UPDATE 3-Greece announces new 5-year bond issue after 3-year market exile

* Attempting to return to market as debt crisis eases

* Athens offers bondholders to tender 2019 bonds for cash

* Mandates six banks for new 5-year government paper (Adds PM’s office comment, Moscovici visit)

ATHENS, July 24 (Reuters) - In its first attempt to return to the bond market in three years as its debt crisis eases, Greece on Monday invited holders of its 4.75 percent outstanding bonds maturing in 2019 to tender them for cash, along with a plan to offer new five-year paper.

Greece last ventured into international bond markets with two issues in 2014, a year before then newly elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras signed up to a new bailout, the country’s third since 2010, after months of tense negotiations with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Last month Greece concluded a crucial bailout review and its lenders offered some detail on the measures that will be carried out, when its current bailout ends in 2018, to ease its debt mountain, which now stands at 180 percent of economic output.

That development opened the way for Greece’s market foray, which the Tsipras government says should be viewed as a test run and considered part of an overall strategy to ensure the country can fully return to markets next year.

“This decision is a significant step, part of Greece’s strategy to regain viable and steady access to international markets,” Tsipras’s office said in a a statement, referring to the new five-year bond issue.

Greece mandated BNP Paribas, Citigroup Global Markets, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Merrill Lynch as joint lead managers for the benchmark-size offering.

It said the cash to be paid for outstanding bonds would be equal to 102.6 percent of the nominal amount of each bond.

The pricing of the offering of new bonds is expected to occur on Tuesday, subject to market conditions. Settlement is expected on Aug. 1.

Holders of outstanding bonds tendered in the switch offer will receive accrued interest.

“The switch and tender offer is conditional on the successful pricing and closing of the new notes offering in an amount, with pricing and on terms and conditions satisfactory to the Republic,” Greece said in a statement.


The yield on the government bond maturing in 2019 fell on Monday to its lowest level since it was issued three years ago, as Athens prepared its market foray. It fell as much as 40 basis points to 3.42 percent {nL5N1KF35S].

Greece’s European creditors are keen for the crisis-hit country to develop a strategy to gradually regain market access so that it will be able to stand on its own feet in 2018, but they have also urged Greece to stick to bailout reforms.

European Union Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici was due to arrive in Athens on Monday and was expected to discuss Greece’s market foray with Tsipras on Tuesday.

The IMF last week approved in principle a $1.8 billion standby loan arrangement for Greece, making a conditional commitment to help underpin the country’s bailout program for the first time in two years.

But the fund will not make any money available until after it receives “specific and credible assurances” from Greece’s European lenders to ensure the country’s debt sustainability.

Debt swaps that may improve Greece’s maturity profile without increasing its overall load can ease forays into bond markets.

“Effectively the new issue is neutral as regards the debt sustainability of Greece,” said Athens-based Eurobank economist Platon Monokroussos.

Standard and Poor’s rating agency revised Greece’s outlook to positive from stable on Friday, while ratings agency Moody’s upgraded Greece’s rating to ‘Caa2’ from ‘Caa3’ last month.

Reuters first reported last year that Greece was considering the possibility of two or three small bond issues before the expiration of the present bailout programme. (Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Renee Maltezou in Athens, Dhara Ranasinghe in London; Editing by Gareth Jones)