March 13, 2018 / 9:17 AM / in 3 months

UPDATE 2-South Africa to tap "conducive" bond markets shortly

* Plans to borrow $3 billion shortly

* Finance minister unsure about outcome of Moody’s review

* Says land reform focus of agency’s, investors’ questions

* Plan could see landless blacks given land quickly (Changes story identifier/slug, adds quotes on land reform)

By Marc Jones and Karin Strohecker

LONDON, March 13 (Reuters) - South Africa plans to use optimism generated by political changes in the country to tap international bond markets for up to $3 billion shortly, its Treasury said on Tuesday.

Tshepiso Moahloli, chief director of liability management at the Treasury, told reporters it could potentially issue in currencies other than dollars and in segments rather than $3 billion all at once.

“We do take opportunity when the market is conducive and currently the market is conducive,” Moahloli said.

She was speaking in London alongside new South African Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene.

The country’s final investment grade credit rating, by Moody’s, is hanging by a single notch, with the agency due to publish later this month the results of a review for possible downgrade.

Nene said he believed South Africa was telling a “credible” economic story.

But he acknowledged that it was unclear if Moody’s would cut the rating to ‘junk’, and that both the agency and private investors were asking many questions about a government plan to transfer land from white to black owners.

New South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is enjoying something of a honeymoon period with markets and investors after succeeding Jacob Zuma, whose scandal-tainted administration oversaw an economic downturn.

Nene was reappointed to his former position by Ramaphosa two years after being sacked from the same role by Zuma.

But Ramaphosa’s plan to change the constitution to allow white-owned property to be taken without payment for redistribution to landless blacks is raising concerns - notwithstanding the fact that he told Moody’s last week that it would be implemented so as not to harm the economy or food security.

Nene said he too had met senior Moody’s analysts on Monday in London and gone through plans to cut spending and increase revenues.

“We are looking at what needs to be done to stimulate growth, among other things building confidence... credibility.”

“...It is very difficult to read the body language of rating agencies, but I think it is a credible story we are telling,” Nene said.

A downgrade would have a negative effect, he said, adding that questions on the land reforms “came from almost all the conversations we had” with Moody’s as well as investors.

The plan entailed “a whole host of things including completing the land audit, where is unused land, what is it and who are those people that actually require the use of land,” he said, suggesting that it could be implemented quickly.

“I don’t think as government we should wait only for the outcome of the constitutional review committee’s report,” he said.

A senior official of Ramaphosa’s ruling African National said last week the policy would mainly target unused land. (nL5N1QO1SV).

Reporting by Marc Jones and Karin Strohecker Editing by Alison Williams and John Stonestreet

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