Zambia to resume talks with IMF, meets some creditors

Zambia to resume talks with IMF, meets some creditors.
Zambia to resume talks with IMF, meets some creditors.

Zambia, Africa's first pandemic-era sovereign default, will resume virtual talks with the International Monetary Fund next week as it seeks to stabilise its debt-burdened economy, its finance ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The southern African copper producer wrapped up a first round of meetings with the IMF early this month, with the Fund stating afterwards that headway had been made but that challenges remained.

"The aim is to agree on an appropriate policy reform agenda to address the economic challenges that Zambia is encountering and support the country's return to a sustainable macro-fiscal situation over the medium-term," the ministry said.

Like many African countries, Zambia was hit hard by both the public health and economic impacts of the pandemic, and in November it missed a coupon payment on a dollar bond.

Lusaka asked for a financial programme with the Fund in December and sought debt relief in January under a new common framework backed by the Group of 20 major economies and designed to help the world's poorest countries tackle their debt burdens.

In a separate statement later in the day, the ministry said it held a virtual meeting on Thursday with more 20 international commercial banks and export credit agencies with loan exposure to Zambia.

Its purpose was to update creditors on Zambia's "macroeconomic and fiscal situation, engagement with the IMF, and the authorities' strategy to restore public debt sustainability", the ministry said.

Aberdeen Standard Investments' Kevin Daly, a member of the Zambia External Bondholder Committee, said the group - made up of holders of Zambia's defaulted Eurobonds - was not part of the call.

"The last contact we had with the finance ministry was about three weeks ago," he told Reuters.

Zambia's communications advisers Highgate said the meeting was intended only for commercial banks with loan exposure to Zambia to invite them to join a committee of private commercial creditors.

It said Zambian authorities and their advisers had already established a separate dedicated channel of communication with the committee formed by bondholders' representatives and held several such calls with them.

Zambia's debt load was considered unsustainable even before the pandemic.

That debt includes around $3 billion in outstanding Eurobonds and another $3 billion owed to China and Chinese entities. Tensions between those two groups of creditors have so far stymied attempts to restructure Zambia's debt.

Both Zambia's 2027 bond and 2024 issue were little changed at between 57 and 58 cents in quiet Friday afternoon trade, Tradeweb data showed.

- Reporting by Chris Mfula Additional reporting by Marc Jones in London

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