Pakistan plans to raise $500 million to $1 billion via Islamic bond: Report

Srinagar

Pakistan plans to raise between $500 million to $1 billion in debt via an Islamic sukuk bond or a Eurobond later this year, two government sources told Reuters, amid growing concerns about the country’s dwindling foreign currency reserves. In the annual budget announced in May, the government said it would raise $1 billion via a sukuk bond in the 2017/2018 fiscal year (July-June). Pakistan in October 2016 raised $1 billion via an oversubscribed US dollar sukuk, the report said.

Two officials at the Finance Division within the finance ministry said Pakistan has begun work on the debt issue, including talks with potential advisers, and suggested it was possible the money may be raised via a Eurobond, the report added.

“We have just started work to firm up this transaction but its size had not yet been finalised,” one senior finance ministry official told the news agency late on Tuesday, adding that it would depend upon the appetite and condition of market.

“A second finance ministry official confirmed plans to raise debt, probably around the start of November. Pakistan’s 2016 sukuk had an interest rate of 5.5 percent, while a 2015 Eurobond worth $500 million had a coupon rate of 8.25 percent,” the report said.

Pakistan’s $300 billion economy has made vast strides since a balance of payments crisis in 2013 forced Islamabad to seek help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with growth in 2016/2017 hitting 5.3 percent, its fastest pace in a decade, the report added.

But the IMF has recently warned that the macro-economic gains made during 2013-2016 have “begun to erode” and pose a risk to economic outlook, the report said.

“The fund has singled out Pakistan’s ballooning current account deficit as a source of concern. The deficit hit $12.1 billion in 2016/2017, widening 148 percent on the previous year,” the report said.

The balance of payments pressure are in large part due to import of machinery and other Chinese goods on the back of China’s $57 billion infrastructure investment as part of the Beijing-funded Belt and Road initiative, the report added.

Foreign currency reserves held by the central bank have fallen from $18.9 billion in October 2016 to $14.3 billion in mid-August this year, the report said.

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