March 6, 2019 / 9:27 AM / 16 days ago

UPDATE 1-Zambia plans to swap Chinese debt from dollars to yuan - minister

(Adds details, debt figures)

LUSAKA, March 6 (Reuters) - Zambia plans to swap its Chinese debt from dollars to yuan in a bid to ease pressure on foreign reserves, Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe said on Wednesday.

Zambia’s total external debt at the end of 2018 was $9.7 billion, including $3.1 billion owed to China.

“Our intention is to swap the dollar into yuan so that we can try to somewhat mitigate exposure to the dollar,” Mwanakatwe told journalists.

Discussions with China on the planned debt swap were likely to be held in late March, she added.

China was the largest importer of copper from Zambia, and the planned debt swap could benefit both countries, the minister said.

“It makes sense to see how best we can take advantage of this kwacha-yuan position,” Mwanakatwe said.

Debt servicing costs are putting pressure on Zambia’s central bank reserves, Bank of Zambia Governor Denny Kalyalya said during a monetary policy committee briefing last month. (Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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