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COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has raised its borrowing limit for dollar-denominated bonds to $3 billion and chosen seven lead managers to tap the international market as soon as possible, three government sources said on Tuesday.

The decision followed a delay in a pledged loan from Bank of China, the sources, who are familiar with the matter, told Reuters. If market conditions are conducive, the sovereign bond could be raised to $3 billion, they said.

The bonds would be in multiple tranches and the tenure would vary between five and 30 years, the sources said.

Sri Lanka is struggling to repay its foreign loans, with a record $5.9 billion due this year, including $2.6 billion in the first three months. The South Asian island nation used its reserves to repay a $1 billion sovereign bond loan in January.

Two sources said the cabinet had approved HSBC Limited, Standard Chartered Bank, J B Morgan Securities Plc, Deutsche Bank AG, Citigroup Global Markets Inc, SMBC Nikko Capital Markets Limited and BOCI Asia Ltd as joint managers for the bond issue.

They also said the cabinet had decided to delay a planned tranche of $500 million each of bonds denominated in renminbi and yen, known as "Panda" and "Samurai" bonds respectively.

A $300 million loan offered by Bank of China to Sri Lanka has faced delays due to long negotiations on the terms of conditions and Chinese New Year holidays.

The loan was originally expected to be finalised by end January, and another $700 million before end March.

The Finance Ministry is expected to resume negotiations with Bank of China on Wednesday, sources have told Reuters.

All three major rating agencies downgraded Sri Lanka's debt after President Maithripala Sirisena sacked his prime minister in October and replaced him with pro-China former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, though the decision was later reversed.

But the seven-week-long crisis hurt the rupee and drove sovereign bond yields higher, straining state finances.

Copyright Reuters, 2019