INTERVIEW: Adeosun provides answers to critical questions on Nigeria economy, foreign loans

Kemi Adeosun
Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun

The Finance Minister has provided answers to questions bothering Nigerians on the economy, foreign loans and so on.

The questions and Mrs. Adeosun’s responses were sent to PREMIUM TIMES by her office.

Q: How much has Nigeria raised in the international capital markets and at what price?

Adeosun: Nigeria has raised a total of $3 billion. The Notes comprise a $1.5 billion 10-year series and a $1.5 billion 30-year series. The 10-year series will bear interest at a rate of 6.5 per cent, while the 30-year series will bear interest at a rate of 7.625 per cent.

Q: Why have you raised two different tranches of funding? How do they differ?

Adeosun: By raising $1.5 billion of 30-year notes, Nigeria has emulated a number of our international contemporaries, including Brazil, South Africa, Argentina and Egypt to issue long dated debt as the basis for long term infrastructure financing and to establish a benchmark for the private sector to extend the tenure of its own financing. This is critical to delivering an environment within which both the government, and the domestic private sector, can rapidly enhance its ability to fund investments in infrastructure projects and broader project finance. The full $1.5 billion proceeds of the 30 year notes are allocated to 2017 capital projects.

Nigeria has raised a further $1.5 billion of 10 year notes, and following the current issue, we now have a full ‘basket’ of international debt notes, including 5 year, 10 year, 15 year and 30 year issuances trading in the market. This provides international investors will the full range of tradeable options in Nigeria’s international debt. Of the $1.5 billion of 10 year notes, US$1 billion will be allocated to the 2017 capital budget, under our $2.5 billion approval from the national assembly, with the balance of $500 million allocated to refinancing of domestic debt, in line with our strategy to re-balance our domestic/international debt profile.

Q: Why are you re-balancing the debt portfolio and increasing international borrowing?

Adeosun: Over the last five years, Nigeria has been overly focused on domestic debt, which is short term and high cost. This means that we pay too much, and have to regularly refinance existing debt rather than having the security of longer term instruments. You can see this clearly reflected in our debt service to revenue ratio, which at 45 per cent as of Third Quarter (Q3) 2017, is higher than we would like.

Having returned the economy to growth in 2017 and secured a stable and liquid exchange rate regime, we are focused on addressing this issue by diversifying our sources of debt to achieve an optimal balance. So far, we have moved our domestic/international debt ratio from 18:82 to 23:77 and we expect this to improve to circa 27:73 by year end, with an ultimate target of 40:60. This will deliver significant savings in our debt service costs, with provisional estimates demonstrating savings of up to N91 billion in 2018 alone.

Q: What will the proceeds of the financing be used for? Can you provide specifics?

Adeosun: The proceeds will be split between 2017 budget capital projects ($2.5 billion) and re-financing some of our short term domestic debt ($500 million).

Capital projects under the 2017 budget include road, rail, power and housing projects which are crucial to the delivery of the economic recovery and growth plan.

Q: How do the 30 year notes benefit Nigeria?

Adeosun: They demonstrate strong investor confidence in the Nigerian economy, and growth story, while providing the long term funding required to finance infrastructure projects at affordable interest rates. The provision of infrastructure is critical to the long term sustainability of our economic growth, and will provide a more productive economy for current and future generations of Nigerians. They also provide a benchmark for longer term private sector funding.

Q: Why did you not raise the full amount of $5.5 billion approved by the National Assembly?

Adeosun: The National Assembly approved two separate resolutions. One for $2.5 billion to fund capital expenditure in the 2017 budget and one to re-finance existing domestic debt of $3 billion, which is not time bound. Our intention for this issuance was to meet our short term requirement to fund $2.5 billion for the 2017 budget. Following significant investor interest of over $11 billion, we brought forward a further $500 million of funding towards the refinancing of existing domestic debt and will assess options for concluding the refinancing process in the New Year. Restricting this issuance to $3 billion also enabled us to optimise the price of the notes, which at 6.5 per cent (10-year) and 7.625 per cent (30-year) are significant improvements to our existing portfolio.

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