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Argentina Reaches Agreement To End 15-Year Bonds Dispute


A long and bitter battle between Argentina and its creditors is nearing an end. The country has reached an agreement to pay four big American hedge funds more than $4-and-a-half billion. That's to settle a debt that goes back to a massive default in 2001. The agreement clears the way for Argentina to once again use the global bond market to borrow money. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: The settlement was announced today by Daniel Pollack, who was appointed by the federal court to oversee the negotiations. He said a small group of hedge funds led by Elliott Management had agreed to take about 75 percent of the money they claimed they were owed. Anna Gelpern is a professor of law at Georgetown.

ANNA GELPERN: With the biggest, most sophisticated holdouts settled and dropping their claims, I think that Argentina should feel a lot more comfortable going into the markets.

ZARROLI: Argentina had been trying for some time to restructure tens of billions of dollars in government debt, but a small group of bondholders refused to go along with the move, and they sued the government in federal court. A judge issued an injunction blocking Argentina from paying its other debt holders until it resolved the dispute, and that forced the government to default on its debt again in 2014. Meanwhile, Argentina was essentially barred from the capital markets at a time when its economy has been stumbling badly. The dispute lapsed into a nasty political war with Argentina's former president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, calling the hedge funds vultures. Then last year came the election of new president Mauricio Macri, who promised to end the dispute. Diego Ferro is co-chief investment officer at Greylock Capital Management.

DIEGO FERRO: The current administration realized that Argentina cannot be shut down from international markets, so from here they said, we're going to fix this problem. And that's what they're doing.

ZARROLI: Earlier this month, the judge in the case agreed to lift the injunction that blocked Argentina from paying its creditors. Ferro says the deal between the government and Elliott Management is a big milestone in the debt saga.

FERRO: It has a huge symbolic element because obviously, Elliott in particular has been the face of this conflict and they reached agreement. It's a huge thing.

ZARROLI: He says the dispute isn't a quite over become some smaller bondholders continue to hold out for a better deal, though they lack Elliot's clout. The deal also has to be approved by Argentina's congress. Argentina's finance minister said today that once the deal is approved, the country will be back on the path to growth. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.