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Israel sells $8bn of bonds in return to global markets

Israel sells $8bn of bonds in return to global markets
Smoke rises from the Lebanese village of Markaba as a result of Israeli shelling in southern Lebanon, next to the Israeli moshav of Margaliot at the border with Israel, 4 March 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE/ATEF SAFADI)

Israel sold $8-billion of international bonds, the nation’s first such transaction in public markets since the war erupted with Hamas — and its biggest sale of dollar notes on record. 

The government issued $2-billion of notes due in five years, $3-billion bonds maturing in 10 years and $3-billion notes due in 30 years, according to people familiar with the matter. They asked not to be identified because they’re not authorised to speak about it. 

All together, the offering reeled in at least $34 billion worth of investor demand, said the people. Such a strong appetite for the offering comes as Israel looks to support its economy and carry on the war against Hamas, a group designated a terrorist organisation by the US. While Israel has issued privately-placed bonds, this deal marks the nation’s first in public, global markets since the conflict began.

“Israel has significant funding needs this year given the war,” said Uday Patnaik, head of EM fixed income at Legal & General Investment Mgmt Ltd. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they need to issue more.”

Given the conflict, Israel is expected to sell a near-record amount of bonds this year in a mix of local and global securities, Bloomberg has reported. 

In this offering, the shortest-maturity notes priced with a yield of 135 basis points over Treasuries, according to the people. That compares to earlier guidance of about 160 basis points. The 10-year and 30-year portions of the deal were priced with notes yielding 145 and 175 basis points over Treasuries, respectively, according to the people.

Earlier in the day, orders favoured the longer end of the curve, according to other people familiar with the matter.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BNP Paribas SA, Deutsche Bank AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. handled Israel’s deal.

The war has roiled the Israeli economy, though much of the shock from the initial few weeks has worn off. The war began when Hamas rampaged through southern Israeli communities, killing around 1,200 people and capturing 250. 

More than 30,000 have been killed in Gaza by Israel’s retaliatory air and ground assault, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. International focus has turned to talks about a potential cease-fire in the war, though a deal remains uncertain. 

Read More: Gaza Cease-Fire Talks Bogged Down as Hunger, Pressure Grow

In Israel, the shekel has rallied hard in the past three months and is far stronger than when the conflict started on 7 October. The government’s average dollar yields, meanwhile, have fallen to around 5.7% from a peak of 6.5%, suggesting investors are more confident about the economy’s resilience. 

But angst remains in other parts of the market: Israel’s credit-default swaps — or the cost of protecting against a default — remain elevated. 

Moody’s Investors Service cut the government’s rating by one level to A2 in February, marking the country’s first-ever downgrade. Still, Israel lingers well within investment grade territory and on a par with Iceland and Chile.

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