UPDATE 1-Fitch gives Paraguay BB-minus rating, roadshow planned

Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:36pm EST

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NEW YORK, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Fitch gave Paraguay an initial rating of BB-minus with a stable outlook on Thursday as the South American country prepares a roadshow with investors to drum up interest in its first global debt sale since 2000.

The economy of the soy- and beef-exporting nation is expected to rebound strongly this year due to favorable crop weather and the center-right government has said it plans to tap global markets for up to $550 million in February.

Paraguay will start global roadshows next week via Citigroup Inc and Bank of America Corp ahead of the possible issue, Thomson Reuters news service IFR reported.

Officials will meet investors in London and Lima on Friday. They will head to Los Angeles and Santiago next week, finishing up in New York and Boston on Jan. 15 and Jan. 16, IFR said.

Thursday's ratings announcement means the South American country is now rated Ba3/BB/BB- respectively by Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch, which praised "prudent" policies but warned against volatile economic performance.

"The Paraguayan economy has shown higher average growth rates relative to the 'BB' median, but growth volatility has also been greater due to the large size of its agriculture sector and the negative shocks it receives from adverse weather cycles," Fitch said in a statement.

Paraguay's economy shrank 1.2 percent last year due to a poor soy harvest and a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak that hit beef exports, but the central bank expects a 10.5 percent bounce in 2013.

Farmers' luck has improved this season. A record soybean harvest is forecast and the country has won back former markets for its beef exports.

Paraguay's planned debt sale would follow in the footsteps of neighboring Bolivia, another newcomer to global credit markets that sold $500 million in 10-year bonds at par to yield 4.875 percent in October.

Central Bank chief Jorge Corvalan told Reuters last year Paraguay was not simply aiming at a one-off issue but wanted to "build a closer future relationship with the markets."

Paraguay will hold a presidential election on April 21.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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