Gulf ratings untarnished by growing GRE debt

The sovereign ratings of Gulf countries remain unaffected by recent and planned debt-raising activities of government-related entities. Above, an aerial view of Abu Dhabi Corniche. (Reuters)
Updated 21 November 2018
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Gulf ratings untarnished by growing GRE debt

  • Head of equity research at Exotix Capital Hasnain Malik: Investors familiar with the Gulf fully expect debt issuance by governments and their related enterprises to increase
  • Hasnain Malik: The generally very strong financial position of sovereigns in the Gulf and their defensible exchange rates has provided a relative haven for global fixed income investors

LONDON: The sovereign ratings of Gulf countries remain unaffected for now by both the recent and planned debt-raising activities of government-related entities, according to S&P Global.
The agency published a research note on Tuesday following investor concerns about the implications of significant amounts of debt being raised by government-backed entities such as investment funds and oil companies.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) raised an $11 billion international syndicated loan in September this year, while in July, Saudi Aramco said it might consider acquiring a strategic stake in Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (Sabic) from PIF. This potential acquisition is likely to require funding of up to $70 billion, said S&P Global.
“So far, the level of GRE debt and the potential for these contingent liabilities — obligations that have the potential to materialize on a government’s balance sheet or more broadly affect its fiscal profile — being realized has not led to negative rating actions for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) sovereigns,” the S&P report said.
“If contingent liabilities do materialize, they have the potential to negatively affect sovereign ratings,” it added, using Mozambique as an example of where the restructuring of a government-guaranteed GRE loan led to a downgrade of the sovereign rating in 2016.

 

Hasnain Malik, head of equity research at Exotix Capital, said that most investors anticipated the Gulf region would ramp up debt-raising activities in the near future.
“Investors familiar with the Gulf fully expect debt issuance by governments and their related enterprises to increase. This is in line with their stated strategies,” he said.
“The more the debt that is taken on by government-related enterprises, the more that it will be lumped together with debt taken out by the sovereign in order to assess overall risk. But this is nothing new. Past discussions of the overall debt position of ‘Dubai Inc’ or ‘Qatar Inc’ have grappled with the issue of explicit and implicit government guarantees,” he said.
Rating agency Moody’s said last month that the multibillion-dollar PIF loan demonstrated that Saudi Arabia had a “strong ability to raise alternative funding in the capital markets,” according to its Oct. 17 report.
It then warned that a “significant reliance on broader public- sector borrowing to fund the diversification and development agenda would over time increase contingent liability risks for the sovereign.”
Malik said the region had retained its appeal to investors so far despite the potential rising GRE debt.
“In what has been a tougher environment for emerging market debt this year, the generally very strong financial position of sovereigns in the Gulf and their defensible exchange rates has provided a relative haven for global fixed income investors,” he said.
“The imminent inclusion into JP Morgan’s mainstream global indices of debt will likely put the region closer to the center of the average emerging market fixed income investor,” he said.
S&P Global rates 24 GREs in the Gulf region, with most of the companies enjoying the same rating as the sovereign.

FASTFACTS

S&P Global rates 24 GREs in the Gulf region.


Apple China says it will push software update in bid to resolve Qualcomm case

Updated 14 December 2018
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Apple China says it will push software update in bid to resolve Qualcomm case

  • Apple will carry out the software updates at the start of next week to address the concern
  • A court found Apple infringed two patents held by the chipmaker and banned sales of older iPhone models

SHANGHAI/SAN FRANCISCO: Apple Inc. , facing a court ban in China on some of its iPhone models over alleged infringement of Qualcomm Inc. patents, said on Friday it will push software updates to users in a bid to resolve potential issues.
Apple will carry out the software updates at the start of next week “to address any possible concern about our compliance with the order,” the firm said in a statement sent to Reuters.
Earlier this week, Qualcomm said a Chinese court had ordered a ban on sales of some older Apple iPhone models for violating two of its patents, though intellectual property lawyers said the ban would still likely take time to enforce.
“Based on the iPhone models we offer today in China, we believe we are in compliance,” Apple said.
“Early next week we will deliver a software update for iPhone users in China addressing the minor functionality of the two patents at issue in the case.”
The case, brought by Qualcomm, is part of a global patent dispute between the two US companies that includes dozens of lawsuits. It creates uncertainty over Apple’s business in one of its biggest markets at a time when concerns over waning demand for new iPhones are battering its shares.
Qualcomm has said that the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court in China found Apple infringed two patents held by the chipmaker and ordered an immediate ban on sales of older iPhone models, from the 6S through the X.
Apple has said that all of its phone models remained on sale in mainland China and that it had filed a request for reconsideration with the court. All the models appeared to be available to buy on Apple’s China website on Friday.
Qualcomm, the biggest supplier of chips for mobile phones, filed its case in China in late 2017, arguing that Apple infringed patents on features related to resizing photographs and managing apps on a touch screen.