Saudi issues new Islamic bond to finance budget

Saudi Arabia said it has completed the issuance of a new Islamic sukuk sale to help finance its budget deficit as the Kingdom accelerates borrowing despite rising oil prices. (AFP)
Updated 25 April 2018
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Saudi issues new Islamic bond to finance budget

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said Tuesday it has completed the issuance of a new sukuk sale to help finance its budget deficit as the Kingdom accelerates borrowing despite rising oil prices.
The finance ministry’s debt management office said it raised $1.3 billion from the sale of sukuks in three tranches maturing in five, seven and 10 years.
This was the second sukuk sale this year following a $4.8-billion issue it completed last month.
Last week, the Kingdom also raised $11 billion in the sale of conventional bonds. In early March, it struck a deal to refinance a $10-billion loan and added another $6 billion to it.
The OPEC exporter has posted huge budget deficits since oil prices crashed about four years ago and resorted to the debt market to finance the shortfall.
It posted budget deficits totalling $260 billion since 2014 and is projecting a shortfall of $52 billion for this year, according to official figures.
The government debt level, both domestic and international, rose from 1.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2014 to 17.3 of GDP last year reaching $118 billion.
During the same period, the government has drawn down some $245 billion from its fiscal reserves.
Oil income made up more than 90 percent of public revenues before oil began to slide.


Saudi Arabia’s consumer prices fall in April, fourth month in a row

Updated 38 min 10 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s consumer prices fall in April, fourth month in a row

  • Economists still expect deflation in 2019 after prices rose throughout 2018
  • The International Monetary Fund projects GDP growth of 1.9 percent

DUBAI: Saudi Arabian consumer prices fell 1.9 percent year-on-year in April for the fourth month in a row but were unchanged from March, data from the General Authority for Statistics showed.
The annual declines in the consumer price index are partly a consequence of a base effect that raised prices last year after the introduction in January 2018 of a 5% value-added tax (VAT), economists have said.
The annual fall in the CPI index, however, narrowed from March when the index had dropped 2.1 percent. Some economists see the narrowing of deflation as a sign that Saudi Arabia is having some success in boosting its non-oil sector, while global oil prices have remained under pressure in recent years.
“The further easing of deflation in Saudi Arabia in April suggests that stronger activity in the non-oil sector at the start of this year is (finally) feeding through to a pick-up in price pressures,” said Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics in a note.
Economists still expect deflation in 2019 after prices rose throughout 2018 following the introduction of the VAT, which was imposed to boost non-oil revenue in response to a long-term drop in oil prices.
Capital Economics expect Saudi CPI to fall 1.3 percent in 2019, while Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank’s projects the CPI index to decline 0.9 percent this year.
“The big picture remains that the unwinding impact of tax and administered price hikes implemented in early 2018 has revealed the weakness of underlying inflation in the kingdom,” Tuvey said.
After contracting in 2017, the economy grew 2.2 percent last year, but is forecast to grow more modestly this year.
The International Monetary Fund projects GDP growth of 1.9 percent, buoyed by an expansion of the non-oil economy as the government steps up spending. Y
The central bank chief said in February, when asked if he expected deflation this year, that he expected consumer demand and real estate loans would stave it off.
Credit grew in the first quarter by more than 3 percent, its fastest pace in more than two years, fueled by a jump in mortgages and in loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Tuesday’s data showed the sub-index for housing, water, electricity, gas and fuel prices down 7.8 percent from a year earlier. The sub-index had fallen 8.1 percent in March.
Prices for food and drinks, however, rose 1 percent and prices for education rose 1.3 percent.