Brazilian FIG: wind has gone out of international sales

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By:
Rob Dwyer
Published on:

Lower local rates have increased price and increased demand onshore.

International financial institutions group (FIG) bankers active in Latin America hope that renewed GDP growth in Brazil in 2020 will lead to an increase in bond issuance from banks in the country.

So far, 2019 has been a very quiet year for FIG issuance, as low growth has combined with lower costs of financing in the local market to suppress demand.

“The local market’s development has been hard to counter,” says one leading FIG banker at the IMF/World Bank meetings. “Local markets now offer the tenor and pricing that until recently was only found in the international markets.”

Both Itaú and Bradesco have issued additonal tier-1 capital deals in the local market (local currency) in the last 12 months – transactions usually reserved for international investors.

“They have found the appetite for 10-year regulatory-driven debt deals in the local markets, and with rates where they are it is much cheaper to tap that liquidity than issue abroad and swap the dollars back into reais,” notes another FIG banker, adding that the “sales pitch” about diversifying the investor pitch by going off-shore is falling on deaf ears: “I tell the banks that they are too concentrated in Brazil and they need to maintain their offshore investors, but they reply it’s too expensive. 

"Also, they know the main investors in this type of paper, so they have been going direct and doing private placements if that fits in the funding strategy.”

Optimism

Data from Dealogic show issuance from financial institutions is slowing across the region. In 2018, there was $24.1 billion of issuance from 152 deals; 2019 year-to-date is below this run-rate, with $18.6 billion from 75 deals.

However, the renewed economic growth forecast in the coming year – combined with greater competition in the banking market driven by the central bank and the withdrawal of the public-sector bank – provides optimism that activity will pick up.

Bankers also say that at some point lower domestic rates should help banks’ broader fixed-income revenues as banks, asset managers and insurance companies seek returns from short-term liquidity that is still largely offshore.

“They are going to have to start to look for something different,” says one. “They still make a lot of money on local overnight products, but I am confident that international instruments for daily liquidity will grow and we can offer structured products that offer exposure to treasuries and FX. We have even been having a lot of discussions about how they might take exposure to international trade finance.”