ECONOMY

Albania plans eurobond to bring expatriate funds home

TIRANA – Albania plans to issue this month a euro-denominated bond for its citizens living abroad to help raise cash to boost infrastructure and growth, a Finance Ministry official said. The «Albanians for Albania» euro-denominated bond will be offered to the expat community of some 1 million Albanians in Western Europe and the United States, who send their families back home around 1 billion euros a year in remittances. «Our goal is to put the money of emigrants to the service of Albania and mobilize them through a specially designed euro-denominated bond,» Deputy Finance Minister Sherefedin Shehu told Reuters. He also said Albania planned to tap foreign markets with a debut eurobond once it obtained a credit rating. Shefu said Albania hopes to launch the expat bond by the end of November, and has already started talks with banks – including the American Bank of Albania, recently acquired by Italy’s San Paolo IMI – in Italy and Greece, where most of the target community live and work. The second-poorest state in Europe after Moldova, Albania has been eager to catch up with other transition economies. It also plans to tap foreign markets with a debut eurobond, Shehu said in written replies to Reuters questions. «We started (credit rating) talks in May and will sign a contract with the United Nations Development Program in November,» Shehu said. «Then, we will wait for the result (of the credit rating) and then issue the eurobond.» Plans to raise funds outside the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank came after the ministry put on sale its first ever five-year Treasury bond at a 9.68 percent annual yield. «The auction was a complete success,» Shehu said. The 6.5-billion-lek ($66.97 million) issue of the debut five-year T-bond attracted demand for 10 billion leks. The yield is 2.35 percentage points above what the government pays for its 12-month T-bills. Albania has had inflation rates of between 2 and 4 percent in the past five years and a stable lek, which trades steadily at around 100 to the dollar as a free-floating currency. Shehu said the lek T-bond will refinance part of the public debt, which accounts for 55 percent of Albania’s gross domestic product of around $9 billion, and help to develop a secondary debt market.