Lebanon planning potential US$2 bln Eurobond issue

The debt maturity of the bond is expected to be 10 years. (Reuters picture)

Lebanon is planning to issue eurobonds that could be in the range of US$2 billion, said Talal F. Salman, economic adviser to the Lebanese Ministry of Finance.

The debt’s maturity is expected to be 10 years or more and the “timing will probably be the end of May or June,” Salman said in an interview in Washington on Saturday, where he’s attending spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

“We’re waiting now for some good news coming out of budget that has austerity measures; we believe this will improve yields even further,” he said. “After that we’re planning to execute the deal.”

The country sent a request for proposal, or RFP, to banks, and the biggest buyers are expected to be Lebanese banks, he said. “International buyers are waiting for good news before they commit to any transaction and with the electricity plan they’re definitely more interested now,” Salman said.

Lebanon’s cabinet on April 8 approved a plan to overhaul its electricity industry that could potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars a year and improve investor confidence in the nation’s struggling economy.

The country is planning to cut its budget-deficit-to-GDP ratio to 9% in 2019 from last year’s 11%, Salman said. “The main cuts are coming from general transfers, some procurement items and NGOs,” he said. He vowed that the government will not cut its salary scale.

Beleaguered by sectarian and political strife, Lebanon is one of the world’s most indebted countries. Its budget deficit in 2018 was among the highest in the Middle East. The country also suffers from severe power shortages exacerbated by the presence of more than 1 million Syrian refugees.

Lebanon’s government started working on an RFP for tenders to build new power plants, and details of the plan and who will be building the facilities will be clear by October, said Salman.