(Bloomberg) -- Panama is tapping international bond markets for the first time since September, looking to raise capital ahead of any volatility tied to a presidential election in May. 

The Central American nation is selling dollar bonds due in 2031, 2038 and 2057, according to a preliminary prospectus dated Tuesday. The offer comes just months before the pivotal vote and after widespread protests forced an economically important copper mine to shut down, prompting Fitch Ratings to warn about slowing growth. 

Government officials began meeting with investors Tuesday and a sale may come as early as Wednesday, according to people familiar with the matter, asking not to be identified because the talks are private.

“It will be smart for the country to get all their funding needs done for the year now ahead of the elections,” said Guido Chamorro, co-head of emerging-market hard-currency debt at Pictet Asset Management in London. “Investors are quite concerned due to well-flagged risks, and it’s going to take them a leap of faith.”

The unease has been reflected in the debt market, with Panama’s dollar notes due in 2036 handing investors a 6.9% loss over the past year. That’s compared to a 9.1% gain for the benchmark index for developing-nation governments over the same period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 

The bonds fell as much as 1.2 cents on Tuesday to about 93 cents, the lowest since 2009, according to indicative price data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Panama has been an underperformer on the back of issues with the mine closure, the economic impact it could have, and a deteriorating fiscal position,” said William Snead, an analyst at Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA in New York. 

Adding to the uncertainty, the frontrunner in the May vote, Ricardo Martinelli, has been charged with money laundering and granted asylum in Nicaragua. President from 2009 to 2014, Martinelli is waiting for a ruling from the nation’s electoral body on whether he will be allowed to run. The supreme court recently upheld a money laundering jail sentence against him.

Read More: Panama Election Poll Shows Most Undecided If Martinelli Barred

Proceeds of the debt sale will be used for general budgetary purposes, and Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are handling the offering, according to the early prospectus. 

--With assistance from Zijia Song.

(Updates with details on timing in third paragraph, analyst commentary starting in fourth.)

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