Bank of America stays long Tunisian government bonds on IMF optimism

Tunisia officially asked the IMF for a new financing program, the lender said

Rooftops in Tunis. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Rooftops in Tunis. Image used for illustrative purpose.

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LONDON: Bank of America’s favorite government bond trade in the Middle East and North Africa is to buy Tunisian external sovereign debt on the expectation that prices could rise if the nation agrees a program with the International Monetary Fund.

Should a deal with the IMF be struck, the yield spread on Tunisia’s 25-year dollar bond could tighten toward where Egypt’s equivalent-maturity debt is currently trading, Ali Dhaloomal, a credit research analyst at Bank of America, wrote in a research report.

“Even after the recent rally, we think spreads could narrow further on a successful IMF program agreement,” Dhaloomal wrote. “Authorities’ discussions with unions on reforms is positive, as well as the renewed engagement with the IMF scheduled for May.”

Tunisia officially asked the IMF for a new financing program, the lender said on Sunday. Tunisia needs to “tackle decisively” the issue of public finances and debt and a restructuring of subsidies, public firms and the public wage bill, the IMF said.

Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi is scheduled to travel to Washington on May 3 to hold talks with IMF officials.

Tunisia reported a fiscal deficit of 11.5 percent of GDP in 2020, the biggest gap in nearly 40 years as the coronavirus pandemic tore through the economy. In 2020, the country agreed a $750 million emergency loan with the IMF.

Bank of America has closed its position in Omani bonds after seeing spreads narrow, Dhaloomal said.

“We acknowledge positive steps taken by Omani authorities, but the next stage of reforms is likely to be more difficult, which could prevent further outperformance,” he said. “We are also somewhat concerned that positioning has become more crowded in the credit.”

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