Conor O’Kelly said Irish bond yields had weathered the recent crisis over Greece and that the State was now, in the eyes of international debt markets, moving toward being considered a core-European country in respect of its creditworthiness.
Speaking with Finance Minister Michael Noonan at a media event marking a review of the agency, Mr O’Kelly said the NTMA had already raised the bulk of the State’s funding needs this year, and had raised or refinanced debt from markets “at double the maturity of last year and at half the yield”. He said improvement in markets had been assisted by the ECB-driven quantitative easing programme.
The “big marquee” event was the €18bn early repayment to the IMF of most of its bailout loans, which had led to the State saving €1.5bn in costs over the lifetime of the loans. He said the €18bn repayment and hedging costs associated with the transaction had been settled on the same day, with “no fails” or “hiccups” in the agency’s back-office operations.
He said the NTMA was already looking at the State’s “debt profiles” in 2018 and 2019 and 2020, when a large amount of bonds mature. The NTMA was seeking to smooth out that refinancing profile by possibly offering investors opportunities to switch into other bond maturities.
Mr Noonan said the State’s debt was falling rapidly. After peaking at 123% of GDP, he said he hoped to bring it to, or below, the 100% level in 2016. Cashing in on the State’s banking assets points the way to lowering that debt load even further, Mr Noonan said.