Iraq Hires Banks Including Citigroup for $6 Billion Sale

August 18, 2015

Iraq hired banks to help raise $6 billion in bonds as the country seeks to plug a widening fiscal deficit with its first international debt sale in almost a decade.

The government appointed Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to arrange the bond program in tranches, Muneer Mohammed Omran, director general of the central bank’s investor department in Baghdad, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. The first sale will take place this year, he said. Spokesmen for the banks declined to comment.

Iraq, holder of the world’s fifth-largest oil reserves, is selling bonds to bolster its financial position amid civil conflict and a global slump in oil prices. Fitch Ratings issued its first rating on Iraqi debt this month, assigning it the fifth-worst junk grade, and said it expects a double-digit fiscal deficit for 2015 because of lower crude prices, higher military spending and costs associated with civil unrest.

The country’s most recent bond sale was a $2.7 billion issue in 2006, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The yield on those notes due January 2028 rose 66 basis points this year, to 8.55 percent today.

Islamic State

Iraq has struggled to emerge from violence after the U.S.- led occupation, with the army now trying to recapture large areas of the country from Islamic State in a campaign backed by the U.S. Increased oil production has coincided with a market slump, and the International Monetary Fund approved $1.24 billion of emergency financing in July.

Government debt may equal 51 percent of Iraq’s gross domestic product by the end of 2015, with the ratio forecast to increase next year, Fitch said. Savings built up over years of high oil prices have largely been eroded, the ratings firm said.

Iraq’s crude production climbed to an all-time high of nearly 4.2 million barrels a day in July with record exports from southern terminals mostly unscathed by Islamic State militants.