Illinois Pays More Than Mexico as Cash-Strapped States Sell Bonds Overseas

William Selway

Illinois capital-markets director John Sinsheimer and Citigroup Inc. bankers took a globe-girdling trip from the U.K. to China in June to persuade investors that the state’s $900 million of Build America Bonds were a bargain.

The seven-country visit worked. The state sold one-fifth of the federally subsidized securities abroad the next month, tapping investors who are the fastest-growing source of borrowed cash for U.S. municipalities. Illinois, with the lowest credit rating of any state from Moody’s Investors Service, dangled yields higher than Mexico, which defaulted on debt in 1982, and Portugal, which costs more to insure against missed payments.

“U.S. states are among the cheapest sovereign credits in the world,” said Patrick Brett, a Citigroup banker who marketed the Illinois securities overseas. “You’re actually picking up a good amount of spread for arguably better credits relative to equivalently rated corporates and sovereigns.”

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