An Argentine province is doing its part to take the country further away from the debilitating crisis that peaked in 2002. Energy rich Neuquen plans to price this Wednesday a $125 million, eight-year transaction backed by oil royalties, the first deal collateralizing onshore Argentine assets to be sold abroad since the government's catastrophic devaluation of early 2002.

Apart from contending with lingering Argentine stigma, the transaction is also a sub-investment grade BB-' from Standard & Poor's, a point unlikely to endear it to traditional structured finance investors with a taste for higher-rated paper. But sole lead Citigroup has, over the last couple of years, been lead- and co-arranging paper from high yield Argentine names like brewery Cerveceria y Malteria Quilmes, Pan American Energy and Banco Hipotecario, indicating the bank knows where to go to place sub-investment grade paper from the country. The roadshow was in Europe and New York last week, according to a spokeswoman for the province.

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