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Latin America - Best sovereign borrower

Panama

Panama could be considered the anti-Mexico. Both are stable Latin American countries with strong currencies (Panama is dollarized) but their borrowing strategies couldn't be further apart. Mexico, Euromoney's best sovereign borrower this year, is a huge issuer that likes to set big benchmarks and make big, splashy announcements in the market, like being the first country to include collective action clauses in its bonds, or being the first to retire its Brady debt.

Panama, on the other hand, is small and much more discreet. It has a quiet debt team, led by vice-minister of the economy Domingo Latorraca, which is highly professional and gets the job done with a maximum of efficiency and a minimum of political noise. The government is clear about what its foreign debt issuance goals are and it sticks to them: it won't do an opportunistic deal if that isn't in the game plan. At the same time, however, it's very sensitive to market conditions.

When the market was extremely rough in July 2002, for instance, Panama wanted to raise $250 million in order to complete its financing needs for the year. But investors - many of which were extremely worried about the forthcoming Brazilian elections - were nervous, and Panama was completely sanguine about downsizing the deal.

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