|19 February, 2020

Lebanon parliament speaker calls for Eurobond restructuring

Lebanon's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri sees debt restructuring as the "best solution" for the country's Eurobond maturities

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is seen at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, November 6, 2017. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS.

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is seen at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, November 6, 2017. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS.

BEIRUT- Lebanon's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri sees debt restructuring as the best solution for the country's looming Eurobond maturities, an MP from his Amal party said on Wednesday.

As the heavily indebted state battles its worst ever financial crisis, the government is under growing pressure to decide what to do about repayments, including a $1.2 billion Eurobond due on March 9.

Berri's comments on Monday were the first by a top-level leader publicly urging restructuring, one the eve of talks between a team of IMF experts and Lebanese authorities.

Berri is one of the country's most influential figures and his party named the finance minister in Prime Minister Hassan Diab's cabinet which took office last month.

Lebanese banks holding the bulk of the sovereign debt have piled pressure on the state to pay the March Eurobond on time.

"When it comes to the Eurobond maturities, he sees restructuring the debt as the ideal solution," lawmaker Ali Bazzi said after a weekly meeting of Berri's Shi'ite Amal party, an ally of Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Berri said it would also be a priority to tackle the power sector, which bleeds $2 billion from the treasury every year while failing to produce enough electricity.

Lebanon will invite eight firms to bid to be its financial adviser as it studies all options on its sovereign debt, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. 

A team of IMF experts will visit Lebanon from Feb. 20-23 to meet with authorities on economic challenges and provide broad technical advice, Fund spokesman Gerry Rice said on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis Editing by Samia Nakhoul) ((Ellen.Francis@thomsonreuters.com;))

More From Economy