Saudi Arabia passes bond test as investors look past Khashoggi

Saudi Arabia started marketing Wednesday’s bonds at around 40 basis points above its existing curve. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia passes bond test as investors look past Khashoggi

  • Seeking to raise $7.5 billion, Riyadh attracted demand that topped $27 billion for the dual-tranche paper maturing in 2029 and 2050
  • Saudi Arabia started marketing Wednesday’s bonds at around 40 basis points above its existing curve

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia drew a strong response on Wednesday in its first test of international bond market sentiment since coming under intense scrutiny in October from foreign governments and investors over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Seeking to raise $7.5 billion, Riyadh attracted demand that topped $27 billion for the dual-tranche paper maturing in 2029 and 2050, according to a document issued by one of the banks leading the deal and seen by Reuters.
The sale coincides with improved conditions across emerging markets, with yields compressing over the past few weeks, and Timothy Ash, senior emerging markets strategist at Bluebay Asset Management, called it “opportunistic.”
A second analyst said the impact of the Khashoggi case was fading.
The ministry of finance confirmed in a statement on Thursday the completion of the $7.5 billion bond sale. “The issuance received significant interest from international investors, with the orderbook peaking at $27.5 billion,” it said.
It was not yet clear where most of the demand for the paper came from.
Hit by slumping oil prices, Saudi Arabia has become one of the biggest issuers across emerging markets, having sold $52 billion in international bonds since its debut in 2016. It plans to boost borrowing this year, along with state spending.
But its stock among investors took a hit after Khashoggi’s killing, for which a definitive explanation has yet to emerge, and as the humanitarian consequences of its war in Yemen have become clearer.
’Timing is great’
Saudi Arabia started marketing Wednesday’s bonds at around 40 basis points above its existing curve, according to another document — suggesting the kingdom was willing to pay up in order to attract hefty demand.
Spreads were later tightened by 25 basis points on the 2029 tranche, the size of which has been set at $4 billion, and by 20 basis points on the 2050 tranche, set at $3.5 billion.
“Timing-wise this is great, because risky assets are in vogue – 2019 went off like crazy and investors want to put their money to work,” said Philipp Good, chief executive and head of portfolio management at Fisch Asset Management.
Sergey Dergachev, functional head of EM corporate debt and senior portfolio manager at Germany-based Union Investment, said he thought investors had relegated the Khashoggi case to the background, “especially since some significant government reshuffling two weeks ago.”
The sale — arranged by BNP Paribas, Citi, HSBC, JPMorgan and NCB Capital — was also the first this year by a Gulf borrower, and comes as crude prices recover.
“When you issue first or among first in early January it is both good test for market perception for your credit story and investors have cash balances to be put to work,” Dergachev added.
Saudi’s public debt amounted to 560 billion riyals ($149.29 billion) or 19.1 percent of GDP in 2018, and the budget forecasts a rise to 678 billion riyals or 21.7 pct of GDP this year.
The country is rated A1 by Moody’s and A+ by Fitch.


France activates plan for no-deal Brexit

Updated 24 min 54 sec ago
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France activates plan for no-deal Brexit

  • The plan provides for 50 million euros ($56 million) of investment in French ports and airports
  • “We want to be ready to protect the interests of our citizens,” said the prime minister

PARIS: The French government has activated its plans for handling the effects of a no-deal Brexit, which has become “less and less unlikely,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Thursday.
Speaking after a ministerial meeting called to discuss the British parliament’s rejection of the divorce deal negotiated with the EU, Philippe said: “I have taken the decision to activate the plan for a no-deal Brexit.”
The plan provides for 50 million euros ($56 million) of investment in French ports and airports, “which are obviously the places most affected by the changes needed” in the event of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.
“In some ports that will be the construction of car parks, in others it will be the establishment of infrastructure for carrying out checks,” Philippe said.
France had already planned on recruiting extra customs staff and veterinary inspectors.
The French parliament is on Thursday expected to complete the adoption of a bill allowing the government to take decisions by decree if necessary following a no-deal Brexit, which could create potentially chaotic scenes on both sides of the Channel.
“We want to be ready to protect the interests of our citizens,” Philippe said.
“Our objective is at the same time to respect our obligations, to make sure that the lives of our citizens and, in a way, British citizens living in France, are impacted as little as possible,” he added.