Developing countries in Latin America and Asia can borrow for longer
Aug 26th 2010
PERU is not an obvious investment darling. For much of its existence, the country has been in a state of default. As recently as 1990 the inflation rate was 7,500%. Yet in the past few years Peru has persuaded creditors to lend it money for ever-longer periods in its own currency. It issued its first 20-year local-currency bond in 2006; its debut 30-year bonds followed a year later. Earlier this year Peru was able to issue 300m soles ($105.2m) of 32-year local-currency bonds. Investors in these bonds are compensated for the risk of inflation by yields of just 6.9%, a once unthinkable prospect.
Peru is not alone. Anxious to wean themselves off flighty foreign funding after the crises of the 1990s, many emerging-market governments sought to build up local-currency bond issuance. Extending the maturity of bonds is the next step. In 2007 around 40% of Peru’s local-currency debt was short-term (ie, maturing in less than a year). That had fallen to 30% by 2009, according to the Bank for International Settlements. In Mexico average maturities have gone from 1.5 years in 2000 to seven years a decade later, says Gerardo Rodríguez, who heads the country’s debt office.
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Asian countries are also trying to lock in yield-seeking investors. The Philippines is pursuing a number of debt swaps, offering to buy back shorter-dated debt in return for longer-dated issues. It hopes to stretch the country’s average debt maturity from ten years to 25 years. In Indonesia, bonds maturing in 2011-13 were exchanged in July for bonds maturing in 2031.
Improving growth prospects and lower public debt than many rich-world issuers have allowed Asian and Latin American countries to lengthen maturities. (Europe’s emerging markets have proved unable to do the same.) So too has a more professional approach to... [continues]
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