Icelandic Bank Plans Euro Bonds as Capital Controls Scaled Back

Updated on

Islandsbanki, which was created from the remnants of what used to be one of Iceland’s biggest banks before its 2008 collapse, is planning to sell debt denominated in euros to help build liquidity as it girds for the removal of capital controls.

“It’s just a question of the pricing and that the issue will have to be quite large or about 250 million euros ($284 million),” Jon Gudni Omarsson, chief financial officer at the Reykjavik-based bank, said in an interview. “So we’re looking into that, both in regards to timing, pricing and such matters.”

The bank, which was bumped up to investment grade at Standard & Poor’s in July, expects the improved rating will have “a huge influence on our access to foreign markets, ” Omarsson said.

Islandsbanki was created from the domestic assets of Glitnir, which was the first of Iceland’s three biggest lenders to collapse at the end of 2008 under a debt mound several times the island’s gross domestic product. The government at the time left bank bondholders in the lurch but maintained a functioning local banking system to allow payments and deposits to continue.

Iceland has given creditors in the failed lenders, including Kaupthing and LBI, until the end of the year to reach a settlement, failing which they will face an exit tax. Part of the settlement process targets turning creditors into owners.

It’s “important for us to remain very liquid, as we head into the removal of capital controls,” Omarsson said. “That’s also something we keep in mind.”

The bank has already issued two smaller euro-denominated bonds since last year. It has also sold debt in Swedish kronor.

“We’ve used the money from past debt sales to pay up the facilities that we have,” Omarsson said. “We’ve got a swap arrangement with the central bank, which we’ve been able to use the proceeds for. And our last issuance in euros was used to refinance an earlier issuance which matured in 2016.”

Islandsbanki’s “main focus has been ensuring that we’ve got a strong equity and liquidity position,” Omarsson said. “We have an agreement with Glitnir that allows us to have our equity ratio go down to 23 percent, which is also in line with what we’ve told investors we might do, ahead of the removal of controls. After the removal, we might go lower. But first and foremost we’ve focused on ensuring that we have strong capital buffers and good liquidity.”

(To be sent this Nordic Credit column, click here. For more credit market news, TOP CM.)