Sri Lanka likely to raise $2 billion via sovereign bonds: Government officials

Reuters Colombo, Sri lanka Jun 25, 2019, 10.32 AM(IST)

File photo of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. Photograph:( AFP )

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The South Asian nation's decision to capitalise on favourable market conditions comes two months after suicide bombers killed more than 250 people in attacks at churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday.

Sri Lanka is likely to raise $2 billion through 5-year and 10-year sovereign bonds launched on Monday, two government officials told Reuters, as the Indian Ocean island nation tapped global capital markets for the second time in three months.

The South Asian nation's decision to capitalise on favourable market conditions comes two months after suicide bombers killed more than 250 people in attacks at churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday

That attack has badly dented the Sri Lankan economy, in particular deterring many thousands of foreign tourists from coming to the island.

"We are planning to raise $500 million from 5-year bonds and $1.5 billion through 10-year bonds," said a senior government official, who declined to be identified because he is not authorised to talk to media.

"Both bonds have been oversubscribed three times during the day's book building process in Asia and Europe alone. We are waiting for US markets to finalise the deal."

A senior finance ministry official also said the total size of the bond borrowing will be $2 billion.

A source who is aware of the deal said the price of 5-year bonds had tightened to near 6.4% from the initial price guidance of 6.6%, while 10-year bond price also got tightened to 7.6% from the initial price guidance of 7.8%.

The sale is part of plans to raise funds via sovereign bonds, as the government seeks new funds to repay loans that are maturing.

In March, Sri Lanka sold $1 billion in five-year bonds with a coupon of 6.85 per cent and $1.4 billion in 10-year bonds with a coupon of 7.85 per cent and the borrowing costs were lower than originally predicted.

The 10-year bond sold in March last traded at 7.302% and the five-year bond last traded at 6.258%, Refinitiv data showed.

BOC International, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JPMorgan, SMBC Nikko and Standard Chartered Bank, who were the lead managers for the $2.4 billion borrowings in March, are the joint book runners for the bond sale.

The sale of new global sovereign bonds comes as Sri Lanka is struggling to repay foreign loans, with a record $5.9 billion due this year, including $2.6 billion in the first quarter and more than $1.2 billion in the second, central bank data showed.

All three major rating agencies downgraded Sri Lanka's debt after President Maithripala Sirisena sacked his prime minister in October and replaced him with pro-China former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, though that decision was later reversed.

But the seven-week-long crisis hurt the rupee and drove sovereign bond yields higher, straining state finances.

Sri Lanka is unlikely to hit its full-year economic growth target of 3-4% following the bombings, junior finance minister Eran Wickramaratne told Reuters last month. A Reuters poll has forecast growth to slump to its lowest in nearly two decades this year.