Colombian green, benchmark bonds likely this year, finance minister says

Colombia is looking to issue a green bond before the end of 2023, likely in dollars, and could tap traditional credit markets again this year if borrowing costs fall, Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo said on Friday.

He said the amounts were not set yet, but that the green bond would be smaller than a $2.2 billion benchmark issuance from his government earlier this year.

"We don't need more financing for 2023. Al 2023 amortizations are covered, and even part of next year's. We don't need it, but it could be convenient," he said in Washington on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings.

Ocampo said "when interest rates come down" would be a good time to market new bonds, likely in the second half of this year, aiming for yields to be below the 7.5% of the most recent issuance.

"We are thinking green and social bonds," he said, "we're working with the (Inter-American Development Bank) and the World Bank."


Ocampo said views that a pension reform proposed by the government could lower its ability to finance itself were "completely wrong," as any demand lost for local bonds from private pension funds would be absorbed by a new government pension fund.

Under the proposal, the government's fund will absorb contributions from up to three times the minimum wage, with workers earning more than that able to direct the rest to existing private funds.

The reform proposes that starting in 2025, 20% of contributions to the government pension fund will go to a savings fund that will increase that percentage progressively every 10 years.

Goldman Sachs said in a March report that the reform presented a significant fiscal risk for the government's local financing plan. Private pension funds are the largest holders of local public debt, with some $26 billion, or slightly more than 25% of the total.

Ocampo, rumored to be leaving the government of left-leaning President Gustavo Petro, said when asked about the duration of his time in office: "I have my public service leave from Columbia University until June of next year."



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