CARACAS Venezuela has issued $5 billion in bonds maturing in 2036 to a state-owned bank, a source familiar with the situation said on Monday, in an unorthodox operation that does not immediately bring in new funds for the cash-strapped OPEC nation.
State-run Banco de Venezuela bought the dollar-denominated notes in local currency at a heavily subsidized exchange rate of 10 bolivars per dollar, according to the source, meaning there was no net increase in hard currency for state coffers.
Struggling under triple-digit inflation, Soviet-style product shortages and low oil prices, the OPEC nation needs hard currency to boost imports of food and medicine.
The government of President Nicolas Maduro has struggled to borrow abroad because of investor concern that the country could default, which has made borrowing exceptionally expensive.
Maduro says his government is the victim of an international financial blockade and blames the country's problems on an "economic war" led by political adversaries. He says talk of default is a smear campaign against him.
The operation was underwritten by China's Haitong Securities, according to two bond traders who had seen preliminary details of the issue. It was Venezuela's first sovereign issue since 2011.
An official at the Finance Ministry, which coordinates the country's sovereign bond issues and oversees Banco de Venezuela, said there was no one available to comment.
A central bank official said she had seen no evidence of the operation taking place.
Banco de Venezuela could sell the notes on the international market, though the total issue would only fetch around $2 billion due to the heavy discounts on Venezuela bonds.
Venezuela's dollar-denominated 2038 bond issue prices near 43 percent of face value, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The country's exchange control system sells dollars at 10 bolivars for preferential goods such as food and medicine and for 672 bolivars for other items. Dollars on the black market currently fetch close to 3,200 bolivars.
(Additional reporting by Corina Pons; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Andrea Ricci)