Nigeria Plans to Sell $5.5 Billion of Eurobonds by Year-End

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ABUJA, SEPTEMBER 28, 2017 – Nigeria plans to sell as much as $5.5 billion of Eurobonds in the next three months to fund capital projects and replace local-currency debt, according to the Debt Management Office. Yields on existing bonds rose to the highest in two months.

The new offers would bring the amount raised through Eurobond sales by Africa’s most-populous nation this year to more than $7 billion as President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration restructures its debt portfolio to almost double the portion of foreign borrowing in a bid to reduce financing costs.

The government wants to raise $2.5 billion in October to help fund 2017’s 7.4 trillion-naira ($20.8 billion) budget, the biggest yet, DMO Director-General Patience Oniha said on Wednesday in an interview in the capital, Abuja. It will sell the remaining $3 billion before the end of the year to replace naira-denominated debt, she said.

The government’s advisers “have told us the market is waiting,” Oniha said. “Work is already ongoing and we are just waiting for a resolution from the National Assembly to proceed.”

The yield on Nigeria’s $500 million of Eurobonds due July 2023 rose four basis points by 1:26 p.m. in London, extending Wednesday’s 15 basis-point climb, to 5.49 percent, the highest since Aug. 21. That on the nation’s dollar securities due in 2032 increased six basis points to 6.91 percent, the highest since July 18.

Citigroup Inc. and Standard Chartered Plc, which helped Nigeria sell bonds this year, will be retained as bookrunners for the $2.5 billion, and are in talks with the government to also lead the $3 billion sale, Oniha said.

Increase Proportion

Nigeria’s overall foreign debt, which includes funds from partners and the Export-Import Bank of China, stood at $15.1 billion as of June 30, while domestic debt was 14.1 trillion naira, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Sept. 19. The government wants to increase the proportion of foreign borrowing to 40 percent of total debt stock from under 30 percent currently, Oniha said.

“That will reduce the government’s borrowing costs,” she said. There is an almost 10 percentage-point spread between domestic and foreign borrowing costs and the restructuring debt plan will help save the government hundreds of million dollars in financing costs, Oniha said.

Nigeria’s Eurobonds yield an average 6 percent, compared with about 16 percent for its naira debt, according to Bloomberg indexes

The Monetary Policy Committee on Sept. 26 left its key interest rate at a record high of 14 percent, where it’s been for more than a year, to fight inflation that’s almost double the target and maintain hard-won stability in exchange rates, Governor Godwin Emefiele said. In the second quarter, the economy emerged from a 2016 slump, the deepest in more than a quarter of a century, with gross domestic product rising 0.6 percent from a year earlier.

High domestic borrowing costs are also forcing the DMO to reduce the maturity of naira debt it plans to sell so that it doesn’t lock in unfavorable interest payments over a longer period, Oniha said. “That will be reflected in our next-quarter calendar for bonds,” Oniha said. The government will instead push for more than 15-year tenure on dollar-denominated securities, she said.

“The good news about this is that Nigeria has the capacity to borrow more from the international capital market given improving fundamentals and its relatively low external debt levels, around 4-5 percent of gross domestic product,” Gaimin Nonyane, the London-based economic-research head at Ecobank International Group, said. “Some of these funds are likely to be used to finance the 2018 maturing debt of $500 million.”

While Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio is among the lowest in Africa, its interest payments-to-revenue ratio doubled last year to 66 percent of revenue, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The government is looking to plug a 2017 budget deficit that it forecast at 2.3 trillion naira, or 2.2 percent of GDP following a revenue shortfall caused by the decline of output and price of oil, its main export. About one-third of this year’s budget will be invested in new roads, rail, ports and power as part of a wider plan to help the economy recover from a 1.6 percent contraction last year, boost growth to 7 percent, and create 15 million jobs by 2020.

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