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Major issue of sovereign euro bonds a hit in Paris

By Chen Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-07 03:55
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China's first issuance of 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) in sovereign bonds in France, the nation's largest foreign-currency-denominated bond offering ever, will encourage investment of more funds from Europe in Chinese government and corporate sectors, market participants said.

The issuance, China's first euro-denominated sovereign bond offering in 15 years, was completed on Tuesday. Global investors offered five times the issuance amount, for a subscription of nearly 20 billion euros of the bonds, and 57 percent of the investment came from Europe.

"The result was better than expected," said a statement the Ministry of Finance released on Wednesday.

The successful bond issuance was announced during a talk between President Xi Jinping and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, in Beijing.

Xi said the bond issuance is an important step to deepen financial cooperation between China and France, as well as between China and the European Union. It is also a significant move to support Paris in its efforts to build itself into an international financial center.

The bond issuance sends a message of China's continual opening-up to foreign investors, analysts said. It is significant to further integrate China into the global financial market, especially leading the way for more Chinese issuers to access European markets and connecting the capital markets of Europe and China — two of the world's leading economies, according to analysts.

Reopening the euro financing channel is conducive to enriching and improving the yield curve of China's overseas sovereign bonds and to provide a benchmark for Chinese bond issuers who need financing in euros, according to the Finance Ministry's statement.

This year marks the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France. The issuance of China's sovereign bonds in Paris reflects the importance of the European financial market, and it will help to strengthen the economic and financial cooperation between the two countries, it said.

The bonds sold in France will help provide alternative funding sources for the Chinese government, as well as for companies seeking funds in the European capital market, experts said. Before this issuance, the Finance Ministry sold dollar bonds for two consecutive years — $3 billion last year and $2 billion in 2017.

Deutsche Bank, Germany's largest lender, is among the foreign banks that supported the euro deal. "The transaction is truly a milestone, setting a benchmark for Chinese issuers in the euro market," said Samuel Fischer, head of onshore debt capital markets at Deutsche Bank in Beijing.

"The euro market offers very low interest rates and an unrivaled institutional investor base for long-dated transactions," or those of longer maturity, he said. "We have seen increasing interest by Chinese corporations to tap the euro markets, given their growing presence in Europe."

Kim Eng Tan, senior director at S&P Global Ratings, said, "China issues this bond at a relatively favorable time. Interest rates have remained stable at levels attractive to many borrowers." S&P Global had assigned the A+ rating to China's proposed euro-denominated bonds, which reflected the global rating agency's long-term issuer credit rating on the sovereign, according to Tan.

"The issuer credit ratings on China reflect our view of the government's reform agenda, growth prospects and strong external metrics," he said.

According to the Finance Ministry, the 4 billion euros in sovereign bonds have three different maturities: 2 billion euros of seven-year notes with a yield of 0.197 percent, 1 billion euros of 12-year notes having a 0.618 percent yield and 1 billion euros of 20-year notes with a 1.078 percent yield.

Cheap funding costs currently help to attract investors, analysts said. According to a Bloomberg Barclays Index, a benchmark index of the global bond market, the average yields on investment-grade euro bonds were below 0.5 percent on Wednesday, close to a record-low level of 0.23 percent in late August.

The bonds will be listed later on the Pan-European Stock Exchange as well as on the London Stock Exchange, the Finance Ministry said.

Jiang Xueqing and Cao Desheng contributed to this story.

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