EU starts sale of first bond backing recovery fund

(Clarifies in para 8 that 80 bln euros of debt is long-term)

By Yoruk Bahceli

(Reuters) -The European Union on Monday began selling the first bond backing its recovery fund, according to a lead manager, a crucial step in financing members states’ economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The sale of the 10-year bond is the start of up to 800 billion euros of debt issuance between now and 2026 that will back grants and loans to member states – an unprecedented act of fiscal solidarity on the EU’s part that may transform it into a leading European borrower.

The sale should be completed on Tuesday, EU Budget and Administration Commissioner Johannes Hahn said.

It will build on 90 billion euros of EU issuance backing the SURE unemployment scheme, another support programme, since last October, which had already given the EU a significant presence in the 27-member bloc’s debt markets.

The recovery fund debt, given its much larger scale than SURE, is expected to boost the liquidity of the EU’s debt and see continued interest from investors keen to buy scarce Triple A rated debt, which also offers a yield pick-up over the bloc’s benchmark issuer Germany.

Initial price thoughts on the deal are around 1 basis point above the mid-swap level as the EU collects indications of interest from investors, according to a lead manager memo seen by Reuters. That is equivalent to a yield of about 0.10% according to Reuters calculations.

The bond will raise 10 billion euros, France’s junior minister for European affairs said on May 31.

The EU has said it expects to issue 80 billion euros of long-term debt this year.

After the inaugural deal, the EU will sell two more bonds via syndication – where a borrower hires banks to sell the debt directly to end investors – by the end of July.

The EU will then launch a bill programme for short-dated borrowing that will be placed from September via auction, the more common way governments raise debt.

The bloc hired BNP Paribas, DZ Bank, HSBC, IMI-Intesa Sanpaolo and Morgan Stanley as joint lead managers for the debut deal earlier on Monday, while Danske Bank and Santander will act as co-lead managers, according to an earlier memo.

(Reporting by Yoruk Bahceli; editing by Dhara Ranasinghe, Steve Orlofsky and Mark Heinrich)