* Ireland prices syndicated benchmark below 1 percent
* First euro zone sovereign sale of 2018
* Orders from investors topped 14 bln euros (Recasts with final amount issued)
By Padraic Halpin and Julian Baker
DUBLIN, Jan 3 (Reuters/IFR) - Ireland kicked off its annual funding drive by raising 4 billion euros with a syndicated 10-year bond on Wednesday, covering around a quarter of its issuance target just three days into the year.
The first euro zone sovereign issuer out of the traps this year, Ireland has followed a template of coming to market with a major syndicated sale at the start of each of the last five years.
It received over 14 billion euros worth of investor orders for the new paper, lead bankers for the deal said, setting a price of 2 basis points over mid-swaps that implied a yield of 0.943 percent.
When Ireland last issued a new 10-year bond via syndication in January 2016 it raised funds at 1.156 percent. Two years before that it had to offer 3.543 percent.
Ireland’s debt agency has taken advantage of a record low funding rate environment since then as well as an economy that has grown faster than any other in Europe to lengthen the maturity of its stock of debt at lower borrowing costs.
In the last three months, Ireland has received two credit rating upgrades, most recently to A+ in December from Fitch.
Ireland raised over 17 billion euros ($20.5 billion) on debt markets last year, allowing early repayment of some of its loans from a 2010 international bailout while increasing its scarce pool of debt eligible for the European Central Bank’s asset purchase programme.
This year the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) plans to issue between 14 and 18 billion euros of long-term debt, including at least one syndicated deal.
The banks and brokers mandated by the NTMA pitched the new bond on the same day that wide-ranging European Union financial market regulatory reforms known as MiFID II took effect.
Smaller euro zone states often use syndication to broaden the investor base for their bonds and compete with big countries whose debt attracts demand because of benchmark status. Using banks to find demand should also help secure more aggressive pricing and ensure liquid trading.
Citi, Danske Bank, Davy Stockbrokers, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Nomura are joint lead managers for the new bond. ($1 = 0.8308 euros) (Reporting by Padraic Halpin and Julian Baker; Editing by John Stonestreet)