February 23, 2007

Vulture funds

Sir, I might not like it too much if a vulture-fund-manager invited any of my daughters out to celebrate a killing in Zambia debt but, having said that, neither am I so sure that the world would be a better place without the vulture funds.

That some can find opportunities in buying uncollectible loans and squeeze fortunes out of them when others have decided to clean up their books, is just part of the circle of life, and part of the same market mechanism which signals how much, or how little, the loans are worth, since the price of a loan indicates the expectations of collecting on the loan and not the expectations of collecting on a “pardoned” loan. Yes, the vulture funds are into an ugly business, cleaning up among corpses, but, by their sheer presence, they might perhaps even help to reduce the number of corpses.

Most, or perhaps all of the scholar papers on the restructuring of sovereign debt, state as the explicit purpose of the whole exercise, that of enabling the countries to regain access to the international capital markets again (something like the torturer waking up his fainted victim) and so, if you really need to pick on one, you might also choose to do so at that moment in the circle when the new born debt-overhang-ridden countries gets thrown out to start defending itself again from the many dogs-of-finance out there.

There is so much written about freeing up the countries in order for them to access the markets while comparatively so little about how they should go about to avoid repeating the same mistakes that perhaps I should even frown when it is a regular investment banker who knocks on my door and asks for my daughter. I mean what is some hundred of percents on some few millions when compared to some basis point on a couple of billions.