Debt prepayments encouraged by strong peso

Gov’t, private borrowers retired $1.84B last year


09:33 PM February 28th, 2013

By: Michelle V. Remo, February 28th, 2013 09:33 PM

Philippine borrowers prepaid more debts to foreign creditors last year, taking advantage of the stronger peso that made dollar-denominated borrowings cheaper.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, prepayment of debts owed to foreign creditors is a prudent exercise in times of significant appreciation of the peso. Such a move benefits not only the borrowers but the economy as well, it said.

Data from the BSP showed that government and private entities in the country last year paid $1.84 billion worth of foreign currency-denominated debts ahead of their maturity dates. The amount was higher by 17 percent than the $1.57 billion worth of prepayments done in 2011.

The BSP said significant liquidity among borrowers allowed them to prepay debts.

Data further showed that of the total foreign currency-denominated debts prepaid last year, the bigger share of $1.2 billion was accounted for by liabilities settled by private firms. This was down by about 12 percent from $1.36 billion the previous year.

The decline was attributed partly to substantial prepayments already done by the private sector in previous years.

The government sector accounted for $641.2 million of the total external debts prepaid last year, more than tripling the $201.6 million recorded in 2011.

The surge in prepayments by the government came amid prodding by the BSP.

The central bank said the prepayment of foreign currency-denominated debts during a time of an appreciating peso helps borrowers save on debt settlement costs. It also said settling these debts in advance will help temper the significant appreciation pressures on the peso.

The strengthening of the local currency had elicited complaints among exporters, who said the peso’s movement was hurting competitiveness of Philippine exports.

Market players, however, said the peso could have been even stronger if not for several measures by the BSP to temper its rise. Besides encouraging government and private entities to prepay external debts, the BSP likewise was buying dollars from the market to avoid an even sharper and more sudden rise.

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