NTMA chief John Corrigan says Ireland's credit rating is 'depressingly low'

Thursday 10 January 2013 21.50
NTMA chief says credit rating 'depressingly low'

The Chief Executive of the National Treasury Management Agency, the organisation that borrows money on behalf of Ireland, has said the country's credit rating remains "depressingly" low.

John Corrigan said ratings agency Moody's continued to rank Ireland at junk status.

The NTMA raised €2.5 billion yesterday and has now eliminated a funding cliff presented by a €11.9 billion bond repayment due in January 2014.

The NTMA said the sale of Bord Gáis Energy remains on track and said there is preliminary work being done to sell some Coillte and ESB assets.

Announcing its 2012 results, the agency said yesterday's €2.5 billion bond issue represented a "very encouraging start to the year".

Mr Corrigan said Ireland had so far delivered on all its commitments under the EU/IMF bailout programme and that this had been critical in seeing borrowing costs fall.

The yield, or interest rate demanded by investors, on Ireland's 2020 bond, which is considered a benchmark for the country's borrowing costs, ended the year at 4.4% compared with 8.3% at the end of 2011.

"Nonetheless Ireland's continuing access to the international bond markets also remains dependent on external factors, particularly developments at a wider euro zone level," Mr Corrigan said.

Ireland has now drawn down €56 billion in loans under the EU/IMF programme according to the NTMA, €37 billion from the EU and €19 billion from the IMF. The estimated average interest rate on those funds is 3.36%.

Mr Corrigan also warned against complacency on Ireland's bank debt.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Corrigan said that while the agency has been very cautious in how it has represented negotiations on any deal on Irish bank debt, investors themselves have factored in positive developments in this area.

As a result, a failure to reach an agreement on Ireland's bank debt would not be good for the momentum building up around the Government bond market, Mr Corrigan warned.

He said: "We have been very cautious and conservative on how we have represented negotiations on the bank debt deal. We haven't expressly factored anything in for it.

"But I think it is also fair to say that investors themselves, to a greater or lesser extent have factored in for some positive developments on that front.
Absent those positive developments, it clearly would not be good for the momentum that is building up around the Irish Government Bond market."

Mr Corrigan said that in line with the Government's policy for the National Pension Reserve Fund to refocus its investment towards Ireland, it is launching a suite of three funds for small firms.