* Ireland to repay 5.5 billion euros of bailout loans early
* Syndicated sale boosts available pool of debt for ECB QE
* Total 2017 benchmark issuance boosted to 14.5 bln euros (Adds final yield, quote from debt office)
By Padraic Halpin and Julian Baker
DUBLIN/LONDON, Oct 4 (Reuters/IFR) - Ireland raised 4 billion euros in a syndicated bond sale on Wednesday that will allow the government to replace some loans taken under its 2010 international bailout with debt raised at a negative interest rate.
Ireland announced last month it would seek to repay early 5.5 billion euros ($6.5 billion) of bailout loans extended by the International Monetary Fund, Denmark and Sweden, hoping to save around 150 million euros.
The debt, which drew more than 10 billion euros of demand and was mostly sold to overseas investors, attracted a yield of -0.008 percent, far below the 1.05 percent interest rate Ireland said its residual IMF loan balance carried last year.
“Today’s transaction has the advantage of maintaining flexibility around our future funding requirements and taking advantage of debt service cost savings,” Frank O‘Connor, Funding Director at Ireland’s debt office, said in a statement.
Ireland has already repaid most of the 22.5 billion euros borrowed from the IMF as part of the 85 billion euro rescue package and has just 4.5 billion euros left. It owes 600 million euros to Sweden and 400 million to Denmark in bilateral loans.
Ireland, whose turnaround has made it the fastest growing economy in Europe for the last three years, with GDP growth of 4.3 percent foreseen this year, has taken advantage of record low funding rates to issue debt at progressively lower cost.
The deal will also further alleviate pressure on Ireland’s ability to access the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing stimulus programme by increasing the pool of eligible debt that can be purchased and benefit from the programme.
Ireland is likely now to have room for almost nine more months of ECB purchases at 500 million euros per month, up from just over seven months of headroom in August, estimated Ryan McGrath, head of fixed income strategy at Cantor Fitzgerald.
Ireland had originally planned to issue 9-13 billion euros in long-term debt this year but has raised 14.5 billion via benchmark sales and a further 610 million in its first ever sale of inflation-linked bonds.
BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Davy, Goldman Sachs, NatWest Markets and Societe Generale are joint lead managers for the bond sale. ($1 = 0.8506 euros) (Additional reporting by Helene Durard in London; Editing by Catherine Evans)