Mongolia says bank bondholders will be repaid in full

Development Bank of Mongolia bondholders can expect their debts to be repaid in full when they fall due next year, a senior finance official said on Friday, even as the state-backed bonds traded below par just three months before maturity, Reuters reports.

The International Monetary Fund is predicting zero growth this year for Mongolia’s once promising economy, as a result of years of declining foreign investment, slower growth in China, and a softer market for its abundant coal resources.

The country pinned between China and Russia is reeling from a balance of payments crisis and a tumbling tugrik currency that the present government has blamed on mismanagement by the prior administration.

On Friday, Mongolian finance ministry officials held talks with groups such as the IMF and World Bank to present their plan to buoy the economy.

Deputy Finance Minister Khurelbaatar Bulgantuya told a news conference following the talks that Mongolia hoped to work with partners to refinance $580 million in sovereign-backed debt from the Development Bank of Mongolia due in 2017.

The government could lighten its burden on interest on loans with new “soft” loans that offer easier terms and lower interest for repayment, she said.

Renegotiating its debt for a smaller repayment on the principal, known as a haircut, “would be the last resort,” she said. “With the IMF, we’re looking to refinance.”

The Development Bank bonds on Friday were trading below par at 97 – just months away from the redemption date in March 2017.

“The correction was triggered by President-elect (Donald) Trump’s expected protectionist policies and frontier market outflows. The coupon is low and the price fall brings the yield in line with fair value,” said a Hong Kong based credit analyst, requesting anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Moody’s Investors Service last month downgraded the country’s rating to Caa1 from B3, citing heightened uncertainty on whether it could meet its debt obligations.

Mongolian officials have been in talks for a standby agreement from the IMF since a new government under Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat took power last June.

Mongolia tapped into a similar agreement in 2009 when it suffered from delayed effects of the global economic crisis, but that was before the government ever borrowed on international markets.

The government has issued and sponsored billions worth of debt since 2012, which has been directed partly towards the construction of roads, railway and other infrastructure.

China, Mongolia’s number-one trade partner, could also take part in the bailout.

“Given the size of the challenges, we expect bilateral organisations, including China, to be part of the broad coalition to help Mongolia through these difficult times,” said World Bank Country Director Bert Hofman.

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