Puerto Rico bonds a good bet? Jeffrey Gundlach says yes

Puerto Rico bonds a good bet? Gundlach says yes

Jeffrey Gundlach, founder of investment firm DoubleLine Capital, has made a bold recommendation to investors: Buy Puerto Rican general obligation bonds.

"Puerto Rican muni bonds are my recommendation for a risky thing to buy because they have priced in a lot of problems," the closely followed investor said Monday at the Sohn Investment Conference in New York.

Gundlach said investors could earn about 11 percent in tax-free yields on Puerto Rico securities that mature in 2035, which have recently traded around 78 cents on the dollar.

"The governor is committed to paying the full amount of debt on time," he said.

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Jose Joaquín Villamil, chairman of the board at Estudios Tecnicos, a San Juan-based economic consulting firm, told CNBC he agreed with Gundlach assessment. "General obligation bonds ... are backed by (Puerto Rico's) sales tax," he said. "There's little risk of default."

As of March 31, Gundalch's Income Solutions Fund held $45 million in Puerto Rican debt, according to a report last month.

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Despite the potential upside seen by Gundlach, several experts advise against the tropical island's debt.

"The government may be shut down, so we may be looking at potential default across every issuer in Puerto Rico," Alexandra Lebenthal, CEO of the municipal bond franchise Lebenthal & Co., told CNBC's "Power Lunch" on April 28.

Gundlach, however, said there is a strong motivation against a default, since the island's pension obligation bonds are held mostly by Puerto Rican residents. "A default would wipe out the savings pools," he said.

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Nevertheless, Puerto Rico's economy has recently experienced liquidity problems, which led, in part, to Standard & Poor's April 24 downgrade of the island's general obligation rating from B to CCC+.

In its downgrade announcement, S&P cited a lack of political consensus on important parts of the 2016 budget, which could "exacerbate liquidity and fiscal pressure." The firm said it expects to resolve the CreditWatch within three months when the budget is enacted.

S&P warned, however, that a delayed or flawed budget could result in an additional downgrade to CCC or lower.

—CNBC's Karma Allen and Everett Rosenfeld contributed to this report.