January 9, 2019 / 12:52 PM / 15 days ago

UPDATE 2-Ireland raises 4 bln euros amid largest ever bond demand

* 18 bln euro orders largest ever for Irish syndicated deal

* New benchmark bond issued at yield of 1.123 percent

* Debt agency plans to continue to diversify funding (Adds final terms, debt office quotes)

By Abhinav Ramnarayan and Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN/LONDON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Ireland kicked off its funding drive for 2019 by raising 4 billion euros in a new 10-year bond sale after being swamped with bids for four times that amount, the country’s debt agency said on Wednesday.

Ireland has begun its annual fundraising with a syndicated sale every year since 2013 and was among the first euro zone sovereigns out of the traps again in one of the busiest weeks of the year for issuance in the bloc.

Concurrent or planned issuance in Germany, France, Portugal and Italy failed to hamper demand as investors put in 18.1 billion euros ($21 billion) of orders, the largest ever received by Ireland for a syndicated sale, the National Treasury Management Agency said.

That helped the debt agency to sell the new benchmark bond at a yield of 1.123 percent and cover around a quarter of its 14 to 18 billion euro issuance target for 2019 just nine days into the year.

“This is an encouraging start to our 2019 issuance programme, with investor appetite for our bonds remaining strong and broadly based,” NTMA Director of Funding Frank O’Connor said in a statement.

The level of demand coupled with Ireland’s strong cash balances gives it flexibility over its issuance activity and plans to continue to diversify its funding products, O’Connor added.

Last week, banking sources told Reuters the NTMA would look to complete the bond sale before the British parliament votes on UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit agreement. The vote is set for next week.

Ireland is considered the euro zone country that would be most affected by a messy separation between its nearest neighbour and the European Union.

When Ireland last issued a new 10-year bond via syndication a year ago, it raised the funds at a yield of 0.944 percent. Wednesday’s slightly higher rate still maintained the debt agency’s strategy of using record low funding rates to stretch out the average maturity of the state’s debt.

BNP Paribas, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citi, Davy and Societe Generale jointly managed the transaction. ($1 = 0.8735 euros) (Additional reporting by Graham Fahy and Conor Humphries; editing by Andrew Heavens, Larry King)

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