Government broadens borrowing base

The government's financing arm is wooing potential investors in Canada and the Middle East as it seeks to diversify its borrowing base.

The government's financing arm is wooing potential investors in Canada and the Middle East as it seeks to diversify its borrowing base.

The Australian Office of Financial Management said about two-thirds of its investor meetings in the 2012-13 financial year were with new contacts. The government agency revisited South America, a region it had not been to for some years.

The office said in its annual report that offshore demand for government debt remained strong, coming in at just under 70 per cent of all holdings at the end of the previous financial year.

Foreign investors continued to be drawn to the government's AAA-credit rating and stable outlook, coupled with the high yields relative to other sovereign debt.

Even so, non-resident holdings of bonds fell from a high of 78.3 per cent in March last year to 69.4 per cent this June, amid a low interest rate environment and as the Australian dollar weakened.

The strength of the Australian dollar compared to the yen earlier this year, a result of Japan's quantitative easing policy, also led to a pull-out by some Japanese investors between December and April, the office said.

"Given the relatively small decline in non-resident holdings of Australian government bonds over this period, it would suggest there was still considerable offshore buying from other regions, resulting in a take-up of much of the stock released to the secondary market from Japan," the agency said.

Nomura's Martin Whetton said the current Australian-Japanese exchange rate would be less of a barrier to new investments, "with the likely bottoming of policy rates in Australia and the intentions of Japanese investors to diversify their investments".

A total of $54 billion of gross Treasury bonds were issued in the 2012-13 year. Treasury indexed bonds totalled $2.25 billion.

The agency's funding task has risen for this year. It expects to raise $70 billion in gross terms for Treasury bonds, after an $8.8 billion grant to the RBA. With maturities of $23 billion, the net issuance for 2013-14 would amount to $47 billion.

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