October 3, 2015 / 3:31 PM / in 2 years

Argentine front-runner Scioli says holdouts not a priority

VILLA LA ÑATA, Argentina (Reuters) - Argentina’s presidential front-runner Daniel Scioli said improving an offer to creditors suing the country over defaulted bonds would not be a priority if he wins an Oct. 25 election.

Daniel Scioli, Buenos Aires' province governor and presidential candidate for the Victory Front, speaks as vice-presidential candidate Carlos Zannini (bottom, L) watches during a campaign rally in Buenos Aires, September 21, 2015. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

Whoever succeeds outgoing President Cristina Fernandez will inherit Argentina’s long battle with “holdout” investors who rejected its debt restructuring following a 2002 default to seek full repayment in the courts instead.

Under the outspoken leftist Fernandez, Argentina has refused to offer better terms to the litigating hedge funds it calls “vultures” than it did to those creditors who accepted steep writedowns in bond swaps.

“Argentina has shown willingness to pay and the capacity to do so, so we have to see now if they have the willingness to adapt themselves to what the world and Argentina is proposing,” ruling party candidate Scioli said late on Friday on the sidelines of a boxing tournament in the sporting club he built near his home in Villa la Ñata.

An opinion poll published on Friday showed he may be able to win in the first round, after widening his lead over his closest rival Mauricio Macri.

Economists say whoever wins will need to seek a swift settlement with the holdouts in order to obtain cheaper financing. Yet all the leading candidates have been tight-lipped on the subject as to admit this would be politically dangerous.

Asked if he would improve Argentina’s offer to the holdouts, Scioli said “it’s not a priority of my work agenda. Argentina’s proposal is clear, so let’s see what happens.”

The Buenos Aires Province governor, who has pledged to attract $30 billion of investment per year over the next four years, said he had met earlier on Friday with 70 foreign investors in areas such as energy and tourism.

“I see growing interest in Argentina and will personally get involved in looking for these investors,” he said.

Scioli, a former power boat champion who lost his right arm in a crash in 1989, regularly plays soccer in the Villa la Ñata sports club where the walls are festooned with campaign posters.

Sporting an orange baseball cap emblazoned with “Scioli for president”, he said it was sport that had given him the “inner force to do [his] best and continue moving forwards” after the accident and he said he would make space for it in his agenda if he won the presidency.

“We’re going to win on Oct. 25, we’re going to deal Macri a knockout,” he said as he chatted with boxers in the dressing rooms before they went into the ring.

Editing by Helen Popper

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