NAIROBI Kenya does not see a significant impact on its economic growth from the attack by Islamist militants on a shopping mall, and it plans to go ahead with a debut Eurobond issue this financial year, the finance minister said on Friday.
The east African nation's growth target for 2013 remained at 5.5-6 percent, Henry Rotich said in a statement, adding that tourism was stable and would not suffer "long lasting effects" from the attack.
His assessment was at odds with the views of some analysts who predicted that while the weekend attack that killed at least 72 people would not hurt long-term investment, growth and fiscal revenues, especially from tourism, would be hit.
"We do not see any significant effect on the overall economic performance arising from the recent tragedy, and our growth objective for 2013 remains unchanged at around 5.5-6 percent," Rotich said.
Citing "buoyant" investor confidence, the minister said "our plan to issue a debut Sovereign Bond in the international market during this financial year remains on course".
Kenya's financial year ends in June.
Officials had said Kenya would sell the bond, worth up to $2 billion, before the end of this calendar year. But even before the attack claimed by Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab, bankers had expected the issue to slip to early 2014.
They argued that as Kenya was a first-time borrower, the process would take longer than for more experienced issuers.
Plans for the country to sell an international bond have been delayed several times in the past since 2007, mainly due to political turmoil at home and financial crises abroad.
September has been an active month for emerging sovereign debt issuance as borrowers rushed to launch ahead of an expected withdrawal of U.S. monetary stimulus that did not materialize.
Debutante Armenia was among sovereign borrowers this month, along with Russia and Romania, while African sovereigns Rwanda, Nigeria and Tanzania launched dollar bonds earlier this year.
Analysts said that B1 rated Kenya, which borrowed $600 million via a syndicated loan last year, will press ahead with the Eurobond, as it seeks a pricing benchmark for future issues.
"There's every expectation that Kenya will now try to do a Eurobond simply because regular external issuance would make sense for an economy like Kenya and the syndicated loan would need to be refinanced," said Razia Khan, Africa analyst at Standard Chartered in London.
Apart from refinancing the syndicated loan, proceeds of Kenya's debut sovereign bond will also be used to fund construction of infrastructure projects, given new urgency by the discovery of oil in the northern part of the country.
STILL POSITIVE SENTIMENT
Although the bloody mall raised fears of further attacks by Islamist militants in the region, there were signs that investors remained positive about the economic prospects of east Africa's biggest economy.
The shilling gained 0.3 percent against the dollar this week to reach a nine-week high, reflecting generally sustained positive sentiment. This was boosted by the government sale of a 20 billion shillings ($229 million) infrastructure bond which attracted bids of 37.6 billion shillings.
Yields on government securities have been stable.
Rotich said Kenya's wholesale and retail businesses would feel some effect from the attack on the country's most modern shopping mall, Israeli-built Westgate, but this would not be enough to slow the wider economy.
However, in a briefing note issued on Thursday, ratings agency Moody's assessed the mall raid as "credit negative".
"We expect this high profile attack ... will adversely (affect) Kenya's growth and fiscal revenues, most directly through its effect on tourism, which accounts for 12.5 percent of GDP, 7.4 percent of investment and 11 percent of total employment," Moody's said.
But it added it saw no effect on foreign direct investment, the country's planned debut international bond, or multilateral donor financing for infrastructure projects.
Hotel operators said it was too early to tell just how badly future bookings might be affected in an industry which raked in $1 billion during the year ended June.
"In the leisure market we have received many more cancellations. Some meetings and conferences have been pushed forward," said Mahmud JanMohamed, the head of TPS Eastern Africa (TPSE.NR), which operates a chain of luxury hotels and lodges.
The number of cancellations, postponements and no-shows in his business amounted to 5 percent since the attack, he said, adding, "We are not in panic mode at the moment." ($1 = 87.4700 Kenyan shillings)
(Additional reporting by Tosin Sulaiman in Johannesburg; Editing by Pascal Fletcher, Ron Askew)