(Recasts with details of new bond issue next week)
By Nate Raymond and Brad Haynes
NEW YORK/BUENOS AIRES, April 13 (Reuters) - A U.S. court ruling on Wednesday cleared the way for Argentina to pay its debts and return to global credit markets early next week, as a new president tries to turn the page on almost a decade and a half of messy defaults and litigation.
The ruling in a U.S. appeals court bolstered markets and brought relief to President Mauricio Macri, who has spent the first four months of his term resolving a mountain of litigation that followed a $100 billion default in 2002.
Argentina plans on Monday to launch the sale of its first international bond issue in 15 years, raising funds for an April 22 payment to creditors who had resisted prior debt restructurings, according to a finance ministry official.
Macri’s economic team is currently canvassing New York and London to gauge appetite for a bond that could raise up to $15 billion to ease government financing and pay over $8 billion in settlements to so-called “holdout” creditors.
Argentina had faced a Thursday deadline to pay $4.65 billion in settlements to four major creditors led by Aurelius Capital Management and Elliott Management’s NML Capital Ltd. But those hedge funds’ lawyers said they could wait longer and would not terminate the agreements on Thursday if Argentina did not make the payment on time.
Still, the holdouts urged the court not to lift injunctions that had given them leverage by preventing Argentina from servicing bonds restructured in 2005 and 2010. Those deals resulted in 92 percent of Argentina’s defaulted debt being swapped, paying investors less than 30 cents on the dollar.
“Argentina’s feet need to be held to the fire,” said Matthew McGill, NML’s lawyer, arguing to keep the injunctions.
In announcing the three-judge panel’s ruling on Wednesday, U.S. Circuit Judge Christopher Droney said U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa did not abuse his discretion by previously deciding to lift the injunctions after recent developments in the case.
Argentina’s peso firmed as much as 1 percent after the ruling to its strongest level in two months, while the Merval stock index rose 4 percent.
Argentina offered to settle the litigation with NML and Aurelius in February and soon after asked Griesa to lift injunctions that kept it from servicing its restructured debt until it paid the suing bondholders.
Droney said that before formally lifting the injunctions, Griesa must confirm that Argentina had repealed two debt-related laws, which its Congress has voted to do, and pays creditors who settled by Feb. 29.
Additional Reporting by Nicolas Misculin and Sarah Marsh in Buenos Aires; Editing by Tom Brown