Saudi borrowers fuel MENA syndicated loan boom

Saudi Arabia accounted for more than a third of regional syndicated loans issued last year as corporate borrowers from shippers to builders tapped debt. (Shutterstock)
Updated 10 January 2019
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Saudi borrowers fuel MENA syndicated loan boom

  • Corporate bank borrowing across region hits record $127.2 billion last year
  • Saudi Arabia led a regional surge in syndicated loans last year that hit a record $127.2 billion across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

Newly published league tables from Bloomberg show that regional loans increased by more than half last year, surpassing the previous record set in 2007.
Saudi borrowers topped the league with more than a third of the market, while the UAE accounted for more than a quarter of the total and Oman almost 10 percent.
A weak oil price, falling property values and emerging market uncertainty rattled regional debt markets in 2018, while rising US interest rates put some borrowers under pressure.
However, some investors have seen the downturn as an opportunity to invest in Gulf corporate and sovereign debt.
Franklin Templeton, which has about $683 billion in assets under management, boosted exposure of its $350 million Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) bond strategy to regional corporates by roughly 20 percent this year to 72 percent, Reuters reported
“Valuations are much better than they were 12-18 months ago. Pressure in some industries has led to a sell off, and the weaker the name, the easier it is for stress to build up fairly quickly, but this creates opportunity,” Dino Kronfol, its chief investment officer of global sukuk and MENA fixed income, told the newswire.
The regional economic downturn has meant that many corporates have started to restructure their borrowings, especially in the industries that have been hardest hit by the slowdown, such as construction and real estate.
The Bloomberg data reveals that while syndicated loans surged last year, bonds and sukuk registered a decline of 12.8 percent to $86.5 billion.
This was the second-highest amount on record, with the highest tally recorded in 2017, Bloomberg said.
UAE-based bond issuers had the biggest slice of the regional pie, followed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
While First Abu Dhabi Bank was the top regional loans bookrunner in 2018, Standard Chartered was the top underwriter in the bond and sukuk market across the Middle East and North Africa.
Bloomberg said that global Islamic financing jumped by almost 15 percent last year with some $32.95 billion in deals. Dubai Islamic Bank was the top underwriter in the sector.


UAE passenger jet makes long haul journey on locally produced biofuel

Updated 21 min 2 sec ago
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UAE passenger jet makes long haul journey on locally produced biofuel

  • The biofuel was produced from plants grown in a local saltwater ecosystem in Abu Dhabi
  • It can be refined using existing infrastructure and used with current engines and airport fueling systems

DUBAI: Etihad Airways flew the first commercial flight powered by locally produced sustainable fuel Wednesday, Emirati airlines Etihad Airways reported on their website from an announcement by the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC).

The Boeing 787, flying from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam, used biofuel produced from the oil of Salicornia plants, which are grown in the Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (SEAS), in Masdar City near the UAE capital - Abu Dhabi.

The SEAS project is the world’s first desert ecosystem made specially to produce fuel and food in saltwater.

While Etihad is not the first airline to use biofuel in its aircraft, it is the first time in the UAE for the source of the biofuel to be grown and produced in the country.

“Etihad’s flight proves SEAS is a game-changer that can substantially benefit air transport and the world,” said Vice President of strategy and market development for Boeing International Sean Schwinn.

“The research and technology being developed shows significant promise to transform coastal deserts into productive farmland supporting food security and cleaner skies.”

The biofuel can be produced using existing refinery facilities, it can be blended with regular jet fuel, and used with existing aircraft, engines and airport fueling delivery systems

Biofuels were introduced for commercial flight use in 2011.

Since then nearly 160,000 passengers have flown on flights powered by a blend of sustainable and traditional jet fuels.

The water used for the SEAS project is drawn from fish and shrimp farmeries that produce food for the UAE.

The system is expected to expand to cover 2 mln square meters over the course of the next few years.