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India’s plan to sell yen debt has one more hurdle: It’s too much

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By Chikafumi Hodo

Advocates of Indias first global bond offering are set to face another obstacle: there may not be enough appetite for $10 billion of yen-denominated debt.

The nations planned sale has been marked by controversy even before it gets off the ground, as reports surface of opposition from the prime ministers office and the departure of an official handling the issuance. The government is said to be considering raising $10 billion at one go as early as October, with the yen and euro marked as preferred currencies.

The plan, if it does go ahead, may need to be revised, according to Kenichi Kurahashi, a Tokyo-based chief fund manager at Mitsubishi UFJ Kokusai Asset Management Co. A yen issuance that size would be equal to half the record 2.25 trillion yen ($20.7 billion) of Samurai bonds sold worldwide last year, and this may be too much for Japanese investors to stomach.

"Investors will mostly be concerned whether they will be liquid," said Kurahashi, who oversees 93 billion yen, including an Indian debt fund. "It may be more natural for them to issue in smaller amounts over a certain time frame to make them more familiar to Japanese investors."

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Prime Minister Narendra Modis office would favor selling rupee-denominated bonds abroad instead, according to a report on Thursday by ET Now television channel citing Cogencis news agency. Several former central bank officials have criticized the plan, arguing that India isnt ready for an overseas sale given its large budget deficit.

Still, emerging-market investors may welcome the proposal as they seek to boost returns amid declining global yields. A yen bond offering would place India alongside Mexico, Malaysia and Indonesia which have all have tapped the Samurai debt market this year to lock in cheap funding costs and lure yield-hungry Japanese investors.

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Samurai issuance has reached 1.21 trillion yen so far this year, and the Philippines is also in line to offer as much as $1 billion of such securities.

"It will depend on the terms and yields levels of the issuance but they could draw interest from retail investors, mutual funds and may attract interest from institutions and financial firms," said Shigeki Sakaki, chief strategist at Nomura Asset Management Co. in Tokyo.

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