Sri Lanka Seeks Moody's Debt Rating Before $1 Billion Sovereign Bond Sale

Sri Lanka is seeking a rating of its sovereign debt from Moody’s Investors Service ahead of a planned $1 billion overseas bond sale, central bank Assistant Governor C.J.P. Siriwardena said.

The South Asian nation last month announced plans to sell the bonds, with maturities of as much as 10 years, by the end of 2010 to help refinance expensive loans. Moody’s doesn’t have a credit rating for Sri Lanka, while Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings place the country’s long-term foreign-currency debt at non-investment grade.

“This is the ideal time to get a rating from all the three agencies,” Siriwardena said in a telephone interview today from Colombo. He said the economy is poised to grow more than 7 percent this year after the end of the country’s civil war.

Sri Lankan troops defeated the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009 and ended their 26-year struggle for a separate homeland, boosting growth prospects.

S&P and Fitch raised their outlook on Sri Lanka’s debt in October last year. S&P revised it to positive from stable, and assigned the nation’s long-term foreign-currency debt rating at B, five levels below investment grade. Fitch changed the outlook to stable from negative. It affirmed Sri Lanka’s rating at B+, four levels below investment grade.

Moody’s Visit

Representatives from Moody’s are in the island nation this week to meet with senior government and central bank officials, Siriwardena said. He said Fitch and S&P officials will also visit Sri Lanka this month to assess the economy.

“Sri Lanka should get a rating upgrade of at least one notch since the economy is now very robust,” said Sarath Rajapakse, director of research at Capital Trust Securities Ltd. in Colombo. “The bond offering will attract strong demand.”

The benchmark Colombo All-Share Index rose 4.1 percent to 5063.98 at 1:53 p.m. local time. The yield on the benchmark four-year bond was little changed at 9.3 percent, according to Standard Chartered Plc.

This year’s overseas debt sale will be the third by the nation since its debut offering in October 2007.

The nation’s last global bond sale in October attracted bids for more than 13 times the $500 million offered.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government is aiming to accelerate growth to at least 7 percent in 2010, the fastest pace in four years.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anusha Ondaatjie in Colombo at anushao@bloomberg.net.

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