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updated: 12/3/2012 7:42 AM

Greece launches heavily-discounted bond buyback

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Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Greece said Monday it will spend up to (euro) 10 billion ($13 billion) in a heavily-discounted bond buyback program that it hopes will help stabilize its debts.

Private holders of Greek bonds, such as banks and pension funds, have until Friday to register their interest in participating in the buyback program. It will be conducted by what is known as a Dutch auction, a type of auction whereby prices start high and then decline.

The buyback should be completed by Dec. 17, the Public Debt Management Agency said in its announcement.

Greek officials are to brief finance ministers of the 17 EU countries that use the euro on details of the scheme when they meet in Brussels later Monday.

The buyback was agreed at a meeting last week of the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund when Greece's next bailout payment was authorized. The hope behind the buyback is that it will shave about (euro) 20 billion ($26 billion) off the country's debt and comes less than a year after private holders of Greek debt agreed a big writedown in the value of their Greek bonds.

There are 20 series of outstanding bonds eligible for the scheme, which will command different prices depending on the bond maturity. Greece has set a minimum range of 30.2 percent to 38.1 percent of the bond's nominal value, and a maximum of between 32.2 percent and 40.1 percent.

Greece has been dependent since May 2010 on international rescue loans from the IMF and its partners in the euro. The funds have prevented the country going bankrupt and possibly leaving the euro.

In return, Greece has had to take drastic measures to reform its economy, including slashing pensions and salaries, and increasing taxes. But the measures have not had the effect Greece's creditors had hoped, with a worse than expected recession now heading into its sixth year and undermining efforts to make the country's debt sustainable.

The debt buyback is part of additional measures Greece agreed to take last week, which came alongside the approval for the release of a critical, (euro) 44 billion, bailout installment.

The country expects to receive the vast majority of that amount -- more than (euro) 30 billion -- by Dec. 13.

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