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June 30, 2020

Foreigners invest $66 million in Pakistan’s debt market in June

Business

June 30, 2020

KARACHI: Foreign funds have invested around $66 million in government securities in June without any outflows recorded during the month as they seem to remain undeterred despite exceptional rate cut within unprecedented shorter period, it was learnt on Monday.

Foreign funds invested $37.5 million in treasury bills and $28.1 million in Pakistan investment bonds, according to the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) latest data.

The robust inflows indicated of foreign investors’ intact interest in high-yielding debt market despite back-to-back rate cuts by the central bank over the past three months. Tahir Abbas, head of Research at Arif Habib Limited said foreigner investors sense that there is a less likelihood of further rupee depreciation.

“Indeed, they are betting on potential (rupee) appreciation… together with good returns that means a win-win situation.” The SBP brought interest rate cumulatively down by 625 basis points to seven percent since March 17 to boost economy amid the coronavirus crisis.

However, the rate is still one of highest across region. Pressure on rupee is expected to ease due to foreign loan commitments by multilateral financial institutions. Rupee lost an estimated 19 percent of its value against the US dollar since April last year.

The country has already received $1.5 billion from Asian Development Bank, World Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Together with an expected restoration of IMF’s loan program, the funding is expected to reinforce the foreign exchange reserves.

International Monetary Fund approved $6 billion of extended fund facility for Pakistan in July last year. But, it stalled program in March due to uncertain economic fallout of the coronavirus lockdown.

The SBP’s data showed that foreign funds invested $3.7 billion in treasury bills and $119.9 million in Pakistan investment bonds between July 2019 and June 2020. Outflows from treasury bills amounted to $3.1 billion and foreign funds divested $45.4 million from bonds.

Major inflows in treasury bills, during the fiscal year, came from UK ($2.6 billion), followed by USA ($893 million) and UAE ($109.4 million).

The government intends to attract portfolio investment to increase foreign exchange reserves and develop debt and foreign exchange market. It relaxed taxation on investment in the government securities by non-resident companies that have no permanent business in Pakistan. Withholding tax on investment in treasury bills was significantly reduced to 10 percent from 30 percent. It amended Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 to simply the tax structure and process for non-resident investing in debt instruments and government securities, which would help deepen the capital market, generate greater interest in the longer-dated government securities, and reduce the cost of debt for the government.