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Portugal debt swap prepares for 2014 bailout exit

Published on 02/12/2013

Bailed-out Portugal announced a sovereign debt swap on Monday in a move intended to help prepare the country for the end of its EU-IMF rescue programme set for next year.

Portugal is slated to exit its programme in June when the recession hit country will be expected to raise financing alone on the markets and no longer through rescue loans.

In an effort to ease the initial burden, Portugal’s debt agency said it would swap debt coming to maturity in 2014 and 2015 in exchange for debt paper coming due in 2017 and 2018 instead.

There is widespread scepticism that Portugal will be able to survive alone on the financial markets with speculation rife among investors that Lisbon will need some sort of extension to its bailout programme.

The ruling centre-right coalition denies this and asserts that the debt swaps and an austerity budget passed last week will allow Portugal to face its financial future without further help.

Portugal secured a 78-billion-euro ($104 billion) economic bailout by the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank in May 2011.

As a condition of the rescue, Lisbon has had to enact a series of austerity reforms that have sparked street protests and pushed the government to the verge of collapse.

Austerity is blamed by some analysts for deepening the recession and pushing up the unemployment rate, which hit a record 17.7 percent in the first quarter of this year.

In October 2012, Portugal offered a first debt swap programme and in May sold its first long-term debt bond, though the operation was largely a test and at a minimised risk to investors.