Markets brace for potential default by Pakistan as $7 bn debt looms

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Bondholders are bracing for a potential default by Pakistan as the beleaguered nation faces billions of dollars in debt repayments that it will struggle to make good on without a bailout from the International Monetary Fund or rollovers from bilateral creditors.
The nation’s dollar bonds slid to the lowest level since November on Thursday as investors weigh its ability to honor $7 billion of repayments in the coming months, including a Chinese loan of $2 billion due in March, according to Fitch Ratings. The rupee slumped 3.2% to 275 per dollar.

Pakistan was downgraded deeper into junk by Moody’s Investors Service this week as the country faces its worst economic crisis in decades, with foreign reserves plummeting and inflation soaring to a record high. Authorities in Pakistan are relying on a bailout loan from the IMF to stave off a default, which has remained elusive.

“We are managing the risks now already, such that in the event that happens we shouldn’t be impacted drastically,” said Johnny Chen, fund manager at William Blair Investment in Singapore, who has cut exposure to Pakistan debt recently.

Pakistan’s 8.25% bond due April next year was indicated 0.8 cents lower to 51.1 cents on the dollar, down for a third straight day. The nation’s external financing needs are estimated to be around $11 billion for the fiscal year ending June, including $7 billion in external debt payments, Moody’s said in a note Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Pakistan got a $700 million loan facility from China Development Bank in February, said Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. And, Premier Li Keqiang told the head of the IMF that China is open to participating in multilateral efforts to help heavily indebted nations “in a constructive manner,” China Central Television reported.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif this week said an agreement with the IMF could be reached within the next few days.

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