In a great conversation with a fellow long-time Mongolia watcher, we were contemplating what to call a ¥-denominated Mongolian bond.
This follows Prime Minister Altankhuyag’s trip to Japan last week. It appears that a ¥-denominated Mongolian bond with a volume of around US$1b will be issued later this year. Press reports are referring to this as a samurai bond, thus using the term that is generally applied to non-Japanese debt issued in Yen. This is in contrast to a sushi bond, for example, which is issued by a Japanese borrower in a currency other than the Yen outside of Japan. So, by common usage, the Mongolian bond would be known as a samurai bond.
In our conversation we were pretty sure, however, that this bond ought to have a special name, just like last year’s US$-denominated Mongolian bond that came to be known as a Chinggis Bond.
Some of the options we considered:
Continuing the Chinggis theme: Kublai Bond. Giving more attention to Kublai Khaan would have the additional advantage of reminding Chinese investors that the Yuan Dynasty was founded by this Mongolian. But, there’s no link to Japan in this name – other than via the attempted invasions (see below) – which seems like a missed opportunity. Also, if Mongolia were to ever issue a RMB-denominated bond, this should really be known as Kublai Bond.
Emphasizing the Japan link: Kamikaze Bond. 神風 was the ‘divine wind’ that saved Japan from Mongol invasions (under Kublai Khaan) in 1274 and 1281. But, these bonds are intended to save Mongolia from its budget crisis (more on that and the wisdom of this bond issue in future posts), not Japan, so that’s not quite right either. Also, the obvious association with the ‘special attack units’ of the Asia Pacific war makes this unattractive as a name.
So, the clear solution came to us:
Yen-denominated Mongolian bonds henceforth shall be known as Sumo Bonds. Sumo here stands for Japanese-Mongolian ties, of course and carries a notion of Mongolian strength when wrestlers arrive in Japan. All recent top wresters have been Mongolian of course. Sumo bond is easily pronounced and will mean something to bond traders in far-flung places as well.
Since sending the first tweet about this proposal, I’ve had two nominations for Yokozuna Bond instead of Sumo Bond. That suits me in principle, but “Sumo” as a term is much more well-known around the world then Yokozuna. [横綱 being the title for the highest rank in Sumo of which there are a maximum of four at a time, but haven’t been more than two in some time, I think. The two current Yokozuna, Hakuho and Harumafuji (both currently fighting in the September tournament) are both Mongolian and were immediately preceded by Asashoryu, also Mongolian. The last Japanese yokozuna was Takanohana who retired in 2003.]
Work with me here on establishing “sumo bond”, use the term, first in quotation marks than without if you are a financial reporter or analyst.
If the term catches, I will trademark it and donate the receipts from my trademark income to a Mongolia-focused charity.
For some notes about sumo wrestlers’ role in Mongolian politics, see my post for the FT’s beyond BRICS blog, “Mongolian Politics – A Wrestling Match“
Another alternative name could have been Bold Bond in honour of foreign minister Lu Bold. Nicely punny, but he will likely no longer be foreign minister when the next bond issue rolls around.
It appears that the Development Bank of Mongolia is considering Ögodei Bond for the Yen-denominated bond issue. Hm… The whole Chinggis family thing is always good, but Ögedei (third son and successor to Chinggis) had nothing to do with Japan or did he?
Looking past the bond name, it occurs to me that perhaps Mongolia ought to stick with revenue bonds for their next debt issue. That would ensure some forward planning, clear commitments and expectations, and more accountability for the success of meaningful infrastructure development with real economic returns. When the government demonstrates their responsible use of the funds, then their subsequent debt issue should be better received by the market. How about that?