Business Irish

Friday 15 December 2017

Q&A Bonds

Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Q So what's new on the bond markets?

A: Quite a lot, actually. The Government has sold Irish bonds -- a form of IOU due to mature in 10 years -- and raised €3.75bn. This is the first time since we exited the bailout programme last month and the first bond sale of any kind since March.

Q We're always selling stuff -- why does it matter?

A: It's the first time since 2010 that Ireland has sold bonds without the backing of the troika. During the bailout programme our spending and tax targets had to answer to the EU and IMF. The fact that investors are still willing to buy into Ireland -- now that we are captains of our own fate -- shows overseas investors think we have a future. It shows we are regarded as reasonably safe, stable and creditworthy by the rest of the world. The fact that it happened just a month after leaving the bailout makes it even better.

Q I hope we got a decent borrowing rate?

A: We certainly did. The yield on the bond, which represents the cost of borrowing for the Government, was just 3.543pc. That's close to record lows. A low yield is very good news because it's a sign that investors are confident in our ability to pay back debts. If buyers were not confident, the yield would be high, making it too costly to borrow. That's what happened in 2010 -- declining faith in Ireland's economy meant our bond yields soared, becoming so expensive that the Government was forced to stop borrowing on the markets and seek a bailout instead. It was 14pc not so long ago.

Q They could have sold a lot more -- why hold back?

A: That's true -- less than €4bn was sold, even though there was enough demand from investors to sell €14bn. But there was no need to raise that amount -- the State doesn't need that much money urgently. We already have enough cash stockpiled to meet all our needs until 2015, thanks to fundraising that took place during the bailout. Yesterday's sale was more about testing the waters and showing Ireland's strength than it was about raising money.

Q How do you actually sell a bond?

A: Sales like this are a result of months of effort by the National Treasury Management Agency, the state body tasked with the job. It has been busy at investor meetings around the world, trying to talk up Ireland. Most of the investors who bought into the bond decided to do so weeks ago -- a sale isn't announced until the buyers are already lined up.

Q Does anybody outside of Ireland care?

A: It does have meaning for lots of other European countries; we're not the only ones to benefit. The message such a successful sale sends out -- that the world has confidence in Ireland's economy -- boosted confidence across Europe. It was particularly good news for Spain and Italy, countries whose own creditworthiness has been questioned in recent years. The cost of borrowing for Spain fell to its lowest since December 2009 on the back of our news. It was one of the main financial stories in the world yesterday.

Q Will the corks pop at the Department of Finance?

A: Not quite -- there's still a ways to go. Our credit rating is still classed as 'junk' status by Moody's. That deters lots of major investors, such as US pension funds. Moody's is due to give a new view on the country next week. Experts say the successful sale has boosted our chances of getting a ratings upgrade but Moody's has long been bearish on Ireland's prospects. An upgrade would be great news.

Irish Independent

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