Investors flock to Nigeria Eurobonds, won’t touch the Naira

A gas station attendant displays a large bundle of naira banknotes after selling fuel to a customer in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016.  PHOTO: George Osodi/Bloomberg

Nigeria’s oversubscribed Eurobond on Wednesday showed that investors will flock to the country’s dollar assets. But when it comes to naira ones, they’re staying well away.

Nigeria got around $3 billion of orders for its $500 million of notes, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified. High demand for the deal, a tap of an existing $1 billion bond due in 2032, allowed bookrunners Citigroup Inc. and Standard Chartered Plc to price it with a 7.5 percent yield after initially offering 7.8 percent. The yield has eased further to 7.42 percent as of 11:43 a.m. in Lagos.

Rising oil production and an economy poised to come out of recession this year are enticing traders to buy Nigerian dollar-denominated bonds. Yet they’re avoiding naira assets because capital controls, a managed currency and severe dollar shortages mean they may struggle to exit positions in local bonds and stocks.

“The Eurobond was positive for Nigeria,” said Lutz Roehmeyer, a fund manager at Landesbank Berlin Investment GmbH, which owns Nigerian dollar debt but has sold all its naira securities. “But it is almost impossible to unwind naira trades. That’s why we completely exited local bonds. As long as foreigners like me think in this way, nobody will invest in the local currency.”

Nigeria’s Eurobonds have earned investors 14 percent in the past year, beating the average for emerging-market sovereign notes of 7.9 percent. Holders of naira-denominated notes lost 37 percent in dollar terms during that time, the second-most among 31 emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg.

It’s a similar story with Nigerian stocks. They’re the world’s worst performers in the past year in dollar terms, losing 35 percent.

Little will change until Nigeria lets its currency drop, according to Roehmeyer. The central bank has kept the naira at around 315 per dollar since August, while the black-market rate has plummeted to 383 as the dollar squeeze worsens.

“There’s an easy fix,” said Roehmeyer. “You just have to look at what Egypt did when it floated the pound in November. That would do the trick in Nigeria. If the naira was free floating, like in Egypt it would overshoot, maybe to 450 per dollar or even 500. Then, it would appreciate to about 400.”

The International Monetary Fund said Thursday that Nigeria needs to change its currency regime.

The authorities should “remove the remaining restrictions and multiple currency practices, thus unifying the foreign-exchange market and helping regain investor confidence,” the IMF said in a report after a team visited Nigeria.

Tighter monetary and fiscal polices were also needed to rein in inflation of 17.8 percent and “limit the risk of exchange-rate overshooting,” it said.

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  • Folake [Foh-lah-keh] Vaughn

    This is the expected outcome of the misguided policies of the CBN which is trying to keep our currency’s value by burning our reserves while keeping the very policy that feeds the black market: the banning of the 41 items. It’s like treating a typhoid fever patient with Panadol: the fever will subside but the cause of the fever remains. And it will come back with a vengeance. Besides, no foreign investor will show any interest with a multiple exchange rate, including one for hajj pilgrims at half price of the black market rate.
    I am just counting the days left for this government to leave the reins to someone who knows what to do! Emefiele will faithfully follow whatever directives he is given.