Wires

UPDATE 4-Argentina to postpone $1.47 billion principal bond payment until Sept. 30

Eliana Raszewski and Hugh Bronstein

Sept. 30@ (Adds analyst quote)

BUENOS AIRES, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Argentina has decided to postpone a $1.47 billion principal payment on the country's AF20 bond until Sept. 30, a move that could complicate the country's wider debt restructuring program with investors, the Economy Ministry said on Tuesday.

The payment had been due on Thursday. The government plans to continue making scheduled interest payments on the bond, it said in a statement. But investors are likely to frown on Argentina changing payment terms without consulting holders.

"It is a unilateral decision by the debtor, and not a move that creates goodwill in the market," said Goldman Sachs emerging markets analyst Alberto Ramos.

Argentine over-the-counter bonds fell an average 1% on Tuesday while country's risk spread widened 100 basis points to 1,982 over safe-haven U.S. Treasuries, according to JP Morgan's Emerging Markets Bond Index Plus.

The peso-denominated AF20 is linked to Argentina's foreign exchange rate, and was issued under Argentine law.

It was originally issued for an amount equivalent to $1.64 billion. On Feb. 4 the government swapped $164 million of the bond for three instruments due in 2021.

"The amortization will be postponed until Sept. 30 in order to allow more time for the bond to be restructured in a way that is consistent with the restructuring of the rest of our external debt," the statement said.

The move came less than 24 hours after a failed bond sale by Argentina on Monday that augured poorly for the government's plan for revamping a total of about $100 billion in debt.

It also came on the eve of talks starting on Wednesday with Argentina's biggest creditor, the International Monetary Fund, over the government's strategy for getting out of recession. That strategy hinges on re-negotiating IMF loans and sovereign bonds as a way of giving the economy time to recover.

Left-leaning President Alberto Fernandez hopes to convince the Fund to rejig $44 billion in suspended loans under a program that would avoid the kind of fiscal austerity and structural reforms the IMF typically imposes to restore nations' finances.

And the government hopes to achieve this before a March 31 deadline it has imposed on itself so it may refocus quickly on restoring growth. The future of Latin America's No.3 economy hinges on the Wednesday-through-Friday discussions to be held in Buenos Aires between IMF and Argentine officials.

(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Richard Chang and Lisa Shumaker)