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Sunday 24 September 2017

The semi-states

IF you believe Ireland would be in a world of pain it if forced Anglo senior bondholders to accept losses, then that pain would surely extend to semi-states, who raise billions on the debt markets.

The knock-on is simple. If the market punishes the Government for forcing through losses on Anglo bondholders, the backlash will hit the Government's own debt and the debt of all State-owned companies.

Bord Gais has been particularly active on the debt markets of late, selling IOUs worth about €900m last year to fund its purchase of Airtricity.

The debt is for a five-year term, meaning Bord Gais will have to repay its original investors in 2014.

The most common way of repaying a bond is by issuing another one, which means Bord Gais may be looking for another €900m in four years' time.

Fellow energy semi-state ESB has debts of €2.5bn, and a spokesman said the company "intends raising further debt in bond markets in 2011".

"The sovereign position (how government debt is being viewed by the market) will impact ESB's ability to raise debt and the associated interest rates," he added.

RTE is debt-free now, but it has to come up with about €600m to fund a new digital platform and a full redevelopment of its Montrose campus.

The national broadcaster's first ever bond is one of the options being considered, a prospect that wouldn't be made easier by international hostility towards Irish government bonds.

The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) also uses corporate bonds to bolster its coffers, with about €850m due to be repaid between now and 2018.

But while the airports manager has been a big player in the past, it may not be hit by any imminent backlash. "We have no current plans to raise new debt," a spokesman said.

Irish Independent

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