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article imageGreece returns to debt markets after three-year hiatus

By Hélène COLLIOPOULOU (AFP)     Jul 25, 2017 in Business

Greece returned to the debt markets for the first time in three years on Tuesday, with reports saying it was on track to raise funds at a lower cost, marking a symbolic victory for the beleaguered eurozone nation.

The Greek news agency ANA said that initial transactions for the five-year government bonds put the yield -- the financing cost for the government or the rate of return for investors -- at 4.875 percent.

That is slightly below the 4.95 percent in Greece's last auction of five-year bonds in 2014, which was reportedly the target the Greek government had set.

The government had announced Monday it was attempting a comeback to the debt markets.

Greece currently has no need to draw money from the bond markets, as it recently received renewed support under its international bailout that should take it into next year.

However it is a psychological milestone, demonstrating that Greece is back on the road to weaning itself off bailout aid.

- 'Spectacular recovery' -

EU economy commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who is visiting Athens, said Tuesday that the country is making a "spectacular recovery" that should allow it to "progressively return" to the debt markets, according to a statement released by the office of Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos after the two met.

At a later press conference Moscovici expressed confidence Greece would be able to finance itself on the markets at a reasonable rate.

The return to the markets comes after months of tension over Greece's bailout programme has eased.

Debt relief has been the major bone of contention between the Greek government of Prime Minister Ale...
Debt relief has been the major bone of contention between the Greek government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the eurozone
Jochen GEBAUER, AFP/File

Earlier this month, eurozone finance ministers approved the latest 8.5 billion-euro ($9.9-billion) disbursement from its third international bailout, just in time for Athens to meet major debt repayments.

The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) will also keep feeding the debt-ridden country with low interest rate loans (0.8 and 1.8 percent) until the end of the bailout programme in July 2018.

Meanwhile the International Monetary Fund last week approved a one-year, $1.8 billion loan programme for the country.

And in another a sign that the country is turning a corner the economy is projected to grow by 2.1 percent this year -- after no growth at all in 2016.

This gives Athens the chance to test without major financial risks its credibility in the markets.

Moreover, the IMF funds, which are contingent on the eurozone finally reaching a deal to implement its promises to reduce Greece's colossal 314-billion-euro debt burden, should keep up pressure make the country's finances sustainable on a long-term basis.

Debt relief has been the major bone of contention between the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the eurozone, which had delayed the deal to disburse the latest bailout funds.

Moscovici said Tuesday that debt relief could come once Greece successfully implements promised reforms and completes its last year under the bailout programme, although he said a decision on what measures to undertake could be made earlier.

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