Sri Lanka to plans high yield forex securities for expat workers

June 25, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s government is planning a new high yield retail foreign exchange denominated security that will pay an attractive premium over London benchmark rates, targeting expatriate workers. “India did a successful issue of that nature some time ago, and we are studying it,” Central Bank governor Nivard Cabraal said.

“We want to make it as simple as possible, if there is a lot of documentation people will be put off.”

In 2006, Sri Lanka offered dollar denominated ‘nation building bonds’ to expatriate workers, which gave complex rewards including the import tax waivers on cars, but the yields were not very high. The program failed to attract much interest.

The new foreign exchange denominated security will have a base rate of Libor plus 200 basis points. In addition a premium will be paid in Sri Lanka rupees, according to a proposal tabled in parliament.

A 3-month certificate would get a premium equal to 50 percent over the base rate, 6-month certificates a premium of 75 percent and 12-months and more a premium of 100 percent over the base rate, in rupees.

Last week Sri Lanka sold 115.8 million dollars of 2-year ‘Sri Lanka Development Bonds’ for 6-month Libor plus 497 basis points.

Foreign residents can already buy rupee denominated treasury securities, which now pay around 11.00 to 12.00 percent interest a year. In the past three months, about 190 million dollars have flowed in to the securities, the Central Bank has said.

The central bank has also proposed to pay a 20 percent interest bonus for deposits in non-resident foreign currency accounts and resident foreign currency accounts.

A sum of 1,500 million rupees was sought to pay the interest bonus on foreign currency deposits and the premium on the economic resurgence certificates.

Sri Lanka is looking to re-construct former war-torn areas in the North and the East after Tamil Tiger separatists were defeated last year ending a 30-year conflict.

But the war-battered economy has slowed down to a growth of 1.5 percent in the first quarter of 2009, and collapsing imports has shrunk government revenue.

Sri Lanka is also negotiating a 1.9 billion US dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund to shore up reserves.