Saudi Arabia could issue $20bn of bonds in regional debt boom, predicts US bank

Gulf states are expected to embark on a debt-raising spree in 2018, with Saudi Arabia taking the lion’s share of issuance that could top $50 billion. (Saudi Aramco)
Updated 07 January 2018

Saudi Arabia could issue $20bn of bonds in regional debt boom, predicts US bank

DUBAI: Gulf states are expected to embark on a debt-raising spree in 2018, with Saudi Arabia taking the lion’s share of issuance that could top $50 billion, according to experts in global sovereign credit markets.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BoAML), the US investment bank, issued a report advising investors to “expect a busy period of Gulf Co-operation Council issuance,” and that it was expecting “very large issuance” from Saudi Arabia of around $20 billion of bonds.
Although marginally lower than the total raised in 2017, this is higher than many previous estimates of the amount the Kingdom would seek to raise on international markets.
A rival US bank, which did not want to be named because it was advising the Saudi government on bond issues, said that it was expecting between $5 and $10 billion in dollar-denominated debt in the course of 2018.
Raising debt is a key part of the Kingdom’s strategy to finance its budget deficit, forecast to reach SR328 billion ($87.5 billion) in the recent budget for 2018.
Official estimates then were that 12 percent of the deficit would be covered by debt issuance, which includes domestic debt as well as sovereign debt on global capital markets.
BoAML said in its report that spreads on Saudi debt were wide for its rating category, but were justified by the large amount to be issued. A wide spread usually indicates a riskier investment proposition.
Saudi Arabia has been increasingly looking to international capital markets to help balance the books when lower revenues from oil have hiked the deficit. Last year, the Kingdom raised a total of $21 billion on global markets, and a further $10 billion from domestic issues.
Historically low interest rates have also increased investors’ appetite for bigger debt issuance.
Other GCC countries are also expected to take part in the debt bonanza this year. BoAML said that it was expecting Qatar to raise a total of $10 billion on international markets, especially as a $2 billion Eurobond matures this month.
The country has come under pressure as a result of disruption to its financial system from the sanctions imposed on it by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt over allegations of terrorism funding, and still needs extra international investment for infrastructure spending ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Valuations of Kuwait and Abu Dhabi debt are tight, as they are in Dubai, which needs to increase borrowing to help pay for projects in the Expo 2020 business exhibition.
Oman is expected to raise $8.5 billion this year, with large volumes of debt in external markets to fund its big budget deficit.
Bahrain, also running a large deficit, will be active in international debt markets, BoAML said. “We expect the country to be financially supported by the GCC if it commits to reforms,” the bank added.


Oil up after drone attack on Saudi field, but OPEC report caps gains

Updated 20 min 26 sec ago

Oil up after drone attack on Saudi field, but OPEC report caps gains

LONDON: Crude oil prices rose on Monday following a weekend attack on a Saudi oil facility by Yemen’s Houthi militia and as traders looked for signs of progress in US-China trade negotiations.
Price gains were, however, capped to some degree by an unusually downbeat OPEC report that stoked concerns about growth in oil demand.
Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil prices, was up 85 cents, or about 1.4%, at $59.49 a barrel at 1225 GMT.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up $1.01, or 1.8%, at $55.88 a barrel.
A drone attack by the Iran-backed Houthi militia on an oilfield in eastern Saudi Arabia on Saturday caused a fire at a gas plant, adding to Middle East tensions, but state-run Saudi Aramco said oil production was not affected.
“The oil market seems to be pricing in again a geopolitical risk premium following the weekend drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, but the premium might not sustain if it does not result in any supply disruptions,” said Giovanni Staunovo, oil analyst for UBS.
Iran-related tensions appeared to ease after Gibraltar released an Iranian tanker it seized in July, though Tehran warned the United States against any new attempt to seize the tanker in open seas.
Concerns about a recession also limited crude price gains.
Meanwhile, China’s announcement of key interest rate reforms over the weekend has fueled expectations of an imminent reduction in corporate borrowing costs in the struggling economy, boosting share prices on Monday.
US energy firms this week increased the number of oil rigs operating for the first time in seven weeks despite plans by most producers to cut spending on new drilling this year.
“WTI in recent weeks has performed relatively better than Brent... Pipeline start ups in the United States have been supportive for WTI, while the ongoing trade war has had more of an impact on Brent,” said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at Dutch bank ING.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cut its forecast for global oil demand growth in 2019 by 40,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.10 million bpd and indicated the market would be in slight surplus in 2020.
It is rare for OPEC to give a bearish forward view on the market outlook.
“Such a bearish prognosis will heap more pressure on OPEC to take further measures to support the market,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.