Inalum sells US$4b in bonds to fund gold mine acquisition promised by Jokowi

JAKARTA – State mining holding company Inalum has sold US$4 billion (S$5.48 billion) in bonds to fund an acquisition of a majority stake in the Indonesian gold and copper mining unit of United States-based Freeport-McMoRan.

The deal would pave the way for President Joko Widodo to fulfil his pledge to gain a greater control of the nation’s natural resources, fanning nationalist sentiment as he gears up for next April’s election. The President is seeking a second and final five-year term in office.

The bonds were sold in four tranches: US$1 billion of three-year bonds at 5.5 per cent yield; US$1.25 billion, five-year at 6 per cent; US$1 billion, 10-year at 6.875 per cent; and US$750 million, 30-year at 7.375 per cent.

Bidders offered to buy about four times the amount on offer, a government official who was involved in the sale process told The Straits Times.

The fact that Inalum bonds were greatly oversubscribed and rallied in the secondary market immediately after the sale have indicated the initial bond sale offered overly attractive yields. The joint global coordinators for the bond sale are BNP Paribas, Citi, MUFG.

On Sept 27, the Indonesian government signed an agreement to acquire a majority stake in Freeport Indonesia, which runs one of the world’s largest gold and copper mines in Papua province.

The deal, a record acquisition in Indonesia, could be favourable for Mr Joko ahead of the legislative and presidential elections on April 17 next year.

Freeport entered Indonesia in 1960s, around the time of a change in leadership from first president Sukarno to Suharto.

It started developing the Grasberg mine in the early 1970s. Given the lack of infrastructure development, few industries and a cash-strapped government then, the contract with Freeport helped to improve the country’s economy.

But politicians and observers have increasingly been questioning the contract terms, seen as more favourable to the company than to Indonesia.

The Inalum bond sale – the biggest-ever dollar corporate security from a non-financial issuer in the country and among the largest in the Asian market this year, according to Bloomberg data – comes after Indonesian state oil company Pertamina managed to offload its US$750 million (S$1 billion) bond offering.

Bloomberg reported that the Asian dollar bond market that had been relatively quiet earlier in the week ahead of the US midterm elections, roared back to life on Thursday (Nov 8). There is also speculation that US-China trade tensions could ease.

“Risk appetite is better now that the uncertainty is out of the way after the midterm elections,” Bloomberg reported, citing Leo Hu, Singapore-based senior fund manager at NN Investment Partners.

He added: “The market is rallying in anticipation of the easing in trade tensions. We think ties between China and the US are warming up and there is a potential for a ceasefire.”

Sentiment towards emerging market debt has also improved because of expectations of gridlock in Washington – with Democrats now in control of the US House of Representatives – which is expected to curb the strengthening US dollar.

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