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Asia - Best sovereign borrower


Malaysia is by no means the most prolific or highest-profile Asian sovereign borrower. That honour goes to the Republic of the Philippines. But the Philippines gets deals away in spite of itself. There's hardly a transaction from the country that isn't surrounded by controversy and negative publicity. Such accusations cannot be aimed at Malaysia. As one head of debt says: "It's very different to the Philippines. While the Philippines has very much an emerging-market mindset and is still seemingly unsure about what it has to do, Malaysia is first class with a top-notch team led by a very efficient central bank governor, Dr Zeti."

An emerging-market mindset, according to bankers, means that a sovereign is unrealistic on funding levels, too aggressive on pricing and screws banks on fees. Several bankers name Thailand, which came to the market last month with a $300 million FRN, as another prime example of a sovereign with an emerging-market mentality. One banker says of Thailand: "It's unprofessional quite frankly."

The most common comment used about Malaysia is that it doesn't fund irrationally. Although if it wanted it could tap the market with easy regularity because of the confidence in its name, it refuses to do so.

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