Belarus Seeks Banks to Organize First Sale of Foreign Bonds

By Alex Nicholson and Denis Maternovsky

Nov. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Belarus's government is seeking bids from banks to manage its debut sale of international bonds, joining former Soviet republics Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine in planning foreign debt sales next year.

"We are open to offers from potential lead managers," Pavel Ladik, an aide to Belarus Finance Minister Andrei Kharkovets, said in a phone interview from Minsk today. "We are thinking about a placement next year and we know investors are actively interested."

Belarus, a country of 10 million people with an economy the size of Sudan's, is rated B1, four levels below investment grade, by Moody's Investors Service, and an equivalent B+ by Standard & Poor's, the same level as Bosnia & Herzegovina and Ghana. Belarus is already talking with OAO Sberbank, Russia's biggest lender, about helping with the sale, Ladik said, declining to estimate the size of the offering.

The government of Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has run Belarus since 1994, shelved plans to issue Eurobonds last November, citing the global financial turmoil. The country has been forced to borrow $2.23 billion from the International Monetary Fund to meet spending commitments after export revenue tumbled.

Neighboring Russia, Belarus's biggest trading partner, sent officials to London this month to gauge investor interest in the sale of as much as $18 billion of bonds next year to help plug its budget gap. Ukraine, another Belarus neighbor, has said it may seek to raise about $2 billion abroad next year, when it expects to have a 4 percent budget deficit. Kazakhstan plans to borrow about $500 million next year.

Russia hasn't offered new foreign debt since 1998, while Kazakhstan last sold an international bond in 2000. Ukraine sold $700 million of 6.75 percent 10-year notes in 2007.

Sri Lanka, which is rated one notch lower than Belarus at B by Standard & Poor's, sold $500 million of 7.4 percent five-year notes last month, Bloomberg data show.

To contact the reporters on this story: Denis Maternovsky in Moscow


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