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Lebanon Said to Hire Blom, Citigroup to Refinance $950 Million

Lebanon plans to hire Blom Bank SAL and Citigroup Inc. to advise on refinancing about $950 million in Eurobonds and interest payments due next month, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Lebanon’s finance ministry and the banks will sign the agreement either today or tomorrow ahead of meetings with investors next week, the people said, declining to be identified as details of the transaction haven’t been made public. The Arab nation has a $750 million bond maturing Aug. 2, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The government also needs to pay about $200 million in interest next month, according to the Association of Banks in Lebanon.

The finance ministry declined to comment on the matter and Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi hasn’t returned several calls seeking comment. Blom spokesman Alexandre Mouradian declined to comment as did a banker at Citigroup in London.

Lebanon had public debt of $52.6 billion at the end of last year, or 137 percent of gross domestic product, which it accumulated while rebuilding the country after a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990 and a month-long conflict with Israel in 2006. The debt is forecast to rise to $55.3 billion this year, according to finance ministry figures. The debt-to-GDP ratio has declined from a high of 180 percent at the end of 2006.

Lebanon sold $1.2 billion of 10-year Eurobonds last year to refinance debt that matured in March 2010. It also sold about $725 million of Eurobonds in November to refinance debt maturing that month, for which demand came to three times the amount offered.

Moody’s Investors Service rates Lebanon’s domestic and foreign-currency bonds at B1, four levels below investment grade. Standard & Poor’s rates Lebanon at B, five levels below investment grade.

A Eurobond is a bond issued and traded outside the country whose currency it is denominated in.

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