* Global market volatility puts plan on hold
* Pricing key concern, timing under discussion
* Demand seen strong for West African debt
(Adds comment from Debt Management Office)
By Nick Tattersall and Chijioke Ohuocha
LAGOS, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Nigeria is delaying a $500 million debut Eurobond originally planned for this year because of volatility in global markets but wants to launch the issue as soon as possible, officials said on Friday.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s second-biggest economy had planned a roadshow to the United States next week but the plans were put on hold at the eleventh hour because of market volatility due partly to the debt crisis in Europe, sources said.
“Given the rumblings in the euro zone over the past few weeks ... we have considered it important to watch carefully over the next couple of weeks and as soon as possible make the offer,” DMO Director General Abraham Nwankwo told CNBC Africa TV.
Sources familiar with the transaction said nervousness triggered by the debt crisis in Ireland had contributed to the decision to postpone the U.S. roadshow and that talks were underway as to the eventual timing of the issue.
“By the original schedule, they should have travelled last night,” one of the sources told Reuters, declining to be named.
Africa’s top crude oil exporter first announced plans to borrow in the international bond market in September 2008 but later put the issue on hold, citing adverse market conditions.
The aim of the 10-year bond is to set a benchmark in the global market for Nigeria rather than to raise funds, meaning the pricing is more important than the timing.
“Nigeria doesn’t need the money, so it’s not as if the issue has to be done before the end of the year,” one source said.
Nigeria last month appointed Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) and Citigroup (C.N) as bookrunners for the Eurobond and named Barclays Capital (BARC.L) and FBN Capital, a subsidiary of Nigeria’s First Bank FIRSTBA.LG, as its financial advisers.
Citi’s Chief Executive Vikram Pandit said on Wednesday he anticipated significant demand for the issue.
Nigeria’s weakening fiscal position -- with external reserves down almost a quarter from a year ago and a deficit set to widen to more than 6 percent -- combined with political uncertainty ahead of elections next April, had led some analysts to question whether there would be demand for the issue.
In October, ratings agency Fitch lowered Nigeria’s sovereign credit outlook to negative from stable, citing the depletion of its reserves as a factor. [ID:nN22177498]
But most analysts say the relatively small size of the issue, appetite for high-yielding assets, and the paucity of West African debt issues means investors would be ready to shrug off those short-term risks.
Global markets have been volatile in recent weeks due to concern about European financial stability in the wake of the the Greek and Irish debt bailouts.
U.S. Treasuries edged up in Asian trade on Friday after a sell-off this week that pushed benchmark yields to a six-month high. [ID:nL3E6NA079]
Such volatility means investors would be likely to demand a higher yield for debt from Nigeria, which is coming to the international market for the first time.
Nearby Ghana’s Eurobond GH032376037=RRPS traded at a yield of 6.198 percent on Friday, up from 5.976 percent a month ago.
For more Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: af.reuters.com/ Reporting by Nick Tattersall and Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Joe Brock, Ron Askew, John Stonestreet