Moody’s downgrades Bahrain rating to B1

Bahrain’s government debt burden and debt affordability would deteriorate significantly over the coming two to three years, Moody’s said. (AFP)
Updated 29 July 2017
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Moody’s downgrades Bahrain rating to B1

DUBAI: Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the Bahrain’s long-term issuer rating to B1 from Ba2, and maintained its negative outlook for the country.
“The credit profile of the Bahraini government will continue to weaken materially in the coming years, predominantly because despite some fiscal reform efforts there is a lack of a clear and comprehensive consolidation strategy,” the credit ratings agency said in its rationale for the downgrade.
It also expected that Bahrain’s government debt burden and debt affordability would deteriorate significantly over the coming two to three years.
Moody’s also lowered Bahrain’s long-term foreign-currency bond ceiling to Ba2 from Baa3 and long-term foreign-currency deposit ceiling to B2 from Ba3.
The negative outlook reflects continued downside risks to the rating, which manifest themselves in heightened government and external liquidity risks, Moody’s said on Friday.
The ratings agency also noted that although the Gulf state has benefited from support its neighbors during previous periods of stress, such “support at this
juncture lacks clarity, both in its form and timeliness.”
Moody’s like added that while initial steps have been taken toward fiscal consolidation — including subsidy reforms for fuel and utility tariffs, the streamlining of government entities, increasing taxes, and targeting a cost recovery in the provision of government services — the country still lacks a clear and comprehensive fiscal strategy given difficult timing in introducing it.
As the country manages growing domestic political and social tensions that render difficult the introduction of unpopular fiscal measures, Moody’s said.
Bahrain’s dependence on debt funding to finance its large fiscal deficit, and considering its limited sovereign wealth fund assets it can draw on, Moody’s raised doubts if the country can return to more sustainable government debt levels.
Fiscal deficits would stay in double-digits in 2017 and 2018, and narrow only gradually over the following years, the ratings agency said.
Moody’s also on Friday downgraded Oman’s long-term issuer and senior unsecured bond ratings to Baa2 from Baa1, and changed the outlook to negative from stable, citing the country’s limited progress in addressing vulnerabilities to the weaker oil price environment.
Moody’s expects Oman to be continually reliant on oil for government revenues, at an average of 71 percent over coming the years.


Potential SABIC deal would affect Saudi Aramco IPO time frame, says CEO Nasser

Updated 33 min 59 sec ago
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Potential SABIC deal would affect Saudi Aramco IPO time frame, says CEO Nasser

JEDDAH: A potential deal to buy a stake in petrochemical maker SABIC would affect the time frame of Saudi Aramco's initial public offering (IPO), the oil firm's president and CEO Amin H. Nasser said Friday. 

The IPO of around 5 percent of Aramco, which was initially to take place this year but is now more likely to happen later, would be the world's biggest listing, raising up to $100 billion.

Nasser said that buying a stake in a chemical company like SABIC would positively affect Aramco's revenue, Al Arabiya reported.

“We are still in the very early stages of the discussion to buy a stake in SABIC,” the Aramco CEO said.

“Aramco is ready for the initial offer and the timing remains subject to the state's decision.”

Saudi Aramco said on Thursday it is looking at the possibility of buying a stake in SABIC, a move that could boost the state oil giant’s market valuation ahead of the planned IPO.
Aramco said in a statement that it was in “very early-stage discussions” with the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) to acquire the stake in SABIC via a private transaction. It has no plans to acquire any publicly held shares, it said.
In a separate statement, PIF also said talks about a sale were in early stages. “There is a possibility that no agreement will be reached in relation to this potential transaction,” it said.