Greece, according to EFSF financial agreements with Greece."

Greece owes the EFSF EUR109.1bn in "Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement" loans, plus EUR5.5bn in "Bond Interest Facility Agreement" loans and EUR30bn more in "Private Sector Involvement Facility Agreement" loans.

For now, EFSF decided not to call in loans, preferring to wait for Sunday vote outcome. Per EFSF statement: "In line with a recommendation by the EFSF's CEO Klaus Regling, the EFSF Board of Directors decided not to request immediate repayment of its loans nor to waive its right to action – the other two possible options. By issuing a Reservation of Rights, the EFSF keeps all its options open as a creditor as events in Greece evolve. The situation will be continuously monitored and the EFSF will consider its position regularly."

A 'No' vote in the Sunday referendum can change that overnight.

This adds pressure on Greece to pass a 'Yes' vote - a pressure that is most publicly crystallised in the form of ECB refusal to lift ELA to Greek banks. Athens imposition of capital controls (limiting severely cash withdrawals from the banks) has meant that the current level of ELA (CHART below) is still sufficient to hold the bank run, but the ELA cushion remaining in Greek banks was estimated at EUR500mln at the start of this week. Even with capital controls in place, this would have dwindled to around EUR250-300mln by the week end.

Again, a 'No' vote in the referendum risks crashing Greek banks as ECB will be unlikely to lift ELA any more. In an indirect sign of this, the ECB appears to be setting up swap lines and euro credit lines for EU member states outside the euro area. For example, as reported by Bloomberg, "European Central Bank is set to extend a backstop facility to Bulgaria and is ready to assist other nations in the region to ward off contagion from Greece, according to people familiar with the situation". Such a move is a clear precautionary measure to put into place firewalls around Greek system.

Meanwhile, here is a report suggesting that Greek banks are preparing for an aggressive bail-in of deposits in the case of a 'No' vote (assuming ELA cut off):

The Government denied the reports of preparations of bail-ins, and continues to insist that the banks will reopen on Tuesday, a day after the referendum results are published, but it is hard to imagine how this can be done (unless the banks start trading in drachma) without ECB hiking ELA, and it is even harder to imagine how ECB can hike ELA in current conditions.

Source: TheodoreZ

So far, public opinion polls in Greece show very tight vote for Sunday. The latest GPO poll has the "Yes" vote at 44.1% and "No" at 43.7%. Alco poll puts the “Yes” figure at 41.7% against 41.1% for “No”. All together, four opinion polls published yesterday put the 'Yes' vote marginally ahead, another poll fifth put the 'No' camp 0.5 percent in front. All polls results were well within the margin of error. At the same time, majority of polls also show Greeks favouring remaining in the euro by a roughly 75 percent margin.

Sunday 5th July:
Polls open – 0500BST/0000EDT
Polls close – 1700BST/1200EDT

First exit poll – Shortly after 1700BST/1200EDT

~20% of votes counted – 1900BST/1300EDT
~50% of votes counted – 2100BST/1600EDT
~70% of votes counted – 2200BST/1700EDT (markets open)
~90% of votes counted – 0000BST/1900EDT

Timeline source: Trading Signal Labs

The build up of tension ahead of the Sunday poll has been immense. Even international bodies are being convulsed by the potential for a 'No' vote. So much so, that, as reported by a number of media outlets, there was a major cat fight between European members of the IMF and other IMF board members.

As reported by Reuters at Wednesday board meeting of the IMF, European members of the board attempted to block IMF from publishing its analysis of debt sustainability for Greece.

Quoting from the report: ""It wasn't an easy decision," an IMF source involved in the debate over publication said. "We are not living in an ivory tower here. But the EU has to understand that not everything can be decided based on their own imperatives." The board had considered all arguments, including the risk that the document would be politicized, but the prevailing view was that all the evidence and figures should be laid out transparently before the referendum. "Facts are stubborn. You can't hide the facts because they may be exploited," the IMF source said."

If only European members of the IMF Board were as concerned with the reality of the Greek crisis on the ground as they are concerned with the appearances and public disclosures of that reality.

A neat reminder of how bad things are in Greece today, via @RBS_Economics

Source: @RBS_Economics

As numbers tell, Greece has posted one of the worst collapses in economy for any advanced economy since 1870, fourth worst for periods outside WW1 and WW2.

So what to expect?

  • In the event of a 'Yes' we are likely to see a significant bounce in the markets from the current levels, with euro strengthening on the news in the short run. But real re-pricing will only take place when there is more clarity on post-referendum bailout agreement. The key risk to that outlook is that a 'Yes' vote can trigger early elections - which will (1) extend the current mess for at least another 1-2 months, and (2) put new sources of uncertainty forward - as outcome of such elections will be highly unpredictable. I do not expect the EU to re-start new deal negotiations until after the elections, which means that there will be mounting, not abating pressures on the Greek voters to vote in 'the right' Government, acceptable to the Troika.
  • In the event of a 'No' we are likely to see serious run on the markets in Greece and some 'peripheral' states, especially Italy. Greek capital controls will have to be stepped up significantly. Euro is likely to weaken in the short run, especially if ECB aggressively moves to monetise risks via both accelerated QE purchases and lending to non-euro banks.

Beyond these two possible scenarios, everything else is in the realm of wild speculation.

28/6/15: IMF Gun, Greek Voters

Just as the Greek Parliament engaged in a vote to hold or not to hold a referendum on Troika proposals, the IMF has decided to end any hope for any referendum to have any basis for validity. As noted by ZeroHedge (, the IMF chief told BBC that Greece can vote as much as it wants, but by the time the referendum is held next Sunday, there won't be any proposals standing that a vote can address in any shape or form. The reasons is that the current 'bailout' offer is only good if accepted before July 1st when the current programme expires.

Christine Lagarde also seemed to have been implying in her statement that the creditors have zero interest in working with Greece unless Greece accepts their demands in full prior to the referendum or unless the voters support the (by-then unavailable) 'bailout' in a referendum. In other words, Madame Lagarde had just issued an ultimatum directly to Greek people (if you do vote, vote as we want you to) and to the Greek Parliament (as you vote on referendum, vote as we want you to).

Funny thing, European democracy... as Italian voters should know...