Greece targets bond sale before Euro elections, minister says

By Antonis Galanopoulos, Marcus Bensasson & Nikos Chrysoloras

Greece will probably sell bonds for the first time in four years before May as the nation seeks to rebuild its finances following an international bailout, Infrastructure Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said.

The debt sale will be part of “a series” of positive developments before this May’s European Parliament elections, Chrysochoidis, 58, said in an interview in Athens on Monday. “We will get the next loan tranche, the country will return to markets, with a slightly high interest rate, which will fall after, and Greece won’t remain in this drama of quarterly troika reviews.”

Greek government bonds have delivered the highest return among 25 developed markets tracked by Bloomberg in the past year as the country that triggered the European debt crisis wins back investors. Talks between the so-called troika of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund ended in the early hours of this morning without agreement on the latest economic adjustment program.

With the ECB’s government-debt assurances and record low benchmark interest rates fueling a rally in sovereign bonds, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s government has prioritized tapping markets this year. “Ideally, we’d like to have no new loans from our European partners,” Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said Jan. 9.

Greece’s 10-year benchmark yield dropped to a four-year low of 6.65 percent earlier this month from 8.61 percent at end-January and a high of 37.1 percent in March 2012.

The outcome of the European elections won’t affect political stability in Greece, where Samaras’s coalition government is clinging to a three-seat majority in the 300-seat Parliament, said Chrysochoidis, who took his first ministry post 20 years ago. His PASOK party, in government for 25 of the 40 years since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974 and now junior partner in Samaras’s coalition, won’t collapse, he said.

A March 15 poll by Alco indicated that Greece’s main opposition SYRIZA party, which has vowed to annul the bailout agreement with the troika, will get 19.1 percent support in the European elections, compared with 18 percent for the governing New Democracy. PASOK polled 5.1 percent, compared with a 36.7 percent result in the last European Parliament election in 2009.

Greece in the next few weeks will begin tenders for a 750 million-euro ($1 billion) airport project on the island of Crete and a 400 million-euro highway between Corinth and Patra, Chrysochoidis said. Greece will also complete a high-speed rail network by the end of 2017, he said.

The government plans to submit legislation before April 18 to turn Athens and Thessaloniki into a logistics hubs and will invest 50 million euros to create wireless hotspots around the country, fulfilling a Nov. 4 promise by Samaras to provide free national Internet access within a year, Chrysochoidis said.

In tourism, a vital part of the Greek economy, airport slot bookings indicate that arrivals will rise 20 percent this year, Chrysochoidis said. [Bloomberg]