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Portugal eyes quick return to debt market

Portugal’s prime minister said Thursday the country would soon announce measures about its return to medium- and long-term bond markets amid reports the bailed-out eurozone nation might tap banks for a five-year syndicated loan.

“We will announce very soon measures necessary in order to realise this return to the markets,” Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said in Paris after French President Francois Hollande voiced confidence that Portugal would succeed in tapping markets this year.

The prime minister’s optimism comes on the heals of a successful sale of short-term debt on Wednesday.

Portugal placed one billion euros ($1.33 billion) of 18-month bills at a rate of return to investors of 1.963 percent, considerably below the 2012 inflation rate of 2.8 percent.

Portugal has been shut out of medium- and long-term debt markets since it received a 78-billion-euro bailout in May 2011 from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, but is due to try to regain access this year.

“We will seek to make long-term bond placements and obtain from our partners the support necessary in order to make the return to the markets a success,” said Passos Coelho.

According to a Portuguese government source in Lisbon, the first operation will take place “as soon as possible” as a return to the medium- and long-term debt market is needed to benefit from a programme the European Central Bank has announced to buy debt of eurozone states successfully implementing bailout plans.

The ECB has yet to purchase debt under its so-called OMT programme, which would boost investor confidence they could sell bonds issued by eurozone states struggling to cut deficits and debt.

The Portuguese business daily Diario Economico reported Thursday that the country might try in the coming days to raise five billion euros via a syndicated bank loan.

Such an operation, which consists of borrowing from a group of banks selected in advance who then try to sell the loans to investors, would be an important gauge of market interest in medium-term Portuguese debt.