ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will seek to ensure seamless market access when its bailout programme expires next year, its government spokesman said on Thursday, as speculation grew that the country's first debt market foray in three years was imminent.
"We are closely monitoring developments in bond markets, we are monitoring trends, and when we consider the time is right we will take the first step towards the markets," government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told journalists.
A market return would be considered as part of an overall strategy, he said, to ensure Greece can fully return to markets when its current bailout, the third since 2010, is over.
Greece is keen to tap money markets in a test run before its latest bailout expires in August 2018. In the context of its debt strategy, Tzanakopoulos said, bond yields - which he said have been falling since the country cleared a bailout review on June 15 - were being taken into account.
"The decision of the government is not only related to bond yields, but to a comprehensive strategy and preparation to ensure that in August 2018 we will have regained market access."
"That strategy will define the timing of any (market) debut," he said.
Greece has hired six banks to arrange its first bond sale since being frozen out of financial markets and almost falling out of the euro in 2015, Thomson Reuters market news and data service IFR reported on Wednesday.
One source said that Greece has mandated Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and HSBC for a five-year trade.
The source added that the deal could arrive as soon as next week, but timing remains uncertain as the sovereign awaits signoff by its official creditor..
With the exception of two bond issues in 2014, Athens has been absent from the international bond markets since its debt crisis flared up in 2010, when it secured its first international bailout.
The country signed up to its third rescue scheme, worth 86 billion euros, in 2015 to stave off its ejection from the euro after a standoff with its international lenders.
Reporting By Renee Maltezou and George Georgiopoulos, writing by Michele Kambas, editing by Larry King