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Beijing Bond Issue Dazzles Market

China made a spectacular return to the international bond markets on Wednesday with a combination US$1.5 billion  and euro-denominated issue at prices very close to those achieved by western government agencies.

The strength of the country's foreign currency reserves means that China has no need for the extra funding, but the response to the issue demonstrates investors' appetite for Chinese debt. The issue of a "benchmark"government bond will also make it easier for Chinese companies to tap the global bond markets.

The issue came shortly after Moody's Investors Service, one of the top three rating agencies, boosted China's sovereign rating one notch from A3 to A2.

The 10-year $1billion dollar portion was offered at 53 basis points over US treasuries and the five-year E400m euro trance at seven basis points above Euribor, the rate at which European banks lend to each other. The market had expected yields to be two and three basis points higher respectively.

The spread is the lowest-ever for an Asian issuer apart from Japan, with the dollar trance priced roughly at the same level as that of US agencies, which have an implicit government guarantee. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two federal agencies that fund US mortgages, were trading yesterday at 48 basis points and 53.25 basis points over US Treasuries.

China last tapped the international bond market in May 2001 at a time when relations between the country and the West were extremely tense.

Since then the Chinese economy has grown rapidly, opening up to international trade, while political tensions have eased.

(China Daily October 23,2003)

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