UPDATE 1-IMF says ready to help Ghana address its economic challenges

Fri Aug 8, 2014 8:54pm EDT

* IMF team expected in Ghana next month to initiate program talks

* Ghana says seeking to win endorsement for its own reform program

* Ghana to issue third Eurobond of up to $1.5 bln this month (Adds quotes, background)

By Kwasi Kpodo

ACCRA, Aug 9 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will help Ghana address its current economic challenges, following a formal request by the West African country to open talks for a support program, a director of the fund said late on Friday.

Ghanaian President John Mahama last week ordered his government to open talks with the IMF as part of efforts to fix the economy and stabilise the cedi currency which has slumped around 40 percent this year.

Deputy Managing Director Min Zhu said an IMF team would be in Ghana early next month to open talks.

"Today, IMF Management received a formal request from the Ghanaian authorities to initiate discussions on an economic program that could be supported by the IMF. The Fund stands ready to help Ghana address the current economic challenges it is facing," he said in a statement.

Ghana, which became the first sub-Saharan African country outside South Africa to tap the Eurobond market in 2007, is struggling to tame large budget and current account deficits, turning investor sentiment against the onetime frontier market darling.

With Ghana looking to issue a new $1.5 billion Eurobond toward the end of this month, some bond market participants said the backing of an IMF programme would be necessary to reassure investors over the stability of the currency.

Foreign Minister Hannah Tetteh told Reuters on Friday the government was seeking talks with the Fund to win endorsement for its own fiscal reforms program rather than because it needs a bailout.

(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)

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