Belarus $2 bln bond plan to go beyond 2010

By Lidia Kelly

MOSCOW, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Belarus' external debt issuance will stretch over a number of years tracking financial needs of the country in order to return its ambitious growth plan after economic stagnation in 2009, its finance minister said on Monday. The post-Soviet republic earlier this month quadrupled its maiden Eurobond plan to up to $2 billion, but the country has no plan to raise the entire sum in 2010 alone, Finance Minister Andrei Kharkovets told Reuters. "We don't need the whole amount in 2010, this is a long-term programme of cooperation with banks," Kharkovets said. The ministry has said earlier that it would issue at least $500 million next year. The government wants Russia's largest lender, Sberbank, to organise the issue together with a rouble-denominated bond of up to 15 billion roubles ($490.8 million). Belarus's economy has been beaten badly as demand for its goods in Russia and Europe, its chief export markets, deteriorated significantly. The government expects the country's economy to stagnate this year -- after years of impressive growth. But the official forecast for next year, still calls for Belarus to grow by 11-13 percent.

"This is a rather ambitious programme, and there are factors that can obstruct the realisation of the goals," Kharkovets said, adding that the government took "a very conservative approach towards the economic development," while planning its 2010 budget. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the Belarussian economy to grow 1.8 percent next year after a 1.2 percent contraction in 2009, and the budget deficit is seen at $1 billion. On Saturday, The IMF has granted $688 million to Belarus -- the fourth tranche of a $3.63 billion stabilisation loan -- saying the economy is starting to emerge from the crisis, though policy must remain prudent. Belarus government is considering a new cooperation programme with the IMF, but a decision has not been reached yet, as the main negotiations with the fund will take place early next year when the other fund's mission comes to Minsk. "We'll see what they will offer us," Kharkovets said.

(Reporting and writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Dmitry Sergeyev)


Partners: Social Network