Show me the way to Old R March 9, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Back in May last year, I wrote:

Greek CDS typically trade under Old R restructuring. That fact could be become rather important soon. In Old R trades there is no limit on the maturity of the deliverable obligation, and no tranching in the auction post credit event. That in turn means the cheapest to deliver option may be quite valuable – there may be quite a large spread between short and long-dated bond prices post restructuring. Thus going into the event you can expect the CDS spread/bond spread relationship to be interesting. Everyone who entered into negative basis trades on Greece knew all this, right?

People are now waking up to this. FT alphaville for instance says today:

…Old R trades won’t have bucketed auctions even when the credit event in question is a restructuring.

So the question becomes whether anyone wrote CDS contracts with anything other than Old R trades on Greece. If there are MR or MMR trades there would have to be an auction with buckets.

Now, FT Alphaville didn’t think anyone had MR or MMR trades on Greece. Or, if they did, we thought it would be a booking error that would be cleared up.

But then, we saw this in a note from JP Morgan on February 24th (emphasis ours):

A problem might arise with the CDS contracts that have Mod R or Mod Mod R clauses. Western European sovereign CDS generally use the clause “Old Restructuring” (Old R). Under Old R, there are no maturity limits on deliverables, hence for the majority of the Greek CDS contracts currently in place there will be a single auction with bonds up to 30y maturity deliverable without multiple maturity buckets. But there is a small portion of Greek CDS contracts with Modified Modified Restructuring clauses (Mod Mod R), which means that for these contracts there will be several auctions for multiple maturity buckets. For the settlement of these CDS contracts, there might be bond deliverability shortage for shorter maturity buckets up to 10 years, where only international law bonds will be deliverable, creating some room for a squeeze in the auction process. But again, the universe of these CDS contracts (Mod Mod R) is rather small.

Now, that’s weird.

That was the first we’d ever heard of Greece CDS trades with MR or MMR. And we’re still thinking that someone at some point made a mistake.

Not necessarily. Restructuring is just a convention. You can negotiate whatever you want. Maybe someone needs restructuring to get capital relief*. Maybe they are doing a basket and they want the same restructuring choice on all the names in the basket. Maybe they just ticked the wrong box. But once you have agreed to, say, MMR, changing it to Old R is going to cost something. Pretty soon we’ll see if it was worth paying or not…

Now it is nearly the weekend, and I don’t plan on spending it thinking about CDS, so let me leave you with one of the more interesting google hits on ‘Old R’. Can anyone tell me what a single Oerlikon is and how it might help me in a bond auction?

*That, BTW, is why US corporates trade on XR – the FED does require restructuring as a credit event to give capital relief, while European regulators do. For extra amusement, read the letter from the insurers to ISDA over Xerox. It is in appendix one of this document, the choice sentence being ‘The current definition of Restructuring is clearly not workable if it is susceptible to the misinterpretation, as it apparently is in the minds of certain market participants, that there has been a Credit Event with respect to Xerox.’

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