YEREVAN—The Armenian government has raised $700 million from its first-ever sale of Eurobonds on international markets, dubbed by U.S. bankers as “Kardashian” bonds, the RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) reports.
Catchy monikers like South Korea’s “Kimchi” bonds and Turkey’s “baklava” bonds are common, as governments try to attract investor attention to their bonds.
The “Kardashian” bond is offered at a yield of 6 percent with a 7 year maturation period. The bond was initially offered at a higher yield, but was lowered in light of higher than expected demand.
A ministry statement portrayed the sale as a huge success, saying that investors were ready to buy as much as $3 billion worth of Armenian external bonds. It quoted Finance Minister Davit Sargsyan as saying that the government capitalized on the continuing low cost of borrowing in the United States.
The Wall Street Journal also spoke of “strong investor demand” for Armenia’s debut Eurobond issue in a report on the landmark development. “The country used the revived demand for emerging-market assets to sell its debut bond deal,” it said.
The Financial Times compared Armenia’s financial standing to that of Georgia’s, where investors have been active in recent years, adding that the Kardashian moniker shouldn’t hurt, either.
Plans for the external commercial borrowing were first announced by Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan in May. He did not clarify how the government intends to use proceeds from the Eurobond sale.
Reports in the Armenian press have said that the key purpose of the Eurobond issue is to repay a $500 million loan that was allocated to Armenia by Russia in June 2009. The authorities in Yerevan were supposed to use the credit, repayable in 15 years, for alleviating severe consequences of a global economic crisis for the Armenian economy.
The Russians set a 4-year grace period for the loan, meaning that the Armenian side should start repaying it in the second half of this year. There have been no indications that they could reschedule the repayment as a result of Yerevan’s recent decision to join a Russian-led customs union.
The Eurobond sale might also be connected with the recent completion of the International Monetary Fund’s $400 million lending program for Armenia launched in 2010. The cheaper IMF loans have been used for financing Armenian budget deficits and shoring up the country’s hard currency reserves.
A senior IMF official told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in June that Armenia is no longer viewed by the fund as a low-income country and is therefore likely to receive fresh loans on less favorable terms.
“A shift from multilateral credit facilities to international markets may increase investor confidence,” the Economist Intelligence Unit wrote following Prime Minister Sarkisian’s May announcement. The London-based think-tank said this could help Armenian private companies sell their corporate bonds abroad at more favorable rates.
The Eurobond sale also means a considerable increase in Armenia’s foreign debt, which stood at roughly $3.6 billion until now, having more than doubled since 2008.