(Updates Clearstream comment)
BUENOS AIRES, March 31 (Reuters) - Argentina made an interest payment on its restructured debt on Tuesday, an economy ministry spokeswoman said, although the money would almost certainly not reach most bondholders due to international lawsuits over defaulted bonds.
If the South American country fails to complete the transfer to holders by the end of Tuesday, it will have a one-month grace period before its sovereign debt default on foreign law exchanged bonds spreads to exchanged debt held under local law.
A U.S. judge has barred Argentina from paying interest on bonds that were restructured after its 2002 default until it settles with a group of U.S. investors who rejected the bond swaps. Argentina tipped back into default in July.
In July, September and December, Argentina processed interest payments in defiance of Judge Thomas Griesa, who ordered financial intermediaries to freeze the transactions on the foreign law bonds but made special exemptions for local law securities. This time around, there is no exemption.
Asked when the payment would be made, a spokeswoman for the economy ministry said: “The payment is being processed normally, as on each previous occasion.”
At the end of the day, the ministry had not issued a statement saying the payment had been made.
Belgium-based clearing house Euroclear said it would not process coupon payments on some Argentine local law bonds subject to the U.S. court injunction, Thomson Reuters IFR reported, citing an official note to the market.
They included Tuesday’s coupon payment on the dollar-denominated Par bonds due in 2038.
“You will not receive any payment on these bonds until further notice,” Euroclear said in the note to clients, referring to five series of Argentine law securities.
Its Luxembourg-based rival Clearstream on Tuesday initially said it had suspended all settlements on securities in the Argentine market, adding to pressure on Argentine bond prices.
Clearstream later told clients the suspension would only remain in place on bonds under Griesa’s injunction after it received clarification on the circumstances under which it could resume settlements.
Clearstream sought assurances after the Argentine securities regulator suspended its custodian bank, Citibank Argentina , from capital market operations on Friday. The Argentine regulator said local financial institution Caja de Valores would take over the administration of coupon payments that Citibank Argentina had previously handled.
Argentina says it is not in default because it has met its debt obligations by making payment and accuses Griesa of overstepping his bounds. (Reporting by Jorge Otaola and Richard Lough in Buenos Aires and Davide Scigliuzzo in New York for Thomson Reuters IFR; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Ken Wills)