Ethiopia’s Finance Minister Sufian Ahmed has been meeting international banks about a planned Eurobond issue for the end of this year or early 2015. The advisors are likely to be Barclays, Citi and BNP Paribas. The are currently no details on the amount to be raised but the duration is likely to be “at least 10 years”.
Finance Ministry spokesperson Haji Ibsa told Reuters: “We are aiming for late December to early January at the latest as the time for our debut into the international capital markets.. Bonds are very much part of the plan to improve infrastructure.” He mentioned plans for railway, road and power links with neighbours such as Djibouti and Kenya.
Earlier this year Ethiopia achieved favourable international ratings. Fitch rating agency assigned a long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Debt Rating (IDR) of “B” with stable outlook, compared with Kenya’s ‘B+’ which issued a heavily oversubscribed $2 billion Eurobond in June 2014, according to Reuters. Standard & Poor’s (S&P) assigned “B/B” foreign and local currency ratings and also said the outlook was stable, see our May story here.
The Economist Intelligence Unit remains less optimistic, giving Ethiopia a rating of CCC, but it says the bond is likely to prove attractive to investors, as have other African issues.
According to the EIU: “The financing of similar schemes under the country’s Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) has already seen external debt as a percentage of GDP treble over the past five years, to an estimated 33.9% in 2013, and the government hopes that issuing a Eurobond will both diversify sources of credit and help rebrand the country, thus attracting more international companies to operate there.
“If successful, the bond will reduce Ethiopia’s reliance on domestic borrowing, and suggests a slight moderation of the government’s previous determination to finance the 2010-15 GTP, and any successor programme, domestically, largely via direct central bank financing and by forcing private banks to purchase Treasury bills. However, it is unlikely that this will translate into a broader rethinking of the government’s commitment to a state-driven growth model or its insistence that certain key sectors, including banking and telecommunications, remain off limits to foreign firms. It would appear, therefore, that limits will remain on the government’s stated aim of rebranding the country and attracting a broader range of foreign operators.”
The EIU refers to Ethiopia’s strong economic growth rates, market size and substantial untapped resources. “However, we continue to flag the possibility that the government will struggle to fund its substantial infrastructure requirements and that, in the medium to long term, the authorities may have to cut spending significantly or return to the IMF for financing.”
In May Fitch was upbeat “Fitch expects real GDP growth of 9% in 2014 and 8% in 2015. Ethiopia’s growth over the medium-term can be sustained by large, untapped resources, including large hydro-electric potential”. However, it also warned about private sector weakness and inadequate access to domestic credit as limiting growth potential over the medium-term as public investment slows.”