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It Gets Worse: Nigeria May Sell Eurobonds Next Year

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Nigeria’s government will consider issuing international debt early next year for the first time since 2013 as it prepares to send a record spending plan to Parliament to stimulate an economy hammered by crashing oil prices, Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said.

President Muhammadu Buhari will probably present the 2016 budget to lawmakers on Dec. 22, Adeosun said in a phone interview on Wednesday. It will be based on a medium-term fiscal plan announced this month, which projects spending to increase about 25 percent from 2015 to 6 trillion naira ($30.1 billion). The deficit will more than double to 2.2 trillion naira, or 2.2 percent of gross domestic product.

“We need to stimulate the economy because we cannot afford this downturn to be excessively prolonged,” Adeosun, a 48-year-old dual Nigerian-U.K. citizen who was appointed last month, said from Abuja, the capital. “We think we have the headroom to borrow. We’re going to mix it between local and foreign debt. We’re talking to multilateral agencies already and we’re at an advanced stage. Then we’ll look at the foreign capital markets.”

Adeosun didn’t mention how much would be raised in a possible sale. Nigeria’s fairly low ratio of debt to GDP means it has the ability to increase borrowing to plug the gap, she said.

Africa’s biggest oil producer derives about two-thirds of government revenue from the commodity and has seen its finances shrivel as prices have fallen to below $40 a barrel from over $115 in June 2014.

Nigeria has $1.5 billion of dollar bonds outstanding and has tapped the market twice, in 2011 and July 2013. Yields on its $500 million of securities due in July 2023 fell 2 basis points to 8.58 percent at 8:31 a.m. in London. They’ve risen by more than 300 basis points since May as oil prices have fallen further and investors pull money from emerging markets in anticipation of interest rate hikes in the U.S.

Nigeria has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 12 percent, compared with 57 percent for Angola and 48 percent for South Africa, according to the International Monetary Fund. Economic growth is set to ease to 3.2 percent this year, the slowest pace this century, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.

The medium term spending plan projects new borrowing by Nigeria’s government next year of 1.84 trillion naira, about one-third of which will be foreign debt while the rest will be funded domestically. The budget will be based on an oil price of $38 per barrel.

Nigeria expects to boost non-oil revenue by 1.6 trillion naira in 2016 to help make up for the shortfall in earnings from crude exports. About 1 trillion naira of that increase may come from forcing government agencies and ministries to remit the funds they generate to the central government, Adeosun said.

“Compliance has been very poor,” she said. “Some agencies have never remitted anything.”

Ghost Workers

She will also look to cut overhead expenditure of everything from travel to entertainment across all levels of government. A unit dedicated to auditing public sector payrolls will soon be set up to root out ghost workers and duplicated salaries, she said.

“We spend about 1.7 trillion naira on the payroll,” she said. “If you’re spending that amount on something, you should be auditing and reviewing it. That’s a process we are just about the finalize.”

The budget will not include income from regulatory fines, such as the $3.9 billion levied on MTN Group Ltd., she said. Johannesburg-based MTN, Africa’s largest phone company, is contesting the fine for failing to cut off around 5 million unregistered mobile-phone customers.

While the government is right to increase spending on items such as infrastructure, it may struggle to fill its projected fiscal gap, according to Chernay Johnson, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG in Johannesburg.

“We do not believe that non-oil revenue growth will be sufficiently robust to cover the large shortfall due to low oil-related revenue,” Johnson said in a research note on Tuesday.

(via Bloomberg)

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