COLOMBO The Maldives government's move to raise a $200 million via a debut sovereign bond could hurt the private sector's foreign borrowing, the main opposition said on Saturday.
The government raised the 5-year maturity bond at a coupon rate of 7 percent per annum this week, with Hong Kong-based BoCom International Holdings Co Ltd (3329.HK) as the global coordinator for the loan.
The government said in a statement the bond was oversubscribed two times, demonstrating global investor confidence. The Indian Ocean island nation has been mired in political unrest for years.
"With this strong debut, the government believes the bond will open the door for public and private companies in the Maldives to tap into international markets," it said.
However, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the 7 percent coupon rate was very expensive and the borrowing was to boost the foreign currency reserves which are at "low level".
"Maldives private sector has been borrowing externally below 7 percent. This issue will make 7 percent the benchmark, which will make the private sector borrowing more expensive," Ibrahim Ameer, the deputy chair of the MDP's Economic Committee, told Reuters.
"This loan is mainly from Chinese investors and that is why they used a Chinese bank to help them," he said referring to BoCom International Holdings Co Ltd.
But Ahmed Saruvash Adam, financial budget executive at the Finance Ministry told Reuters that the 7 percent coupon rate was reasonable considering the offer size, market sentiments, and recent emerging market debut issues.
"The Government understands that as a first time issuer there is a first time issuer premium – as investors get to learn our credit," he said. ". The government remains committed to taking the actions necessary to improve our credit rating and the yield on the bond."
Asian investors accounted for 83 percent of the bond buying while the rest was bought by Europeans, official data showed.
Reserves excluding the short term have fallen for an 11th straight month through March 2017 on a year-on-year basis and were at $224.7 million, adequate to cover about one month of imports, official Maldives Monetary Authority data showed.
($1 = 15.3400 rufiyaa)
(Reporting by Shihar Aneez)