June 5, 2020 / 11:06 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Austria plans record debt issuance in wake of COVID-19 outbreak

(Adds comments by OBFA chief)

VIENNA, June 5 (Reuters) - Austria on Friday almost doubled the amount of debt it plans to issue this year to a record level as coronavirus-related emergency aid has helped drive up its borrowing needs by well over 20 billion euros ($23 billion).

Days after introducing a lockdown in mid-March, the government announced an economic aid package of up to 38 billion euros, about a 10th of last year’s economic output, for items such as loans, loan guarantees and grants to companies and a layoff prevention scheme.

On Friday, the Austrian Federal Financing Agency (OBFA), which issues government bonds and other debt instruments, updated its funding outlook for 2020 to say it now expects a total debt issuance of roughly 60 billion euros, almost double the 31-34 billion it originally announced in December.

“That is of course a snapshot with the numbers we currently have. We cannot rule out that it will be even more or that it will be less ... The figure is the best estimate one can give,” OBFA co-chief Markus Stix told Reuters.

“We have an expansion of the programme of 85%. If you compare that to other countries, Germany for example expanded its programme by 150%, Holland by more than 200%, so the expansion we are announcing now is a relatively moderate one.”

OBFA said the amount of government bonds was expected to be at least 35 billion euros, up from 18-21 billion originally.

As of Thursday, more than 40% of its funding programme for this year had been completed, 23.8 billion euros of which was in the form of bonds, OBFA’s presentation showed.

The government has passed only a stopgap budget, declining to say how big its deficit will be, arguing it is too soon to tell. Austria’s central bank on Friday predicted a budget deficit of 8.9% of gross domestic product this year. ($1 = 0.8833 euros) (Reporting by Francois Murphy Editing by Michelle Martin)

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