Austria sells record largest €3.5bn century bond

Austria sells record largest €3.5bn century bond

Latest indication of hot investor demand for very long-dated debt

Austria has sold €3.5bn of 100-year debt in the largest century bond to hit the markets to date, the latest indication of hot investor demand for very long-dated debt.

Bids from potential investors reached €11.4bn, dealmakers said.

The deal — which was priced at a yield of 2.112 per cent — is the eurozone’s first syndicated century bond. Belgium and Ireland each raised €100m in century bonds last year but those deals were private placements rather than open market offerings.

Their issuance is part of a wider trend: governments around the world sold a record $63.5bn of debt with ultra-long maturities in 2016, according to figures from data provider Dealogic.

Long-dated issuance has continued to prove popular with investors since then, with $43.6bn-worth of bonds sold with maturities of more than 30 years in the year to date. Argentina’s $2.75bn century bond issue in June was the standout recent example.

The duration of that debt — the amount of time it will take investors to recoup their money — was just eight years, because of its relatively high 8 per cent yield.

By contrast, the duration of Austria’s century bond is 44 years, meaning that many of the investors who buy it will be dead before their capital is repaid.

The trend is not restricted to sovereign debt; across global bond markets, average duration is at a record high.

Having rarely risen above five years in the decades before the financial crisis, average duration has been on a steep upward track in the past 10 years and recently reached seven years, according to figures from Bloomberg Barclays indices.

With large-scale bond buying by central banks having driven yields in many developed markets to record lows, sovereign issuers are taking the opportunity to fix their borrowing costs for longer periods.

Century debt is “very attractive for the Austrian taxpayer”, one of the bankers who worked on Tuesday’s deal said.

Ultra-long maturity fixed income investment is heavily influenced by small movements in interest rates; strong demand for long-dated debt suggests investors have muted expectations for future rate rises.

“Investors looking for yield cannot buy anything else over 50 years in length and so they are happy to extend their investment horizon to grab that extra yield,” the banker said.

This deal is not the first time Austria has tapped investor appetite for long-dated debt.

Last year it raised €2bn of debt with a 70-year maturity; it currently yields 1.94 per cent, up from 1.83 per cent since the announcement on Monday of the 100-year issuance.

Yields rise when prices fall.

Austria also raised €4bn in five-year debt on Tuesday, priced at -0.165 per cent. Eurozone interest rates are negative with the European Central Bank’s overnight deposit rate at -0.4 per cent. Austria is rated Aa1/AA+/AAA, with a stable outlook. NatWest Markets, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Erste Group, Société Générale and Goldman Sachs acted as bookrunners on the dual-tranche deal.