Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Post-bailout bonds sale hailed

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has hailed big demand in international markets as Ireland held its first sovereign debt auction since the bailout ended

The Irish Government has heralded big demand from hundreds of international investors who lined up to lend to the country in its first auction of sovereign debt since the end of the bailout.

Some 3.75 billion euro in IOUs known as bonds was offered on the global money markets with orders worth 14 billion euro coming in, the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) said.

Michael Noonan, Finance Minister, said the bidding war showed the strength of Ireland's international reputation.

"The level of demand for today's sale with some 14 billion euro of orders shows that the Government's decision to exit the EU-IMF programme without a precautionary credit line has built strong confidence amongst investors," he said.

"It is particularly noteworthy that the orders of 14 billion euro for today's sale exceed the 10 billion euro that could have been available under a precautionary programme."

The 10-year bonds - effectively IOUs from the state which accrue interest over their lifetime - mature in March 2024. They were sold with a yield or interest rate of 3.54% - closer to the borrowing rates of stronger European economies like the UK and Norway and also the US.

The figures show the lack of risk investors see in the Irish economy since the Troika left while the money will also make a big dent in funding requirements for the year.

Mr Noonan said strong investor sentiment had been built up through a series of tentative steps in November and December.

Despite that the Government was under some pressure last month to arrange an overdraft style facility to act as a funding backstop as the 67 billion euro bailout loan programme finished on December 15. Mr Noonan was against the option.

A number of other initiatives have cemented Ireland's improved reputation among international investors including recouping a premium on the disposal of the State's investment in Bank of Ireland preference shares, the selection of a preferred bidder for Bord Gais Energy and the successful sale of the majority of a portfolio of former Anglo Irish Bank loans sold by liquidators to the private sector.

The National Treasury Management Agency, which manages Ireland's sovereign debt and borrowings, said there was interest in the new bonds from more than 400 fund managers, pension funds, insurance companies, banks and other investors, including some from the Middle East and Asia.

It said the size of the final order book and the spread of investor interest across the globe demonstrated the appetite for Irish sovereign debt and the country's ability to fund its needs in the private debt markets.

NTMA Chief Executive John Corrigan said: "It is clear from the very significant demand we saw today that international and domestic investors recognise the enormous progress Ireland has made.

"Today's transaction is a real success that cements Ireland's return to the international debt markets and provides a strong platform for bond auctions in 2014."

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