In its first attempt to return to the bond market in three years as its debt crisis eases, Greece on Monday invited holders of its 4.75 per cent outstanding bonds maturing in 2019 to tender them for cash, along with a plan to offer new five-year paper.
Greece last ventured into international bond markets with two issues in 2014, a year before then newly elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras signed up to a new bailout, the country’s third since 2010, after months of tense negotiations with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
Last month Greece concluded a crucial bailout review and its lenders offered some detail on the measures that will be carried out when its current bailout ends in 2018 to ease its debt mountain, which stands at 180 per cent of economic output.
That development opened the way for Greece’s market foray, which the Tsipras government says should be viewed as a test run and considered part of an overall strategy to ensure the country can fully return to markets next year.
Greece said it had mandated BNP Paribas, Citigroup Global Markets, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Merrill Lynch as joint lead managers for the benchmark-size offering.
It said the cash to be paid for outstanding bonds would be equal to 102.6 per cent of the nominal amount of each bond.
The pricing of the offering of new bonds is expected to occur on Tuesday, subject to market conditions. Settlement is expected on Aug 1.
Holders of outstanding bonds tendered in the switch offer will receive accrued interest.
“The switch and tender offer is conditional on the successful pricing and closing of the new notes offering in an amount, with pricing and on terms and conditions satisfactory to the Republic,” Greece said in a statement.
The yield on the government bond maturing in 2019 fell on Monday to its lowest level since it was issued three years ago, as Athens prepared its market foray. It fell as much as 40 basis points to 3.42 per cent.
Greece’s European creditors are keen for the crisis-hit country to develop a strategy to gradually regain market access so that it will be able to stand on its own feet in 2018.
The IMF last week approved in principle a $1.8 billion standby loan arrangement for Greece, making a conditional commitment to help underpin the country’s bailout programme for the first time in two years.
But the fund will not make any money available until after it receives “specific and credible assurances” from Greece’s European lenders to ensure the country’s debt sustainability.
Debt swaps that may improve Greece’s maturity profile without increasing its overall load can ease forays into bond markets.
“Effectively the new issue is neutral as regards the debt sustainability of Greece,” said Athens-based Eurobank economist Platon Monokroussos.
Reuters first reported last year that Greece was considering the possibility of two or three small bond issues before the expiration of the present bailout programme.