Hutchison Whampoa is selling one billion euros (HK$8.89 billion) worth of 10-year fixed coupon bonds. It is the first euro bond to be issued by the company since 1999. A Hutchison spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that HSBC had been designated as the sole bookrunner for the bond sale. 'The proceeds will be used to retire some of our maturing debts and as general working capital,' the spokeswoman said. A banking source said the initial price guidance of the 10-year euro bond had been set at 195 to 200 basis points above the standard reference rate for euro-denominated borrowing, implying an effective interest rate of nearly 6 per cent. The company has about US$8.7 billion of debt due this year and next, according to a Reuters report citing Lloyd Ong, a Singapore-based associated director of credit research at Barclays Capital. News of the bond issue came just before a company announcement that it expected Hong Kong third-generation (3G) mobile services would be launched next month. Hutchison had originally indicated it would launch its Hong Kong 3G services in the first quarter. It experienced problems in the roll-out of 3G services worldwide due to handset and technological problems. It blamed the Hong Kong delay on a handset shortage stemming from 'overwhelming consumer response [to 3G services] in Europe and Australia'. Meanwhile, credit rating agency Standard & Poor's yesterday reaffirmed its A-minus rating for the proposed bond issue. 'The strengths are somewhat offset by the prospects for weaker financial performance and higher operating risk over the next few years as Hutchison Whampoa enters into the relatively untested 3G telecoms market,' the agency said.