Saudi Arabia, four other Gulf states to enter key JP Morgan bond indexes

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar have issued a quarter of all new debt sold by emerging market countries in each of the last three years. (AFP)
Updated 26 September 2018
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Saudi Arabia, four other Gulf states to enter key JP Morgan bond indexes

  • The indexes are key performance benchmarks for international investors in emerging market debt
  • Membership in them can help a country sell bonds and reduce its borrowing costs

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia and four other Gulf states will enter JP Morgan’s emerging market government bond indexes next year, a move likely to lure billions of dollars of new foreign investment into their debt, according to a JP Morgan statement sent to investors.
The indexes are key performance benchmarks for international investors in emerging market debt, so membership in them can help a country sell bonds and reduce its borrowing costs.
Sovereign and quasi-sovereign debt issuers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait will become eligible for the EMBI Global Diversified (EMBIGD), EMBI Global (EMBIG) and EURO-EMBIG indexes, according to the statement, which was seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
Their entry will be phased in between Jan. 31 and Sept. 30. Both conventional bonds and sukuk, or Islamic bonds, will be eligible for inclusion in indexes, but sukuk will need to have a credit rating from at least one of the three major rating agencies to be included.
JP Morgan’s decision follows a surge of debt issuance from the Gulf Arab region in the past few years, as low oil prices force most countries to fund part of their state spending in the international debt markets.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar have issued a quarter of all new debt sold by emerging market countries in each of the last three years.
The inclusion of Gulf Cooperation Council countries in the indexes will leave them representing around 11.2 percent of JP Morgan’s EMBI Global Diversified and EMBI Global series, the statement said.
“It is estimated that around $360 billion of assets under management are benchmarked against the EMBIG family, with the EMBIG diversified at around $300 billion,” said Zeina Rizk, director of fixed income asset management at Arqaam Capital in Dubai.
Rizk estimated this would translate into about $30 billion of inflows into the five countries’ debt.
“Those inflows are not going to come on day one, but the tailwind resulting from the inclusion headline, coupled with pegged currencies, strong oil prices, a relative immunity from trade wars and high credit quality, leads us to the view that the GCC has better value than the rest of emerging markets.”
The minimum size for inclusion in the indexes is $500 million, and during the inclusion process, instruments will need to have a maturity date beyond March 2022, the statement said.


Saudi’s Al Rajhi Bank Q1 net profit rises 21 pct on higher fees

Updated 4 min 5 sec ago
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Saudi’s Al Rajhi Bank Q1 net profit rises 21 pct on higher fees

  • The bank aims to boost its mortgage lending as more affordable housing comes on the market: CEO

DUBAI: Al Rajhi Bank, Saudi Arabia’s second-largest lender by assets, reported double-digit growth in
first-quarter net profit on Tuesday, helped by higher special commission income and fees.
Saudi Arabia’s biggest Islamic lender said net profit rose 21 percent in the three months ended March 31 to 2.89 billion riyals ($771 million). It made net profit of 2.38 billion riyals in the same period
a year earlier.
The bank aims to boost its mortgage lending as more affordable housing comes on the market, Chief Executive Steve Bertamini told Reuters this month.
Al Rajhi, which has traditionally focused on consumer banking, has been cautiously expanding its exposure to the private sector, Bertamini said, amid expectations that government employment may not rise much in the future.
Saudi banks’ performance in 2019 should be boosted by a surge in liquidity and an anticipated recovery in lending against a backdrop of higher oil prices.
Saudi Arabia’s economy grew in the fourth quarter of last year at its fastest rate since early 2016 due to an expansion in the oil sector, while non-oil growth was sluggish, statistics agency data showed in March.
Al Rajhi attributed its performance to an increase in total operating income, due to special commission income and fees.
Operating income for the quarter rose by 12 percent year-on-year to 4.64 billion riyals, while profits from special commissions increased 15 percent over the same time frame to 3.94 billion riyals.
Loans and advances at the end of March stood at 236.42 billion riyals, up 3.6 percent year-on-year, while deposits rose 3.4 percent to 293.5 billion riyals over the same period.