Gov’t looks to Asia for funding

Senior officials from the Finance Ministry will head eastward in a bid to drum up funds that will help meet the country’s borrowing needs in a plan that could see Asian investors buying up to 10 billion dollars of government debt. Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou detailed yesterday a diversified global borrowing plan to plug government fiscal gaps, including hopes to raise large capital amounts from Chinese and other Asian investors. Papaconstantinou told Dow Jones Newswires he will lead a delegation next month to the US and Asia to market Greek debt valued at at least $1.5 billion to $2 billion denominated in euros, dollars and possibly yen. But Greek officials hope that the bond tour, which will include stops in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, could bring in five times that amount if Chinese investors are attracted to the deal. «There is a lot of liquidity in China. There are big funds in China. This is why China is going to be part of the road show,» Papaconstantinou said, adding that if Chinese investors are to get involved the bond size has to be «significant… possibly $5 billion to $10 billion.» A person familiar with the situation said that Greece is trying to place as much as 25 billion euros with Chinese investors. The government this year must raise some 54 billion euros to cover its financing needs, including more than 20 billion euros of maturing bonds that fall due in April and May. Its first bond auction of the year, which raised 8 billion euros on Monday, met with strong demand but the Greek government paid a high premium to ensure its success. «The era… of exceptionally low borrowing costs is probably or likely coming to an end. Obviously in the case of Greece that comes to an end in a very dramatic manner,» David Riley, head of sovereign ratings at Fitch, told Reuters. Riley added that the Hellenic Republic still needed to pursue aggressive plans to reduce its budget deficit.

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