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Payment deadline looms over Malaysian fund amid IPIC row

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The grace period for the US$50 million coupon payment due on a 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) bond expires at the weekend with 1MDB saying Abu Dhabi sovereign fund IPIC has assumed responsibility for making the payment.

[HONG KONG] The grace period for the US$50 million coupon payment due on a 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) bond expires at the weekend with 1MDB saying Abu Dhabi sovereign fund IPIC has assumed responsibility for making the payment.

While the interest on the US$1.75 billion bond is widely expected to be paid, the stand-off between the two state firms, who are locked in a wider dispute, has worried markets and left bondholders waiting on the payment that was due on Monday.

The Malaysian state investor said the interest was owed by International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) following an agreement struck on June 4, 2015. The terms of the bond gives a five-day period of grace for the payment to be made.

If unpaid by 1MDB, IPIC will have to step in as guarantor on the bond to make the payment.

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"What you are seeing here is brinksmanship," said Christian de Guzman, a senior analyst at Moody's Investors Service. "1MDB says it has the cash to pay, but you wonder why they haven't paid it, while IPIC definitely has the resources to pay."

The bond, which is due in 2022, was issued by 1MDB Energy (Langat) Ltd and IPIC had agreed to pay the interest due in exchange for certain undertakings to transfer assets and cash to IPIC.

Last week IPIC said it was aborting last year's deal under which it agreed to provide US$1 billion in cash as well as assume payments on US$3.5 billion of 1MDB debt.

IPIC said the Malaysian state fund and the Asian country's Ministry of Finance had failed to meet obligations including the payment of US$1.1 billion plus interest and was now in default.

1MDB acknowledged on Monday that "a dispute has recently arisen between IPIC and the issuer concerning, among other things, the issuer's obligations to IPIC and IPIC's corresponding obligations" and that IPIC had not paid the interest on the bond.

1MDB's publicly traded bonds due 2022 and those due in 2023 have been rattled by these events amid confusion as to why the payment was still due. The bond on which the coupon is due is unrated and privately placed.

The 2023 bonds which fell to a low of 78 cents on the dollar have since recovered to around 90 as investors took comfort from 1MDB's comments that it, along with its group entities "will meet all of their other obligations under any other financing arrangements and have ample liquidity to do so".

Malaysia's sovereign CDS which had underperformed the market earlier in the week, also rallied strongly on Thursday in a catch-up move, as the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said it would honour all its commitments in financial markets. The five-year contract fell 11 bps to 151/156 bps versus the 2-5 bps narrowing of the regional peers. It had risen to 166/171 bps during the week.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak heads the advisory board of 1MDB, which is at the centre of a multi-billion dollar graft scandal. Money-laundering investigations concerning the fund are now underway in six countries including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.

REUTERS

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