Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Irish credit III

NTMA is brewing up a plan again (here). This time around, reportedly for a 5-year bond to be launched next Tuesday at 4.5%. Which would be a wishful thinking - the current bid yield is 60bps above that - if not for the possible caveat.

Oh no, the caveat is not about launching the bonds
into the outter space from Baikonur Launching Station in Kazakhstan (although potentially only Martians would willingly take Irish paper on these terms and only Borat-land would underwrite such a launch). The caveat - speculative at this junction - is that the 'launch' will aim to place the bond in Irish banks and some into the eurozone CBs. The banks will then go to the ECB and get, ugh, 85c on a euro. A helicopter drop of money with Mr Trichet in the driving seat.

Now, don't take me wrong - NTMA has done some seriously competent job to date and, in my view, represents pretty much the second half of the two functioning financial organizations in this state (the Revenue Commissioners being another). But they are facing an increasingly impossible task of feeding the Brian-Brian-Mary T-Rex of fiscal excesses.

Last time around (see here) only 21% of the bond issue has gone to the willing private buyers. That issue was priced to the market median. This time, 4.50% implies only a 75bps premium over German 10-year bund placed earlier this week. Today's YTM on 10 Plus Bond Index was at 5.90% and no outstanding bond with maturity beyond 2014 was priced at YTM below 5%. So where does it leave the newest issue? My guess - at the ECB via a primary orbit of the Irish banks.

So let's speculate together:

Take 4.5% at 15% ECB discount on, say 79% of bonds placed via banks (and with CBs), 2018 10-year bond and March 16th closing (clean) price of 91.35. You have YTM of 4.64-4.89% - darn close to 4.5% NTMA dangling about, except it is priced off the February issue (extending the maturity horizon).

Now, move forward to 2019-2020 and take the same 4.5% bond at 15% discount, 85% placement with ECB and get 5.6% YTM at today's opening price. What is the YTM consistent with 100% placement at ECB? 6.4%, which in March 16th market corresponds to 11.5 cents discount on a Euro. Also nicely close to today's 15 cents discount at ECB window.

It all adds up iff we are setting up a sale to ECB. At ECB's discounts on near-junk paper (here)...

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