ATHENS – Greece raised 2.5 billion euros ($2.75 billion) in a 15-year bond auction on Tuesday at a low interest rate, as the country borrowed beyond the scope of a bailout-repayment relief plan for the first time.
The Public Debt Management Agency said the yield was 1.88% — below a government target set at 2%, according to a Greek official. Demand for the bond reached nearly 19 billion euros.
“The transaction enjoyed broad geographical spread, led by the U.K. at 32% and a total of 84% internationally distributed, outside of Greece,” the PDMA said.
Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said the auction would help boost the sustainability of Greece’s national debt in the long term.
“Today’s 15-year Greek government bond issue, the first after 10 years of crisis, is a success for the Greek economy and the country,” he said. “It’s a vote of confidence from international markets in the country’s economic policy and prospects.”
Despite a sharp drop in recent months, Greek borrowing rates still lag those of other eurozone members. Germany’s bond yields slipped into negative territory in 2016, and the country’s 15-year bond yield Tuesday stood at -0.218%. This helps explain why investors find comparatively high-yielding Greek bonds so attractive despite the country’s sub-investment grade credit rating.
Last week, ratings agency Fitch raised Greece’s credit rating to BB, two notches below investment grade, with a positive outlook.
Still struggling to address the social and financial fallout from years of financial crisis, Greece has successfully tapped the bond market after ending its last international bailout program in 2018, with three new issues last year.
Creditors backed by a eurozone rescue fund have granted the country a major package of repayment relief measures valid through 2032.
Tuesday’s auction marked the first Greek effort to borrow money on the market that goes beyond that date.
As growth returned and political turmoil subsided, Greece’s borrowing rates have fallen sharply, the yield on the 10-year bond dropping from 4.4% to just 1.15% since the bailout ended, while yields on T-bills turned negative.
The national debt peaked at just over 180% of gross domestic product in 2018 but the average maturity of public debt was at 21 years in 2019, thanks to lenient repayment terms provided by creditors in exchange for continued cost-cutting reforms.