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Nigeria retires matured bonds, plans to curb rising local debt

Published by Guardian on Mon, 10 Jun 2013

THERE were indications that the nation's rising debt profile may have raised serious concerns, as plans are now underway to reduce projected borrowing, while matured bonds are retired.Specifically, Nigeria retired matured bonds worth N75 billion, which matured in February and unfolded plans to cut domestic borrowing to N500 billion ($3.1 billion) in 2014, as part of a move to reduce growing debt.The Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who made the disclosure in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg at the weekend, said this year's local borrowing target of N577 billion is expected to decrease next year.She said that this was part of the strategies Africa's biggest oil producer is using to retreat from the height reached in 2010, when it exceeded a target of N867.5 billion and sold N1.1 trillion of bonds, adding that the country will continue to do so to reduce debt.'No one in government is supportive of a Nigeria that returns to a high state of indebtedness. Our current approach balances Nigeria's needs for investment in physical and human infrastructure, with a strong policy to limit overall indebtedness in relation to our ability to pay,' she said.Nigeria's local debt has grown since it liquidated the foreign debt in 2006, with the nation's real sector presently reeling under the pains of high benchmark interest rate, which has remained at a record high of 12 percent since October 2011.As at March 2013, domestic debt stood at N6.1 trillion, while foreign debt stood at $6.7 billion.However, under the new strategy, the government is planning to increase foreign borrowing to about 40 per cent of total debt from current 14 per cent, in a move to access cheaper, longer-term foreign loans to reduce short-term domestic borrowing.Meanwhile, Nigeria's currency weakened further against the dollar, recording the worst weekly performance in a year, just as speculations were rife that the state-owned oil company will offer limited foreign-exchange to the market.A London-based emerging markets strategist at Standard Bank Group Ltd., Samir Gadio, said that yields on domestic bonds due January 2022 rose to their highest since October at the weekend, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.'It is likely that the Central Bank of Nigeria will intervene in the market in the near term and sell dollars directly to the banks to defend its nominal monetary policy anchor.'Naira fell by as much as 0.4 per cent before trading 0.3 per cent lower at 159.35 per dollar as of 12:25 p.m. in Lagos, the commercial capital, which extended its weekly decline to 0.7 per cent, the biggest fall since the five days through June 8, 2012.
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