UPDATE 3-Guatemala eyes bond sale soon as this week

(Adds investor comments)

NEW YORK, April 27 (IFR) - Guatemalan government officials have started investor calls ahead of an international bond sale as soon as Thursday, market sources told IFR on Wednesday.

Bank of America, mandated as sole lead on the trade, conducted one-on-one calls on Wednesday and will hold a global investor call at 9:00am New York time on Thursday.

Leads have yet to discuss pricing on the deal, but the sovereign is considering tenors of anywhere between 10 and 30 years, Sean Newman, a senior portfolio manager at Invesco, told IFR.

Buyside accounts have expressed interest in gaining exposure to Guatemalan risk despite a bribery scandal that toppled the government last year and landed the former president in jail.

“The Guatemalan story has been punctuated by a history of prudent macroeconomic policies and the finance minister didn’t indicate any departure from that track record,” said Newman, who participated in one of the calls on Wednesday.

Ricardo Adrogue, head of emerging market debt at Babson Capital, echoed such sentiments.

“The country has been doing well,” he told IFR. “It has low tax collection over GDP, which is a small negative, but we will be taking a close look [at the deal].”

Guatemala has congressional approval to go ahead with the new issue, which is expected to be around US$500m in size, Rosa Maria Ortega, the country’s director of public credit, told IFR at the IDB meetings earlier this month.

Guatemala, rated Ba1/BB/BB, last tapped the international bond markets in February 2013, when it raised US$700m through a rare 15-year bond that priced at a yield of 5%. HSBC acted as lead manager on that occasion.

Those bonds were trading on Wednesday at 102.05-103.05 to yield around 4.60%. (Reporting by Paul Kilby; Editing by Marc Carnegie and Davide Scigliuzzo)