Greece to test bond market again with new issue

 

Associated Press

Bailed-out Greece said Wednesday it will tap bond markets again soon, building on its success in April to return to debt markets after a forced four-year absence due to its financial turmoil.

Borrowing rates have dropped recently for many European countries, including Greece, making this a good time for the country to raise money and re-establish a presence in bond markets as it emerges from a brutal six-year economic recession.

The finance ministry said in a statement a new three-year bond "is expected to be launched and priced in the near future, subject to market conditions."

The country was frozen out of bond markets in 2010, when investors became spooked by its huge debt levels, and was saved from bankruptcy by an international bailout.

Its first bond issue since then, a five-year note auctioned in April, raised 3 billion euros ($4.14 billion) with a 4.75 percent coupon. The cost for the new three-year note is expected to be lower, as the issue is shorter-term.

Two years after it seemed headed for a catastrophic exit from the eurozone, Greece's economy is now close to growing again, although unemployment remains at near-record highs around 27 percent.

The turnaround followed waves of painful cost-saving and revenue-boosting measures, coupled with economic reforms, which were demanded by Greece's bailout creditors in exchange for loans that will total 240 billion euros by the time the bailout program ends in 2016.

Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis promised the pace of reform will not slacken.

"2014 is expected to be the first year in which the economy will show positive growth rates," he told a conference in Vouliagmeni, south of Athens. "But that does not excuse any relaxation."

Hardouvelis also pledged to accelerate Greece's huge but delayed privatization program. On Thursday, Hardouvelis is due to meet with officials from Greece's bailout creditors, its fellow European countries and the International Monetary Fund, for a review of public finances and reforms.

The head of Europe's bailout fund, Klaus Regling, said the eurozone has committed to supporting Greece as long as it implements its reforms, and until it can finance itself on bond markets.

He said the results of the creditors' review are expected in September and will help determine what, if any, further aid might be necessary. He ruled out any further cuts to the value of Greece's bonds, as was done in 2012 to reduce debt.

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