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Standard and Poor’s warns of default on Superbond

Posted: Thursday, February 25, 2021. 8:39 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Credit rating firm Standard and Poor’s (S&P) Global has cut Belize’s sovereign rating to CC from CCC-plus today on the belief that Belize is “virtually certain” to default on the U.S. dollar bonds due 2034, known locally as the “Superbond,” Reuters reports via Yahoo! News.

“We believe a distressed exchange or a default on coupon payments due in May 2021 on U.S. dollar bonds due 2034 is now virtually certain,” S&P said, adding, “We estimate the general government fiscal deficit has widened to 10.7% of GDP in 2020, pushing net general government debt to 123% of GDP, from 93%.”

Earlier this year, Prime Minister John Briceno told us that future negotiations with bondholders would almost certainly involve asking for a “haircut” – a reduction of the principal on the billion-dollar-debt that was first bundled in 2007, and again in 2013. In the last months of his administration, Prime Minister Dean Barrow and others successfully negotiated deferral of interest payments for 2020 and part of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Superbond represents roughly a quarter of all of Belize’s national debt, estimated at over 4 billion dollars. The Government reported a few weeks ago that it was in negotiations for a “significant” reduction in the national debt in a “debt for conservation” swap, as part of which it ratified the New York Convention on Foreign Arbitral Awards in the Senate.


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