So much for that big fat Greek payday.
Hedge funds that in the last month or so have purchased an estimated 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) of beaten down Greek bonds that mature on March 20 are now trying to unload their positions, according to brokers and traders.
That is because it is becoming clear to one and all that Greece — under pressure from its financial backers — is preparing to impose a broad-based haircut that would hit all investors with a loss of 50 percent or more, whether they agree to the deal or not.
The problem is that while buying the bonds over the last few months was easy, as many European banks were unloading their positions, getting out now is proving to be near impossible. Liquidity has dried up and investors are avoiding Greek paper as if it were the plague.
The poor outlook for early maturing Greek bonds was compounded on Wednesday when Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said the public sector might have to participate in a restructuring deal with private sector creditors.
“There was a lot of volume going in, but not a lot going out,” said one broker, speaking on condition of anonymity. The broker said prices for March 2012 bonds had slipped to around 35 cents on the dollar from a range of 40 cents to 45 cents.
Starting in December, the counterintuitive, go-long Greece bet was one of the more popular pitches made to funds in New York and London.