March 20, 2019 / 7:30 AM / 3 months ago

Italy looks to issue Panda bond as Xi Jinping visits Rome

ROME, March 20 (Reuters) - Italy is looking to build on its economic and commercial ties with China by becoming the first Group of Seven major industrialised nation to borrow in the Chinese $12 trillion bond market.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to visit Rome this week and is expected to sign a preliminary accord with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, hooking Italy up to his giant Belt and Road infrastructure project.

More than 30 parallel deals are also in the pipeline, according to a source close to the matter.

Amongst these is a possible accord to let Italy’s state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) sell “Panda” bonds - debt sold by foreign entities to investors in mainland China - two sources familiar with negotiations told Reuters.

Such a deal would highlight the tentative moves being made Xi to remove barriers to foreign issuers as it seeks to internationalise its renminbi or yuan currency and open up sources of finance for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

CDP is controlled by the Economy and Finance Ministry with a stake of more than 80 percent.

“Between Friday and Saturday, CDP and Bank of China, along with the Economy Ministry perhaps, could sign a Memorandum of Understanding that, if finalised, would allow CDP to launch a programme of Panda bonds to co-finance Italian companies that invest in China,” one of the sources said.

The scheme would not apply to Chinese companies investing in Italy, sources added.

CDP and Italian gas company Snam are also expected to sign a deal with the Chinese fund Silk Road for cooperation on international investments in China and in the about 120 countries that have signed up for the BRI.

In 2018 Snam signed two agreements with China’s Beijing Gas and State grid international development, especially in the field of carbon emission reduction and gas storage.

State grid is a shareholder of Snam.

Leading Italian banks Unicredit, Intesa Sanpaolo and UBI should also sign accords while Italian energy giant ENI will secure a credit line with a Chinese bank, another three sources said.

Italian supplier of equipment to the metal industry Danieli will be signing a deal to build a steel plant in China that will then be transferred to a former-Soviet Union country, according to a source familiar with the matter.

China’s e-commerce group Suning, top shareholder of Italian soccer team Internazionale Milano, could announce further investment to purchase made in Italy goods, another source familiar with the matter said. (Reporting by Stefano Bernabei, additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes, Gianluca Semeraro, Andrea Mandala, Elvira Pollina, writing by Giselda Vagnoni)

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