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Europe looks set for surge of high-grade big issues

High-grade credit

Eksportfinans' $750 million deal launched at the end of October marks the start of its campaign to establish a benchmark bond programme.

The Norwegian export credit agency is the latest Scandinavian issuer to tap the market in size, in a deal that was led by Nomura, UBS Warburg and Schroder Salomon Smith Barney.

The five-year bond has a coupon of 3.875%, and was well received, particularly among Asian central banks and European institutional investors. This was the agency's first true benchmark transaction, the first that was systematically planned and marketed, rather than launched opportunistically, and one that lead managers priced to clear on the first day, rather than trying to achieve a set funding level.

Other high-grade issuers in the region are moving in the same direction. It may be that not all can break into a market dominated by such issuers as KfW and Freddie Mac, though. Those that do so fastest have the best chance of success.

Søren Elbech, head of funding and investor relations, is determined to establish Eksportfinans firmly as a benchmark issuer in order to access new pools of investor demand and market the agency's name.

The bank's funding requirements have grown beyond what can comfortably be achieved in MTNs.

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