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Australia's CBA launches first bond issue since money-laundering scandal

[SYDNEY] Commonwealth Bank of Australia has launched a bond issue in the United States on Wednesday, in what will be a test of support for Australia's largest lender caught in a money-laundering scandal.

The bond issue is expected to total well over US$1 billion, and will be divided into three parts maturing in three, five and ten years, according to an emailed statement by the bank.

The bank had met investors last week to gauge support for the capital raising amid questions over whether the scandal would impact its ability to raise debt.

"Recent investor discussions have been very constructive and the overall view of investors is that our credit quality remains high," CBA Group Treasurer Paolo Tonucci said in a statement.

"Investors are very confident in our credit profile and are happy to invest in our securities. The addition of a ten year maturity reflects this confidence," Mr Tonucci said.

The bank is offering about 112.5 basis points over US Treasuries for the 10-year fixed bond issue, while the five-year and three-year tranches offer about 90 basis points and 75 basis points over Treasuries, respectively.

The deal is expected to price on Wednesday afternoon in New York.

CBA is being sued by Australia's financial intelligence body, Austrac, over alleged widespread breaches of anti-money and counter terrorism financing laws, and is also facing separate investigations by two regulatory bodies and a potential class action.

CBA's shares have shed A$14.3 billion (S$15.45 billion), or 9 per cent, of their market value since the Austrac case was lodged.

It has blamed a coding error for most of the suspicious transactions and plans to defend itself in court.