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Lenders seek Ukraine government help in $1.6 billion debt spat

Author : Luca Casiraghi

Creditors to Ukraine’s two largest agriculture companies are asking the government to weigh in to a two-year campaign to get their money back
09:32, 29 November 2019

112 Agency

Creditors to Ukraine’s two largest agriculture companies are asking the government to weigh in to a two-year campaign to get their money back after the firms’ owner was added to the country’s wanted list.

A group of lenders and bondholders to UkrLandFarming PLC and Avangardco Investments Public Ltd. sent a letter to Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk as well as the finance and economy ministers, outlining their predicament since both firms defaulted on most of their $1.6 billion bonds and loans in 2017.

The investors say they’ve made repeated unsuccessful attempts to agree a “consensual restructuring” with UkrLandFarming and its ultimate owner, Oleg Bakhmatyuk, according to the letter, which was seen by Bloomberg and dated Nov. 15. The letter doesn’t outline demands or how the investors expect the government to help in the dispute.

“Since the international creditors represent important foreign investors in Ukraine, we would greatly appreciate receiving your views regarding the situation facing the ULF Group as soon as convenient,” the letter said.

Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau is seeking Bakhmatyuk on suspicion of the alleged embezzlement of 1.2 billion hryvnia ($50 million) in stabilization loans provided for VAB Bank, a lender he owned.

Related: Ukraine’s Cabinet promises loans for land purchase at 3-5% per annum for agricultural producers

The letter was first reported by Interfax.

Representatives for the creditors declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the Economy Ministry declined to comment on whether the government will meet the creditors. Calls and messages to Bakhmatyuk were left unanswered.

The creditors’ move highlights the risks of investing in emerging markets, which may lack legal institutions robust enough to enforce contracts and property rights.

UkrLandFarming and Avangardco owe about $775 million to bondholders and $475 million to international banks, the letter says. The two companies have struggled since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 amid a separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s two easternmost regions. The conflict pushed Ukraine’s economy into recession and the national currency tumbled, prompting the government and many local companies to restructure debt.

Related: Business partners Bogdan and Solsky got control over agricultural policy of Ukraine, and NABU do not investigate them, - press

Two years ago, UkrLandFarming proposed to creditors a 50% haircut on $500 million of its bonds and on $200 million of debt issued by its affiliate, egg-producer Avangardco. Last February, Avangardco reached an agreement with local bank Oshchadbank.

Rothschild & Co. is advising the creditor group, comprising Gramercy Funds Management LLC, Export-Import Bank of the United States, Pala Assets Limited and EKF Danmarks Eksportkredit.

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