Egypt plans up to $7 bln in international bonds in 2019-20


By Yousef Saba

CAIRO, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Egypt intends to issue international bonds worth $3 billion to $7 billion in the 2019-2020 financial year, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said on Monday.

Egypt is still pushing to diversify the currencies in which it issues bonds to ensure hedging within the portfolio, Maait said during an economic conference in Cairo.

The country has borrowed heavily from abroad since a $12 billion package was agreed with the IMF in 2016. It faces a tough repayment schedule, analysts say.

Maait said Egypt's ratio of debt to gross domestic product is on a downward trend and should drop to 77.5% by the end of June 2022. The debt-to-GDP ratio was at 90.2% in the fiscal year that ended in June, he said.

"We would love to go for yuan and yen," Maait told Reuters in a separate interview on the sidelines of the Euromoney Egypt conference.

"We tried last year, but there are a lot of requirements. We couldn't get all the requirements done. If we can do it this year, we would love to see Egypt going to these markets."

The ministry is also looking at issuing green bonds and sukuk - Islamic bonds - but is not committing to a specific type of bond issuance, Maait said.

Issuing sukuk, green bonds, yen or yuan bonds could allow Egypt to attract new types of investors as the three-year IMF-backed economic reform programme draws to a close.

"We are targeting something between 3 (billion dollars) as a minimum and 7 as a maximum," he said. "The exact amount will depend on the market, the exact need and all of that."

Last year, the ministry issued more than $6 billion in international bonds.

"We may do the same this year - or lower than that or higher than that - but within this boundary," Maait said, without giving more details.

He said the ministry would take advice from its bank advisers on when to issue.

Egyptian officials have previously announced their intention to issue Islamic and yen, yuan and green bonds, but the plans did not materialise.

Green bonds may be a more viable option, he said, "because it doesn't need any legal requirement other than the normal ones we do, so hopefully if we can do it, we will do it."

Maait also said some progress has been made on the procedures necessary to issue bonds in yen and yuan but did not elaborate.

(Writing by Yousef Saba and Mahmoud Mourad; editing by Ulf Laessing, Larry King and Deepa Babington)

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