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Puerto Rico May Need to Skip Bond Payments for Five Years - ABI

Puerto Rico is considering suspending debt-service payments for five years, a lead lawyer for the territory’s federal oversight board said, in the first indication of how the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria will affect the restructuring of the island’s debt, Bloomberg News reported. A moratorium may be included as part of Puerto Rico’s plan to reduce what it owes through bankruptcy, Martin Bienenstock, a partner at Proskauer Rose LLP, who represents the panel, said at a court hearing yesterday in Manhattan. It wasn’t immediately clear whether such a step would apply to all of government’s $74 billion of debt. The government’s most actively traded bonds fell yesterday to an average of 25 cents on the dollar, the lowest since they were issued in 2014 and less than half what they were worth before the storm. The September hurricane worsened the financial pressure that had already pushed the Caribbean island of 3.4 million residents into a record-setting bankruptcy. Puerto Rico this year initially said it could allocate $8 billion for debt payments through 2026, far less than the $33.4 billion that’s owed. Those plans have since been upended by the fallout from the hurricane, which Puerto Rico’s federal oversight board estimates may leave a budget shortfall of as much as $21 billion over the next two years. Puerto Rico is currently revising the fiscal plan.

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