Nigeria to follow Gabon, Ghana in selling sovereign debt
Yields on Nigeria’s 2049 Eurobonds climbed 143 basis points to 10.18% on Monday, the highest on record, while the naira weakened 1.1% in offshore trading.
The country’s benchmark stock index slumped to the lowest level in almost three years.
Nigeria seek to return to international debt markets with a $3.3 billion Eurobonds sale after staying out last year, joining African peers in taking advantage of investors’ voracious appetite for high-yielding debt.
President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking National Assembly approval to sell the Eurobonds this year.
Out of that amount, $2.8 billion is earmarked as external financing for the 2020 budget while $500 million is for debt refinancing, Finance Ministry spokesman Yunusa Abdullahi said by phone.
The government will embark on an international road show once lawmakers approve the issuance, he said.
Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said in December Africa’s top oil producer could issue Eurobonds in the first quarter to finance the 2020 budget, but would first discuss with concessional lenders before deciding.
Nigeria could still choose other sources of financing for this year, but the government has started the search for advisers for the potential Eurobond sale, the head of Nigeria’s Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, said in an email response to questions.
The timing of a bond issuance will depend on “market conditions and other considerations,” she said.
New external issuance could help Nigeria’s central bank rebuild international reserves that have fallen to the lowest level in two years as authorities defended the naira, which has come under pressure.
A sharp drop in demand in China in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak has dragged down global oil prices by nearly 17% this year, below the Nigerian government’s average projection of $57 per barrel in its 2020 budget.
Nigeria will be joining Gabon, one of the lowest-rated sovereigns in Africa, and Ghana, West Africa’s No. 2 economy, which sold Eurobonds in recent weeks as investors ignore the potential impact the outbreak could have on highly indebted African economies.
Benin may also offer euro-denominated bonds this year after selling a debut offshore bond of 500 million euros ($548 million) in March.
The International Monetary Fund has warned African governments that the rapid buildup of commercial debt makes them vulnerable to the whims of international investors now thirsty for returns in a world awash with negative yields. The continent raised a record $30 billion in Eurobonds in 2018.