APNewsBreak: Eurozone may leverage bailout fund

October 25, 2011 - 12:31 PM
Germany Euro Financial Crisis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives to brief the faction and party leaders of the German parliament party's about yesterday's European Summit on the Euro financial crisis at the chancellery in Berlin, Monday, Oct. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN (AP) — The 17-nation eurozone is considering two forms of leveraging to boost its euro440 billion ($600 billion) bailout fund's capacity in a bid to contain the debt turmoil that threatens to engulf more European nations.

A document obtained by The Associated Press, which Germany's government was sharing with key lawmakers Monday, shows the currency zone wants to give the bailout fund the ability to provide investors with a partial insurance against losses from its member states' government bonds.

The eurozone document also foresees setting up a special investment vehicle that seeks to attract outside investors such as sovereign wealth funds, combining "public and private capital to enlarge the resources available to" the European Financial Stability Fund, or EFSF.

Leading German opposition lawmakers, who were briefed earlier Monday by Chancellor Angela Merkel on the plan, said the fund's capacity will be boosted "beyond euro1 trillion" ($1.39 trillion) under the new rules.

But the draft document by the eurozone working group did not provide a headline figure for the bailout fund, stressing "a more precise number on the extent of leverage can only be determined after contacts with potential investors" and rating agencies.

Eurozone governments hope that the enhanced EFSF will be able to protect countries such as Italy and Spain from being engulfed in the debt crisis. To do that, however, it needs to be bigger or see its lending powers magnified.

German lawmakers will vote on the bailout funds' new rules Wednesday, hours before an EU summit in Brussels is set to adopt them.

The draft document stressed that the EFSF would "benefit from the flexibility to deploy both options, which are not mutually exclusive." The insurance model is designed to increase the demand for newly issued eurozone government bonds, lower the yields "thereby supporting the sustainability of public finances," the document said.

Lowering the yields for troubled eurozone governments is a key step to counter the widening debt crisis, because spiraling yields on debt issued by Greece, Portugal and Ireland eventually cut them off from market financing, forcing the eurozone to provide those nations which an emergency loan package.

In the event of a default, "the investor could surrender the partial protection certificate" and "receive payment in kind with an EFSF bond," the document said, referring to the insurance option.

The new investment facility, a so-called special investment purpose investment vehicle, is meant to allow the EFSF "to attract a broad class of international public and private investors." The investment structure aims at creating "additional liquidity and market capacity to extend loans, for bank recapitalization via a member state and for buying bonds in the primary and secondary market," the eurozone draft document said.

Beefing up the bailout fund is one part of a three-pronged eurozone plan to solve the crisis.

The other two parts are reducing Greece's debt burden so the country eventually can stand on its own and forcing banks to raise more money so they can take losses on the Greek debt and ride out the financial storm that will entail.