LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia should delay its planned re-financing of $2.8 billion worth of Eurobonds until financing conditions ease, an International Monetary Fund representative said on Monday.
“We would caution the government not to tap into the international markets at this time,” the IMF’s resident representative, Alfredo Baldini, told reporters during the release of an IMF report on growth in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Eurobonds were issued from 2012 to 2015, and the Zambian government planned to re-finance them with longer-dated bonds at a lower cost, Finance Minister Felix Mutati said on Dec 7.
“The financing conditions are pretty tight right now, and it will be very expensive,” Baldini said on Monday.
In fact, the bonds would only fall due in 2022, 2024 and 2025, so the government didn’t need to rush into re-financing them, Baldini said.
The Zambian government has relied on external financing as its spending rose over the past few years while revenue remained almost the same, which has put pressure on its exchange rate, Baldini said.
Mutati said last week the equivalent of 19 percent of Zambia’s gross domestic product was being used to service debt and the government wanted to reduce that to about 15 percent.
Zambia issued a $750 million Eurobond in 2012, followed by a $1 billion issue in 2014 and another worth $1.25 billion last year, mainly for infrastructure projects.
(Reporting by Chris Mfula, editing by Larry King)