Bondholders' pension plans at risk

Easier credit needed to save troubled companies, Securities Authority head warns.

fischer steinitz 88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
fischer steinitz 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Troubled companies' controlling shareholders will have to make significant concessions in bondholder settlements as part of the process of saving investors' pension savings, Israel Securities Authority Chairman Zohar Goshen said Thursday. "Every day that passes without a solution for encouraging the flow of new credit into the capital market is a day that brings closer the end of troubled companies," he said in Tel Aviv at the authority's conference on regulation challenges of companies. "In such a situation, this would mean pension savers could lose more money, the employment market could face more layoffs and economic activity could be damaged further." Goshen said institutional investors needed to settle their debt obligations to protect private bondholders' pension savings. "Without a fair reorganization of debt arrangements [by institutional investors], significant amounts of the public's pension savings will go down the drain," he said. "Controlling shareholders of some of the companies that are struggling to meet their debts need to realize that they don't own part of the company anymore. They will need to make large concessions as part of debt settlements, even if that means they have to forgo part of their holdings to bondholders." Goshen said the economy was facing three central problems: difficulties of the banks to stream credit to businesses, difficulties of companies to repay debt and difficulties of the market to raise new credit from nonbanking sources. He criticized recent proposals to ease the crisis in the corporate-bond market, including legislation that would delay the maturity of bonds from four years to seven years, during which time they would accrue interest. According to the proposal, 40 percent of the debt would be repaid after four years and the remainder upon reaching maturity after seven years. Also speaking at the conference, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said the economic crisis has not reached its bottom, but first signs of a change, even in the United States and European economies, were visible. "There are still hard days for the Israeli and global economy," he said. "There is an end to every crisis with a return to growth, and we should not take steps in a crisis that will cause long-term damage to the economy." Fischer said the local economy was not in the same situation as in the US on the eve of the Lehman Brothers collapse. "We are far away from this point, when several banks had already fallen and the financial markets stopped functioning," he said. "We are in relatively good shape. The problem is that the public has lost confidence and is worried about what is going to happen. But we are not the US."