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U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico Sliding Toward Bankruptcy?

Thursday April 13th, 2017   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 6:28am PDT   •  

Nearly one year ago, the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico officially defaulted on its debts. In response to that default, and the looming threat even larger defaults the U.S. Congress passed an emergency debt relief bill to rescue the territorial government of Puerto Rico, which President Obama signed into law on June 30, 2016.

That bailout has become relevant again today because Puerto Rico is rapidly approaching a key deadline set by that law, which unless the territorial government and its creditors can come to terms, will lead to “restructuring” proceedings, similar to what a failed business or local government goes through when they declare bankruptcy. Reuters reports:

Bankruptcy for Puerto Rico is looking ever more likely as the clock ticks down toward a May 1 deadline to restructure $70 billion in debt, ramping up uncertainty for anyone betting on returns from the island’s widely held U.S. municipal bonds.

When U.S. Congress last year passed the Puerto Rico rescue law dubbed PROMESA, it froze creditor lawsuits against the island so its federally appointed oversight board and creditors could negotiate out of court on the biggest debt restructuring in U.S. municipal history.

The freeze expires on May 1, however, and an extension by Congress is “not going to happen,” said a Republican aide to the House Committee on Natural Resources, which is in charge of territory matters.

A round of mediated talks is scheduled to begin on Thursday. But absent an agreement soon, a growing number of analysts say Puerto Rico will seek protection from creditors under PROMESA’s court-sanctioned restructuring process, akin to U.S. bankruptcy.

Without a deal between Puerto Rico’s government and its creditors, it is highly likely that the territory will be the first “state-level” government in the United States to go into bankruptcy.

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April 2017