Risky return to the debt market

The government plans to issue treasury bills early next month with the aim of raising about 4.5 billion euros in a move described by analysts as risky. «Greece will go to the markets mid-July, issuing T-bills of three, six and 12 months,» Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis told Reuters, without saying how much government paper the ministry plans to sell. Dow Jones Newswires cited a senior Finance Ministry source as saying that Greece will issue between 4.0 and 4.5 billion euros of T-bills to roll over existing short-term debt maturing at the same time. Greece is not expected to issue longer-term debt before 2012 but is allowed to issue T-bills, which have shorter maturities, under the terms of the three-year, 110-billion-euro emergency funding program arranged with the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. «It could prove in the end to be a good idea but it could also end in disaster,» Carsten Ludemann, fixed-income strategist at DekaBank, said. «If they don’t find any bids at all or only at ridiculous levels, this would prove finally that Greece is not able to go to the markets; this would be a disaster for Greece.» Ludemann said there was a small chance Greece could sell three- or six-month T-bills slightly cheaper than the rate of about 5 percent it will pay on its bailout, because these bills fall due before the financing guarantee for Greece expires. After months of turmoil on financial markets, Greece was effectively shut out of international debt markets when its cost of borrowing soared to all-time record highs. The spread between Greek government bonds and their benchmark German counterparts – a measure of credit risk – has reached close to 500 basis points with the yield at well over 8 percent. «Greece returning to the market seems like a gamble. If the reception is not good or if the market demands too high yields, it could push Greece into tapping the line of credit from the EU/IMF established last month as well as having knock-on effects on the other weak credits in Europe,» said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.