Diego J. Perez

Sovereign Debt Maturity Structure Under Asymmetric Information

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This paper studies the optimal choice of sovereign debt maturity when investors are unaware of the government’s willingness to repay. Under a pooling equilibrium there is a wedge between the borrower’s true default risk and the default risk priced in debt, and the size of this wedge differs with the maturity of debt. Long-term debt becomes less attractive for safe borrowers since it pools more default risk that is not inherent to them. In response, safe borrowers issue low levels of debt with a shorter maturity profile -relative to the optimal choice under perfect information- and risky borrowers mimic the behavior of safe borrowers to preclude the market from identifying their type. In times of financial distress, the default risk wedge of long-term debt relative to short-term debt increases which makes borrowers reduce the amount of debt issuance and shorten its maturity profile, a fact that is observed among emerging economies. Under this framework, debt buybacks can be optimal when there is an overestimation of the country’s risk perception in the market that was not present when long-term debt decisions were made.