Credit markets open to Argentina for first time in years -ministry

Reuters

(Recasts with government confirmation on offers)

BUENOS AIRES, March 30 (Reuters) - Argentina has been approached by financial institutions offering it loans at favorable rates, the economy ministry said on Sunday, marking a tentative reopening of international credit markets for the first time in over a decade.

The economy ministry issued a statement on Sunday, saying it had received offers of credit from abroad. It did not name the institutions.

"In recent weeks ... various financial institutions have presented proposals of access to external financing with repayment timetables and interest rates similar to those offered to other countries in the region," it said.

It would be the first time Argentina has received loans from international creditors since a massive default in 2002.

The offers followed Argentina's $5 billion settlement with Spain's Repsol over its expropriation of YPF and progress on talks to repay over the $9.5 billion Caracas owes the Paris Club creditor nations, said the ministry.

The statement followed an earlier report in local newspaper Pagina/12 that the government was closing in on a deal to receive around $1 billion in loans from investment bank Goldman Sachs and had been approached by other lenders.

The paper, which has close ties with the government of President Cristina Fernandez, said the two-year loan would be announced in the next few days and carry an annual interest rate of 6.5 percent.

Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

The loans would come as the government seeks cash to avoid a further devaluation of the peso and increase its depleted foreign exchange reserves.

Dollars have been scarce in Argentina due to capital flight, weak exports, and low competitiveness because of high inflation.

The government hopes securing the Goldman Sachs loan would demonstrate that its strategy of thawing relations with international creditors was starting to take effect, said the paper.

Argentina has already offered to repay the debt it owes the Paris Club, which stems from the 2002 default.

The club had accepted Argentina's initial proposal to pay back the funds without recourse to the International Monetary Fund and to request credit lines from the countries it owed money to, Pagina/12 said in a separate report on Sunday.

Talks were continuing over the repayment terms, it added.

The economy ministry also on Sunday restated its intention not to issue debt in foreign currency.

(Reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi, additional reporting by Lauren LaCapra; Writing by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Sophie Hares and Sandra Maler)

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