Sri Lanka maiden sovereign bond wins award

Jan 31, 2008 (LBO) — Sri Lanka’s 500 million dollar maiden sovereign bond, issued last October soon after the sub-prime bubble broke, has bagged a top award from an international financial publication. Finance Asia named Sri Lanka’s issuance the best sovereign bond as it was pulled off amid difficult circumstances.

The bond was lead-managed by Barclays Capital, J P Morgan and HSBC.

“The deal fought off considerable domestic resistance, with the leading opposition party, the United National Party (UNP), holding a number of press conferences and public demonstrations objecting to the offering,” Finance Asia said.

“It also wrote letters of protest to the three leads, threatening to not honour payments on the bond, should the party come into power.”

Finance Asia said Sri Lanka was also grappling with the Tamil Tigers which caused Fitch Ratings to put a negative outlook on the country’s rating.

“Despite all of this, investors gave a vote of confidence for the deal, giving little credence to the threat of default, and arguing that the political risk in Sri Lanka was less volatile than in Pakistan,” the magazine aid.

“The country’s excellent debt servicing record also played a big role, and Sri Lanka succeeded in attracting 136 investors to the deal.”

The government used the proceeds of the bond to pay off short term bank loans and central bank credit, which helped stabilize the monetary sector.

Sri Lanka is now looking for cost reduction strategies to cut its 8.25 percent interest as global interest rates continue to fall.

Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal said the government was on the lookout for the best deal. The government debt office is operated as a unit of Sri Lanka’s central bank.