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Amid Nuclear Taunts, Korean Bond Giant Turns to Swiss Franc Debt

(Bloomberg) -- South Korea’s biggest issuer of international bonds is looking to sell more debt in Swiss francs, part of a diversification drive as tensions on the Korean peninsula continue to percolate.

Export-Import Bank of Korea, a state-run lender to Korean shipbuilders selling vessels overseas and to firms engaged in natural resource development around the world, issued a 250 million franc ($256 million) note in June. That was its first in the Swiss currency in three years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The bank is interested in selling more franc-denominated debt this year, Treasurer Yoon Hee-sung said in an interview.

Swiss investors tend to “have their fingers on the pulse of North Korean nuclear issues,” Yoon said in his office in Seoul. “There’s a chance of selling bonds in the market when tensions around the Korean peninsula show signs of stabilization.”

The comments come amid the latest burst of rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington, with U.S. President Donald Trump responding to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s latest threats by saying that he has a “much bigger and more powerful” nuclear button. While dollar bonds remain Kexim’s main funding source, Yoon said that Swiss franc notes and also bonds denominated in Australian dollars are important for diversifying the investor pool.

Kexim sold bonds in twelve currencies other than U.S. dollars last year, even as issuance in the greenback made up about 70 percent of its total offshore note financing. It will likely stay at about that level in 2018, according to Yoon.

The treasurer also said that Kexim plans to resume efforts to sell Panda bonds in China and Samurai securities in Japan as part of steps to improve relations with both countries.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kyungji Cho in Seoul at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Monahan at, Emma O'Brien

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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