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Greek coalition eyes exit from crisis after issuing bond

Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras talks to journalists at the Finance Ministry in Athens on Thursday.

Greece has taken a "decisive step to exit the crisis," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Thursday after the country issued its first bond since entering a bailout agreement with the troika, managing to raise 3 billion euros at a lower-than-expected interest rate.

"The international markets have expressed in the clearest possible manner their trust in the Greek economy, their trust in Greece’s future," he said. "They have shown trust in the country’s ability to exit the crisis, and sooner than many had expected."

His statement came soon after Greece received offers totaling almost 21 billion euros from more than 600 investors for a five-year-bond that will have an annual coupon of 4.75 percent. The government decided to accept offers worth 3 billion euros, rather than the 2.5 billion initially planned. The Finance Ministry said that about 90 percent of the offers came from "foreign institutional investors."

"Seriousness, good planning and coordination have been rewarded," said Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who described the issuing of the oversubscribed bond as an "undoubted success."

The Finance Ministry is now considering issuing more debt later this year, but in different forms such as 12-month T-bills and three-year and seven-year bonds, in order to bring the yield curve down further.

Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos also hailed the country's return to the markets, arguing that it was a "major achievement that Greece did not turn into Argentina or Venezuela." He also launched a strongly worded attack on SYRIZA, which objected to the bond issue, accusing the leftists of being "political parasites that live off the [EU-IMF] memorandum."

"They should be ashamed of themselves," he said. "Instead of appreciating this moment of joy for the Greek economy and society, they are miserable."

Samaras also made several references to critics in his speech, indicating that the return to bond markets will feature heavily in the campaigns for May's local and European Parliament elections. "It is as if they are saddened by the country's success," he said of the government's critics.

"We are shooting ourselves in the foot," said SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras form Brussels. He accused the government of burying the discussion about further debt relief for Greece by issuing the bond. "How can we ask for a write-off now?" he said, arguing that a restructuring of Greece’s debt before a return to international markets would have meant the country could borrow at a lower interest rate.

"Instead, Greece has gone onto the markets before the elections and with a high yield," he said.

ekathimerini.com , Thursday April 10, 2014 (20:34)  
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