Puerto Rico Board Strikes Tentative Debt Deal With Creditors

Puerto Rico’s financial oversight board reached a tentative agreement with investors on how to reduce $18 billion of bond debt and is seeking additional time to file a formal adjustment plan to the court.

The board Wednesday asked a court overseeing Puerto Rico’s record bankruptcy to give the panel and creditors more time to finalize an accord, according to a court document. The board is seeking to file a debt restructuring plan by March 8. It had a Feb. 10 deadline to submit a plan or term sheet.

The deal involves owners of more than $7 billion of Puerto Rico bonds who signed on to an earlier debt plan from February 2020, except for one firm that may no longer hold Puerto Rico securities, according to the court filing.

The board didn’t provide any details, including prospective repayment amounts, but hopes to release such information “within a week,” according to the court filing.

“We requested that the court grant more time to continue the mediation process, set down the agreed terms in a plan support agreement, and extend support for the agreement across a broad spectrum of creditor groups for a fair and affordable plan of adjustment that will enable Puerto Rico’s economy to grow and the people of Puerto Rico to prosper,” Natalie Jaresko, executive director of the oversight board, said in a statement Wednesday.

Puerto Rico has been in bankruptcy since May 2017, but hurricanes, earthquakes, political turmoil and the coronavirus outbreak have delayed the commonwealth’s attempt to restructure its debt and fix an unfunded pension system where all payments to retirees come from the island’s operating budget. Resolving those obligations are the biggest issues remaining in Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy.

The additional time will allow the board to negotiate and potentially reach agreement with bond insurers, labor groups and other creditors, thereby expanding consensus among all involved parties, according to the court filing.

The board reserves the right to request further deadline extensions, according the court filing.

Governor Pedro Pierluisi, who took office last month, said he agrees with the economic terms of the agreement but warned the board he would not support a plan that reduces pension benefits.

“We urge the FOMB to present an adjustment plan that does not contain cuts to pensions and that only reflects the economic terms of the agreement in principle,” Pierluisi said in a statement Wednesday. “In this way, we can move together to complete this restructuring process.”

The board and rival bondholder groups, which include Aurelius Capital Management, BlackRock Financial Management and Brigade Capital Management, struck a tentative deal in February 2020, one month before the virus forced many states and cities to limit business activity. The board is seeking to revise that debt proposal and give bondholders even less after the pandemic shut down the island’s economy.

Judge Laura Taylor Swain in October gave the board a deadline for filing a plan of adjustment or a term sheet outlining how to restructure $18 billion of general obligations and debt guaranteed by the commonwealth. The parties have been in mediation since early December.

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