Greece raises €1.17bn in key debt auction

INVESTORS across Europe breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as Greece successfully tapped the capital markets for over €1bn (£836.6m) in a debt auction.

Analysts were encouraged by the success of the auction, despite the fact that the bonds in question were short-term six-month Treasury bills, for which Greece had to pay a high yield of 4.82 per cent, compared to 4.65 per cent at its last auction in July.

But demand for the debt was high, with the bid-to-cover ratio at 4.54 compared to 3.64 in the previous issue, according to Greece’s Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA). Total bids reached €4.08bn, of which Athens finally accepted €1.17bn. The auction was originally for €900m.

The debt issue comes just four months after Eurozone states and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed a mammoth €110bn three-year bail-out deal for Greece, which had threatened to default on its huge debt and send other fiscally challenged European countries into a downward spiral. Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and even the UK all came under the scrutiny of markets concerned over contagion.

In return, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou agreed to enforce an austerity drive in the country, sparking a series of violent riots from citizens. The measures agreed include freezing public sector pay and pensions, upping VAT from 21 per cent to 23 per cent, and hiking duty on alcohol and fuel by 10 per cent.

The debt auction came as the IMF said Greece is on track to slash its budget deficit according to plan this year, but needs to further improve tax collection and control spending to sustainably shore up its finances. “The ambitious fiscal consolidation program remains on track, but pressure points are evident,” the IMF said in a report published one day after the debt-laden country obtained a second installment of funds.