Thursday, 10 April 2014

Greece hails return to markets

Greece sold its first long-term bond in four years on Thursday, raising three billion euros at a lower-than-expected borrowing rate of 4.75 percent. 

Prime minister Antonis Samaras hailed it as a victory for his government, a day ahead of a visit to Athens by Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel. 

"The reception of the Greek five-year bond has surpassed every expectation," he said in a televised address. "We asked for 2.5 billion, and they offered us more than 20." 

Greece drew far less from markets than it could, because it is mostly interested in establishing a new credit history with markets and driving borrowing rates down, a senior finance ministry official explained on Wednesday. 

"All this means that international markets now unequivocally express their trust in the Greek economy," said Samaras. "Their trust in the future of Greece... their trust in this country's ability to emerge from the crisis, and much sooner than many people believed possible until recently."

Not everyone was convinced that the sale was in Greece's best interests. The 4.75 percent rate is still much higher than the roughly two percent at which Greece borrows from its Eurozone partners. 

"It’s an artificial affair. And it's superfluous, because Greece is already over-borrowed. This will add costs to Greece’s debt. This money wasn't necessary," said Nikos Theodosiadis, a doctor. 

"We're not trying to build a purse, but to build a yield curve," the finance ministry official said. "When you reach out to markets you affect all of your debt." According to ministry calculations, Greece will save 200 million euros a year thanks to today's sale, the official said.  

Greeks have lost a third of their income during the crisis, and unemployment remains stubbornly high. January figures released on Thursday by the Hellenic Statistical Authority put it at 26.7 percent. 

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras was firm. "The safest way for all those who have suffered to find some compensation in terms of rising incomes, disposable incomes, is the road we have designed," he said on Thursday. "It seems the world community trusts Greece once more. We had a very big success today and there is, I am afraid, no other solution." 

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