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The golden mandate

The volume and sophistication of Poland’s debt strategy last year made it the golden mandate for emerging-market debt teams. And they’ll be chasing Poland hard in 2003. But could its public debt prove too large even for this masterful finance ministry to handle?

IN THE LATE 1990s, when the EU accession programme was laid out for 10 eastern and central European countries, Hungary soon established itself as the hot issuer. In terms of volume and sophistication it was the leading borrower among the accession states and so the most sought after client for investment bank mandate hunters.

However, Hungary has not been to the foreign-currency bond market for two years and Poland has now established itself as the new leader. As Peter Malik, head of emerging market syndication at CSFB, says: "Poland has picked up Hungary's mantle. It's easily the most interesting issuer in terms of issuance volume and sophistication."

Poland has a big public debt and hence big financing needs. This, combined with the expertise of its treasury team, means lots of interesting and large issues. In the past 12 months, for example, the sovereign has undertaken a Paris Club debt buy-back from Brazil, has called much of its Brady debt and has issued around e3 billion in bonds, denominated in dollars, euros and sterling.

Its financing needs are slightly bigger for 2003 - the government could issue as much as Zl23 billion ($6 billion) next year, though the treasury says it plans to issue closer to Zl11.6