Citibank to buy PetroCaribe Debt – Report

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Reports out of Italy say Jamaica has hired Citigroup to manage a possible buy-back of its Petrocaribe debt.

The report appeared in the “Finance with Bloomberg” section of the Italian daily newspaper, La Repubblica.

Citigroup is an American multinational banking and financial services corporation headquartered in Manhattan, New York.

But Jamaican officials have declined to confirm or deny the report.

Finance Minister Dr. Peter Phillips is currently leading a Jamaican delegation on an Investors Road Show in the United States, London, Germany and Amsterdam.

A statement from the Finance Ministry says Dr. Phillips will engage in a series of meetings with financial institutions.

However, the statement does not specifically mention PetroCaribe.

Senior Deputy Governor at the Bank of Jamaica, John Robinson, told Nationwide News today that he does not have definitive information to confirm or deny whether Citigroup has indeed been hired to manage the PetroCaribe debt deal.

He says whatever the government is considering is being arranged in “a very confidential way”, and that he is “not in that loop”.

BOJ Governor Brian Wynter is away on the Road Show with Dr. Phillips.

Opposition spokesman on Finance, Audley Shaw, says if indeed Citigroup has been brought on, it’s a clear indication that the government is looking to the international capital markets to fund the deal.

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The Repubblica article quotes a source familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified.

The source says there is no specific plan for an offering just yet, but that Jamaica has hired Citigroup to arrange a series of meetings with investors beginning June 16.

Jamaica’s debt under PetroCaribe is just under 3-billion US dollars.

The country may be able to buy back the debt for about half that cost, if its able to negotiate a deal with Venezuela similar to the deal done with the Dominican Republic earlier this year.

However, Shaw has cautioned against going to the international capital markets to raise the funds for the buy-back.

He says Jamaica will end up paying 10-billion dollars more per year than if they get the money from a multilateral like the World Bank.

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Shaw says those funds could be used to offer public sector workers a 10-percent salary increase in year one alone.

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