The EU makes market history with record demand for its 'social' bonds


European Commissioner Johannes Hahn

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LONDON —The European Union has made a historic debut on the bond markets as it looks to fund the region’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

The bloc was after 17 billion euros ($20.15 billion) in the bond market on Tuesday to fund its coronavirus-related unemployment scheme, known as SURE. However, the demand from investors was well above that amount, reaching 233 billion euros ($276 billion) — which it said was a record orderbook and the largest supranational transaction ever launched.

“With this operation, the European Commission has made a first step towards entering the major league in global debt capital markets. It is the highest amount ever borrowed in the history of the EU,” European Commission Johannes Hahn, in charge of the bond sale, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The milestone was important for the EU as it gears up to become one of the region’s biggest borrowers alongside individual countries such as France and Italy.

In the wake of the pandemic, the political bloc has agreed to tap the markets to fund investments and projects to revive the economy.

The 17 billion euros were split over 10 billion euros, due in 10 years, and 7 billion euros, due in 20 years. The demand for the 10-year note reached 145 billion euros and it was over 88 billion euros for the 20-year paper.

The yield on the 10-year bond closed at -0.238% and it was 0.131% on the 20-year note. Yields move inversely to prices.

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Both represent higher returns in comparison with the German sovereign bund, which is seen as a benchmark in Europe by bond traders.

“The strong investor interest and the favourable conditions under which the bond was placed are further proof of the new-found interest in EU bonds,” Hahn said.

He added that the “social” character of the bond sale helped attracting demand as more investors look to put their money in areas deemed more sustainable.

ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) is a growing trend in financial markets, where investors look to allocate their funds to companies and borrowers that serve one or more of these purposes.



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