Dubai World: A great precedent
The Dubai World default is big news — big enough that it’s even made it into Gawker. Your one-stop shop for bloggy coverage this Thanksgiving is Alphaville, which features for instance this wonderful chart of the debt structure which is now being crawled over by lawyers around the world.
Personally, I’m quite happy about this default, since it sets another very useful precedent of a state-owned company defaulting on its debt. Historically investors in state-owned companies have perceived an implicit sovereign guarantee — there’s even a German word for it, Anstaltslast. The result is a huge and unhelpful moral-hazard trade.
So it’s great that the government of Dubai has made it clear that Dubai World’s lenders aren’t going to be automatically bailed out by the sovereign, despite the fact that the government has hundreds of billions of dollars in its sovereign wealth fund*. Would that Treasury will follow suit when it comes to the creditors of state-owned companies like AIG.
*Update: As my commenters have pointed out, it’s Abu Dhabi which has hundreds of billions of dollars in its sovereign wealth fund, not Dubai. Some of those dollars might well yet be used fora Dubai bailout, but it won’t be on terms Dubai likes.