Saudi Arabia targets $2 billion with new Islamic bonds

The marketing exercise comes a day after sources told Reuters that Saudi Arabia was planning to issue a new dollar sukuk shortly. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 September 2018
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Saudi Arabia targets $2 billion with new Islamic bonds

  • The kingdom, acting through the ministry of finance, started marketing the notes with an initial price guidance of around 145 basis points over mid-swaps
  • The marketing exercise comes a day after sources told Reuters that Saudi Arabia was planning to issue a new dollar sukuk shortly

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has started marketing US dollar-denominated sukuk, or Islamic bonds, with the issue expected to be around $2 billion in size, a document showed on Wednesday.
It would be the kingdom’s second international sale of sukuk after a $9 billion transaction last year. The exercise completes Saudi Arabia’s external funding requirements for 2018, according to the document.
The kingdom, acting through the ministry of finance, started marketing the notes with an initial price guidance of around 145 basis points over mid-swaps.
Citi, HSBC and JPMorgan are coordinating the transaction, and are joint lead managers together with BNP Paribas, Mizuho and Samba Capital.
The structure of the sukuk is the same one adopted for the 2017 issue, comprising a mudaraba agreement, a form of Islamic investment management partnership, plus a murabaha facility that would trade commodities with a special purpose vehicle.
The marketing exercise comes a day after sources told Reuters that Saudi Arabia was planning to issue a new dollar sukuk shortly.
The sukuk, due to settle on Sept. 19 and with a January 2029 maturity, are expected to price later on Wednesday, according to the document.
The government has raised a total of $50 billion in international notes, both Islamic and conventional, since it started tapping the international debt markets in 2016 as part of its efforts to diversify its oil-reliant economy.
In April the government sold $11 billion in conventional notes — an amount which covered the country’s hard currency funding needs for 2018, the head of the Saudi debt management office told Reuters after that bond issue.
But he said an international sukuk deal was on the cards for the second half of this year in order to maintain the country’s presence in that market and to provide supply to sharia-compliant investors.


France unveils major tax cuts as growth flags

Updated 24 September 2018
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France unveils major tax cuts as growth flags

  • Critics say most people have been left behind by President Emmanuel Macron’s policies so far
  • Patience is wearing thin for many as unemployment has barely budged since Macron’s election in May 2017

PARIS: The French government on Monday unveiled billions of euros in tax relief for businesses alongside further budget cuts, as President Emmanuel Macron struggles to deliver more jobs and higher growth as promised.
The former investment banker’s poll ratings have dived in recent weeks as growth has slowed despite a series of reforms presented as unavoidable shock treatment for getting France on solid financial footing.
Critics say most people have been left behind by Macron’s policies so far, which have seen him raise taxes on retirees while cutting a wealth tax on top earners.
Pensions and welfare benefits will be shaved further in the 2019 budget — Macron complained in June that France spends “a crazy amount of dough” on social programs.
And 4,100 more public sector jobs will be axed as Macron aims for a deficit of 2.8 percent of GDP, below the 3 percent limit set for EU members.
Higher taxes on fuel and cigarettes will also hit consumers next year.
But the government says the pillar of the 2019 budget will be a combined €20 billion ($23.5 billion) of tax cuts for businesses and six billion euros in tax relief for households, including a gradual end to an annual housing tax.
“The long-term goal is to build a new French prosperity that will benefit all French people in all regions,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said as he presented the budget in Paris.
But he acknowledged that results from Macron’s reform drive so far “are unsatisfactory compared with our European neighbors, and we certainly don’t intend to stop here.”
“We’re doing less well than our European partners on unemployment, growth, the deficit and debt,” Le Maire said.
Patience is wearing thin for many as unemployment has barely budged since Macron’s election in May 2017, standing at 9.1 percent.
The 40-year-old centrist captured the presidency with a pledge to shake up an economy he says is held back by excessive regulations and rigid labor laws.
But growth has been slowing and is now widely expected to reach just 1.6 percent this year, and the government is forecasting an uptick to just 1.7 percent next year.
A poll released Sunday found just 29 percent satisfied with Macron’s leadership, while a separate survey last week said only 19 percent of French people held a positive view of his record.
He has promised to balance the budget in France for the first time in more than 40 years by the end of his term in 2022 — a task that will require an overhaul of state spending.
That has led him to take on France’s powerful labor unions to a degree not seen in decades, overcoming stiff resistance to new laws making it easier to fire people and ending the privileged status of rail workers.
He has also promised to cut 120,000 public sector jobs by the end of his term in 2022, a daunting prospect in a country known for its expansive bureaucracy which guarantees civil servants jobs for life.
Yet Macron has appeared to be dismissive of the concerns of everyday voters, most recently telling an unemployed gardener to go get a job in a restaurant or construction instead.
His reformist zeal has also exposed him to criticism that his policies favor businesses in particular, and he has struggled to shake off perceptions that he is “president of the rich.”
The vow to cut social spending is unlikely to reassure the lowest earners in France, where the number of people living below the poverty line has swelled to 14 percent of the population, according to national statistics office INSEE.