Panda, the promise

Fil C. Sionil Fil C. Sionil

Tian Tian hogged the limelight Monday following the disclosure of Edinburg Zoo of its success in artificially inseminating the female giant panda after several failed attempts.

Tian Tian, from what I gathered, means Sweetie. The panda became one of the two national symbols of China. In 2008, the panda was the inspirational image of the five Fuwa mascots during the summer Olympics held in Beijing. The dragon is the other icon associated with China.

For the Philippines, Panda is the carrying name of its sovereign bond to be issued on April 23, coincidentally, a day before President Duterte leaves for Beijing to attend the “Belt and Road Summit.” This is the second Panda float of the government.

On the second Panda flotation, my conversation with Bank of China (BOC) Manila branch country head Deng Jun affirmed the volume issue is worth 3.5 billion renminbi in tenors, three and five years. The fund-raising activity forms part of its programmed P1.190-trillion borrowings for 2019, consisting of 75 percent domestic at P891.70 billion and 25 percent foreign at P298.3 billion.

China Development Bank’s bond (CDB) is the regarded benchmark for Panda bonds largely due to its three “natural advantages,” one of which is the liquidity. CDB is the most liquid type of bonds in the market and is widely accepted by investors during roadshows and book building process.

Just a bit of history, during the time of Finance Secretary Roberto F. de Ocampo, the national government was already considering diversifying the sovereign issues from the traditional Yankee and Samurai bonds to tap the regional market with the issuance of fixed-rate Dragon bonds. The country then was considered an emerging tiger economy, earning the finance chief the moniker “Tiger Bobby.” Although Dragon has always been associated with China, in 2005, Chinese Finance Minister Jen Ren Qing christened or changed the bond issuance to Panda. It’s more captivating since Panda, from afar, looks like a huggable bear. Makes a lot of difference.

Mr. Deng just warmed his seat after a 10-day trip going around strategic provinces of Mainland China accompanying the Philippine government team – National Treasurer Rosalie de Leon and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor for Monetary Stability Diwa Guingundo. BOC is the sole underwriter.

The Philippine team visited more than 10 local financial institutions in Suzhou, one of the richest cities; Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu; Hangzhou, capital of Zheijang; Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province; and Xiamen, where most of the Filipino Chinese originated. These are among the most advanced areas of the mainland.

The roadshow enhanced the understanding of Chinese investors on the society, economy, and culture of the Philippines. It was an opportunity for the Philippine team to “promote” the country, which, according to Mr. Deng was known to some as a good source of sweet mangoes that President Ferdinand Marcos gifted the Chinese Premier during a state visit in 1975.

With the country’s sustained economic growth, the response was positive. Both Band of China and the government team are enthusiastic that the overwhelming interest on the float will be translated into oversubscription.

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