Serbia Asks For IMF Help Amid Bond-Market Squeeze

Serbia has started discussions with the International Monetary Fund to receive financial assistance as the southeastern European country faces soaring borrowing costs on international bond markets, WSJ Pro Bankruptcy reported. Officials in Belgrade are currently in talks to receive a so-called stand-by arrangement, a financial lifeline to help manage balance of payments imbalances for a short period, usually less than two years. Serbia has around $19 billion in external debt and its foreign debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to reach 33% by the end of 2022, compared with 17% on average for similarly rated governments, according to Fitch Ratings. “The authorities in Serbia have expressed interest in a program with the IMF and we’re following that up and holding discussions with the government to discuss financing needs and the appropriate policy response,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said on Thursday. The IMF didn’t provide any further detail on the size or scope of the potential program, which comes as Serbia’s cost of borrowing from bond markets has increased from under 2% as of last year to just shy of 7%, according to Refinitiv. Risk premiums are rising for emerging economies worldwide, reflecting the impact of rising interest rates in the U.S. and Europe and growing concern about high debt levels in frontier markets. Read more.