Some $7 billion in past-due interest payments from Argentina to foreign creditor banks may not be paid by a Sept. 1 deadline because agent banks have been unable to reconcile who is owed what, senior banking sources said.
Sources added that a failure to reconcile the payments would force the issue into New York State or federal court ajudication and could delay payments for years.
On Wednesday, a Citicorp spokesman said Argentina and Citibank, the closing agent, are working to get an extension notice out to the banks. He flatly ruled out any possibility the deal will wind up in court in September.
The spokesman added that more than half the amounts have been reconciled so far.
|A Real Problem'
However, senior bankers contradicted the spokesman's statement and said there was a real possibility that the payments could be delayed.
"It's a real problem and they're going to have find some way of getting an extension," said one banker.
"Unless the payments are substantially reconciled by Sept. 1, the whole deal goes to court."
Bankers said large-scale trading in Argentine debt paper over the last few years was mainly responsible for delaying the reconcilication.
"The syndicate agents have to trace the paper trails, some covering over 100 trades in the paper, and the question is who had it at what time and who should have how much of the interest payments," said another banker.
Single Biggest Agent
Sources said Bank of New York, the single biggest agent -- handling approximately 40% of the reconciliation - has been slowest to complete its reconciliation.
Other banks acting as agents on the reconciliation are Banque Nationale de Paris, Chemical Bank, Citibank, Credit Lyonnais, Midland Bank PLC, J.P. Morgan & Co., and Royal Bank of Canada.
Argentina resumed partial interest payments on its foreign debt in June 1990, after previously halting payments for over two years, and reached an agreement to restructure the debt with banks in April last year.
The country paid $770 million and issued some $6 billion in uncollateralized 12-year bonds at Libor plus 13/16 to cover past-due interest on April 7.
The cash bonds have been held in an escrow account pending distribution to creditors.
In a related deal, banks agreed to reduce $19.3 billion in debt Argentina owed foreign creditors by swapping the debt into bonds at a reduction of either interest or principal.