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.


Huawei in public test as it unveils sanction-hit phone

Updated 19 September 2019

Huawei in public test as it unveils sanction-hit phone

  • Hit by US sanctions, Huawei's Mate 30 will not be allowed to use Google’s Play Store
  • Household-name services like WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Maps will be unavailable.
BERLIN: Chinese tech giant Huawei launches its latest high-end smartphone in Munich on Thursday, the first that could be void of popular Google apps because of US sanctions.
Observers are asking whether a phone without the Silicon Valley software that users have come to depend on can succeed, or whether Huawei will have found a way for buyers to install popular apps despite the constraints.
The company has maintained a veil of secrecy over its plans, set to be dropped at a 1200 GMT press conference revealing the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro models.
Huawei, targeted directly by the United States as part of a broader trade conflict with Beijing, was added to a “blacklist” in Washington in May.
Since then, it has been illegal for American firms to do business with the Chinese firm, suspected of espionage by President Donald Trump and his administration.
As a result, the new Mate will run on a freely available version of Android, the world’s most-used phone operating system that is owned by the search engine heavyweight.
While Mate 30 owners will experience little difference in the use of the system, the lack of Google’s Play Store — which provides access to hundreds of thousands of third-party apps and games as well as films, books and music — could hobble them.
Household-name services like WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Maps will be unavailable.
The tech press reports that this yawning gap in functionality has left some sellers reluctant to stock the new phones, fearing a wave of rapid-fire returns from dissatisfied customers.
Huawei president Richard Yu said at Berlin’s IFA electronics fair this month that his engineers found a “very simple” way to install the hottest apps without going via the Play Store.
Huawei could offer its own app store in a preliminary version, setting itself up as a competitor to the dominant Apple and Google offerings, observers speculate.
Over the longer term, the company could build out a similar “ecosystem” of devices, apps and services as the Silicon Valley companies that would bind users more closely to it.
The world’s second-largest smartphone maker after Samsung, Huawei earlier this month presented its proprietary operating system HarmonyOS, a potential replacement for Android.
The Mate 30 will not yet have HarmonyOS installed.
But it could make for a new round in the decades-old “OS wars” between Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s Mac OS, then Android versus Apple’s iOS.
Meanwhile, Eric Xu, current holder of Huawei’s rotating chief executive chair, has urged Europe to foster an alternative to Google and Apple.
That could provide an opening for Huawei to build up Europe’s market of 500 million well-off consumers as a stronghold against American rivals.
“If Europe had its own ecosystem for smart devices, Huawei would use it... that would resolve the problem of European digital dependency” on the United States, Xu told German business daily Handelsblatt.
He added that his company would be prepared to invest in developing such joint European-Chinese projects.