ECONOMY

Turkey’s bond sale is below par

ANKARA (Reuters) – Heavily indebted Turkey on Tuesday auctioned domestic debt at lower yields, but sold much less than predicted amid efforts to reduce the burden of a massive domestic debt load. Turkey’s treasury met some 65 percent of the total nominal sale at auctions of 224-day and 392-day lira debt to keep yields low, analysts said. It will make up the difference between the net 2,208-trillion-lira ($1.6 billion) sale and a 4,221-trillion-lira redemption to the market yesterday with its cash reserves. A Reuters poll had predicted a total net sale of up to 3,500 trillion lira. «The treasury seems much more interest-rate sensitive, and its target is to reduce interest rates… The treasury now has ample cash in its coffers so it is borrowing less,» said Volkan Kurt at ABN Amro in Istanbul. Turkey borrowed heavily at the start of the year to cushion against the potential economic fallout of war in neighboring Iraq on its frail economy. It targets a debt rollover ratio of some 80 percent in 2003 under a $16 billion pact with the IMF. Analysts said the lower-than-expected sale would help the treasury meet the rollover target for some $128 billion in domestic debt, burgeoning after financial crisis struck in 2001. It sold a net 1,536.3 trillion lira ($1.1 billion) of 392-day debt at a 38 percent maximum yield and 671.7 trillion lira of the 224-day debt at a yield of 37.86 percent. Market estimates had predicted maximum yields of 39 percent for the 392-day debt and 38.8 percent for the 224-day debt. «Earlier this year it (the treasury) had a rollover ratio of 100 percent, partially due to the war in Iraq and also due to expectations of a possible downturn later in the year,» Kurt said. Ankara’s International Monetary Fund pact is designed to pay down the debt load and set Turkey’s economy on the path to sustainable growth. Yields on benchmark domestic debt have fallen to below 40 percent from close to 70 percent in March, when war in Iraq appeared to spell danger for Turkey’s economy. The treasury last auctioned the 392-day debt on August 12 at a maximum yield of 41.8 percent, and the 224-day debt on the same date at a maximum yield of 41.6 percent.