Drastic firming of Swiss franc to forint causes some local councils concern

MNB

The Swiss franc's sharp firming against the forint has been a cause for concern among Hungary's local governments because some have taken out loans or issued bonds denominated in the currency. MTI's local correspondents asked officials in some of the country's biggest municipalities about the makeup of their debt to give readers a broader view of the situation.

The local government of Pest County has HUF 17.8 billion of debt, including more than HUF 10 billion in bonds, said press chief Andras Ambrus. The county's working capital loans come to HUF 4.3 billion, he added.

The county issued a little less than HUF 3 billion of Swiss franc-based bonds in July 2007. Now the stock of Phoenixis Comitatus bonds is HUF 4.9 billion.

Repayment of principal on the bonds, which run until 2027, was due to start in June 2010, but the county could not make the first installment because of financial difficulties, nor could it pay an installment due on March 31 of this year.

The city of Erd has HUF 11.9 billion of debt, giving it a debt-to-revenue ratio of 74%, local council spokesman Zsolt Arato told MTI. The city issued HUF 7.9 billion of 20-year Swiss franc-based bonds in 2007 and 2008. It also issued a short-term forint-based paper of HUF 1.24 billion.

Repayment of principal on the CHF bonds will start in 2012 and 2013.

The local government of Debrecen's stock of debt is HUF 23.5 billion, of which HUF 17.8 billion is in Swiss franc-based loans, the mayor's office told MTI. The city has no outstanding bonds.

The city of Nyiregyhaza's debt reached more than HUF 18.5 billion at the end of June. The stock included HUF 10.6 billion of bonds and HUF 5.1 billion of working capital loans.

Deputy mayor Eva Rudolf Halko told MTI that the entire stock of bonds is denominated in Swiss francs. OTP Bank subscribed CHF 27m of the bonds in 2007 and CIB Bank bought CHF 22m in 2008. The city raised HUF 7.6 billion from the issue at the time, she added.

The municipality started repaying the principal on the bonds subscribed by OTP Bank last year and repaid CHF 1.4m before asking for a moratorium in 2011. The bank extended the grace period until 2012 and pushed back the maturity of the bond from 2019 to 2025.

Neither Gyor-Moson-Sopron county, nor the city of Gyor has Swiss franc-denominated loans, local officials told MTI.

The county has not issued any bonds and its debt-to-revenue ratio is 11.5%. It has no principal repayment obligations for the moment, only interest repayment, and no plans to reschedule its debts.

The city of Gyor has no bond repayment obligations. It has The three credit lines for investments that amount to a combined HUF 10.1 billion, of which HUF 7.1 billion was drawn down by the end of June, deputy mayor Robert Balazs Simon said.

He said the city's debt-to-revenue ratio is 11.96%. "Loan repayments are not creating any liquidity problems for the city," the deputy mayor said, adding that the city does not plan to reschedule its debt.

The Sopron municipality's budget scheme until 2014 reveals that the city of 60,000 projects revenue of HUF 23.6 billion for this year. Sopron has loans of HUF 2.95 billion and outstanding bonds of HUF 13.8 billion. This year, it will pay HUF 2 billion in principal and about HUF 1 billion in interest.

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