ESG sukuk growth to be catalyzed by investor mandates and funding diversification: Fitch

ESG sukuk growth to be catalyzed by investor mandates and funding diversification: Fitch
Issuances of sustainable sukuk went down 4.6 percent in 2023. Shutterstock
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Updated 08 February 2024
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ESG sukuk growth to be catalyzed by investor mandates and funding diversification: Fitch

ESG sukuk growth to be catalyzed by investor mandates and funding diversification: Fitch

RIYADH: The environmental, social, and governance sukuk market is expected to surpass 7.5 percent of global outstanding Islamic bonds in the coming years, a new report said. 

In its new statement, Fitch Ratings said that outstanding sustainable sukuk, which includes all currencies, grew significantly in 2023, reaching $36.1 billion.

The US-based credit rating agency added that the future growth of the ESG market in this area will be driven by issuers’ diversification plans and governments’ sustainable initiatives, pushing it beyond the 4.3 percent share registered at the end of 2023.

“Fitch Ratings expects the ESG sukuk market to cross 7.5 percent of global outstanding sukuk in the coming years ... with growth likely to be supported by issuers’ funding diversification plans, to satisfy international ESG investors’ mandates, and by government sustainability initiatives,” said the report.

ESG sukuk, also known as green sukuk, is a Shariah-compliant financial instrument in which issuers exclusively use the proceeds of the issuance to finance investments in renewable energy or other environmental assets. 

Fitch added that issuances of these sustainable sukuks went down 4.6 percent to $10.5 billion in 2023 compared to the previous year. 

Bashar Al-Natoor, global head of Islamic Finance at Fitch, said: “Almost all Fitch-rated ESG sukuk are investment-grade.” 

He added: “In the medium term, we expect ESG sukuk growth to continue; however, this could be slowed by volatile debt capital markets, governments becoming less willing to pursue sustainable targets, and poor availability of qualified assets.” 

The report revealed that the UAE led the ESG sukuk with 41 percent of the total issuances, followed by Malaysia and Saudi Arabia at 28 percent and 21 percent, respectively. 

Some 75.4 percent of ESG sukuk were from the Middle East, followed by Asia at 22.9 percent and Europe at 1.7 percent. 

Fitch also highlighted various developments that will increase the green sukuk issuance in the near term. 

One includes an initiative in the UAE where the Higher Sharia Authority directed Islamic banks and windows to create separate sustainable businesses and activities within existing company lines, including sustainable sukuk issuances and financing.

Similarly, a finance framework was unveiled in Oman, with plans to issue green, social, and sustainable sukuk and bonds.

Additionally, in Malaysia, the tax deduction given on the issuance cost of sustainable sukuk has been extended to 2027 from 2023.


S&P reaffirms Bahrain’s credit rating amid fiscal challenges; outlook stable

S&P reaffirms Bahrain’s credit rating amid fiscal challenges; outlook stable
Updated 26 May 2024
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S&P reaffirms Bahrain’s credit rating amid fiscal challenges; outlook stable

S&P reaffirms Bahrain’s credit rating amid fiscal challenges; outlook stable

RIYADH: Bahrain’s commitment to fiscal consolidation has witnessed S&P Global Ratings reaffirm its “B+/B” credit standing with a stable outlook despite challenges in 2023. 

However, the agency added that the transfer and convertibility assessment on the Gulf state remains “BB-.” It also anticipated structural reforms aimed at strengthening the non-oil revenue base, albeit at a slower pace. 

In its report, S&P said that the stable outlook reflects the expectation that Bahrain will persist in implementing measures to reduce its budget deficit, possibly benefiting from additional support from other Gulf Cooperation Council sovereigns if necessary. 

Conversely, the ratings could improve if Bahrain’s fiscal situation exceeds expectations, leading to a reduction in net debt relative to gross domestic product, or if current account surpluses widen, bolstering the country’s external position, according to the study. 

However, potential downside risks include a significant increase in government debt or a sharp decline in foreign currency reserves, which could hinder debt servicing and monetary policy effectiveness. 

“We could lower the ratings if the government’s net debt and debt-servicing burden increased significantly beyond our assumptions, presenting funding challenges. We could also take a negative rating action if foreign currency reserves declined sharply, limiting the government’s ability to service its external debt and weighing on monetary policy effectiveness,” the report said. 

On the other hand, the rating agency outlined an optimistic scenario for Bahrain, stating that it might upgrade the country’s standing if the government surpasses expectations by substantially reducing net debt relative to GDP through improved budgetary performance. 

Additionally, the ratings could increase if the current account surpluses are expanded significantly and consistently enhance the island state’s external position. 

The agency noted that its assessment is based on the anticipation that the Bahraini government will fortify its financial stance up to 2027, notwithstanding the considerable deficit expansion in 2023. 

It added that the shortfall experienced last year was primarily influenced by elevated interest rates, a one-off lump sum social support program, and an upward adjustment in pensioners’ inflationary allowance that will continue into 2024. 

Considering this initial setback, S&P foresees broader fiscal deficits averaging 4.4 percent of GDP from 2024 to 2027, compared to 3.8 percent in its prior evaluation. 

“A decline in oil production due to ongoing maintenance at the Abu Safa oil field also affects our revenue assumptions. However, we believe the government will continue pursuing fiscal and structural reforms to strengthen its non-oil revenue base, allowing for continued, albeit slower, fiscal consolidation over our forecast horizon to 2027,” the agency said in its report. 

Moreover, S&P assumed that Bahrain would receive the remaining $2.8 billion of the $10.2 billion GCC support package pledged by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait in 2018, and there remains potential for additional financial support beyond the program’s expiration at year-end 2024 if needed. 

“These interest-free loans have historically covered about 50 percent of the government’s gross external financing needs, although we note disbursements are not tied to, and do not necessarily align with, Bahrain’s external debt repayments,” the agency said. 

It further highlighted that Bahrain encounters annual external debt redemptions ranging from $2.0 billion to $2.5 billion, equivalent to 5 percent of GDP, stemming from a mix of Eurobond and sukuk issuances. 

In February, S&P explained that Bahrain successfully raised $2 billion by issuing a seven-year, $1 billion sukuk at 6.0 percent and a 12-year, $1 billion conventional bond at 7.5 percent. 

“We understand the issuance was met by strong investor demand, supporting more favorable pricing dynamics. In our base-case, we assume Bahrain will maintain strong access to international capital market funding,” it added. 

It explained that the country’s relatively diverse economy, proximity to Saudi Arabia’s market, robust financial sector oversight, and educated workforce provide a foundation for resilience. However, stagnant GDP per capita levels, adjusted for population growth, suggest underlying challenges in achieving broad-based economic prosperity. 

“However, when GDP performance from 2017-2027 is adjusted for population levels, GDP per capita levels are largely flat, suggesting that labor supply, rather than productivity, remains the key growth spur. We view Bahrain as having a relatively wealthy economy and estimate GDP per capita at $27,58 in 2024,” it said. 


 


Saudi drilling firm ADES secures 6 onshore contracts at $645.3m in Kuwait 

Saudi drilling firm ADES secures 6 onshore contracts at $645.3m in Kuwait 
Updated 42 min 38 sec ago
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Saudi drilling firm ADES secures 6 onshore contracts at $645.3m in Kuwait 

Saudi drilling firm ADES secures 6 onshore contracts at $645.3m in Kuwait 

RIYADH: Saudi exploration service provider ADES Holding Co. has secured a SR2.42 billion ($645.3 million) deal for six onshore drilling contracts with Kuwait Oil Co., marking an expansion of its operations. 

ADES specified that the award includes new agreements for four existing operating rigs in Kuwait and two newly constructed units, according to a release to Tadawul. 

The contracts are slated to commence in the second and third quarters of 2025, with a firm five-year duration and an optional one-year extension. 

Mohamed Farouk, CEO of ADES Holding, said: “Securing such long-term contracts not only adds to the sustainability of our backlog and visibility of our business but is also a testament to ADES’ exceptional safety and operational performance, which will see us triple the size of our contracted fleet in Kuwait from four to 12 rigs upon deployment in 2025.”  

He added: “With these new awards, ADES has further solidified its position in the niche Kuwaiti onshore market, characterized by high barriers to entry and deep drilling deployments where ADES has consistently proven its abilities.” 

All six contracts are designated for deep drilling rigs in the 3,000-horsepower category, a niche market segment experiencing notable growth in Kuwait. 

The estimated backlog for these contracts stands at SR2.42 billion, encompassing both the firm and optional periods. 

In just 24 months, the company has seen a three-fold increase in its contracted fleet with Kuwait Oil Co. 

This growth trajectory is particularly striking, rising from four rigs in early 2023 to an anticipated 12 rigs by 2025. 

ADES operates 10 onshore rigs with KOC in Kuwait, emphasizing the company’s strengthened presence and strategic alignment with Kuwait’s energy sector objectives. 

In May, ADES expanded its regional footprint by sealing two contracts worth SR511 million, highlighting its growing influence in the oil and gas sector. 

The company signed a deal with TotalEnergies to operate an offshore drilling platform in Qatar valued at up to SR350 million. The agreement includes a mandatory one-year period with an option to extend it for up to an additional 18 months, according to a bourse filing.  

Operations are slated to begin in the second half of 2024. The company emphasized that no related parties were involved in this agreement. 

Moreover, ADES announced in a separate release that it was awarded a 21-month contract to employ an elevated platform in the Gulf of Suez. The company received a direct award letter from the Suez Oil Co, also known as SUCO, in Egypt, with operations expected to commence in the coming weeks. In a statement on Tadawul, the company disclosed that the deal is valued at SR161 million. 

This new engagement in Egypt is part of ADES’s broader regional strategy to reactivate its operations. It follows recent contracts in Thailand and Qatar, bringing the total number of reactivated platforms to three of the five recently suspended in Saudi Arabia. 


Saudi Arabia to propel global sustainable development through AI, says finance minister

Saudi Arabia to propel global sustainable development through AI, says finance minister
Updated 14 min 25 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia to propel global sustainable development through AI, says finance minister

Saudi Arabia to propel global sustainable development through AI, says finance minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on track to help propel sustainable development globally through its pivotal role in artificial intelligence, according to the Kingdom’s finance minister. 

In a session titled “AI and Development: Challenges and Opportunities” at the third meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bank governors under the Italian presidency, held last week in Stresa, Italy, Mohammed Al-Jadaan explained that the Kingdom is committed to advancing technology, particularly AI, to foster inclusive growth, according to a statement.  

This aligns with Saudi Arabia’s National Strategy for Data and AI, which aims to establish the Kingdom as a global tech leader by 2030. 

Additionally, the minister participated in a session titled “Addressing Financing Needs of Vulnerable Countries,” where he stressed the potential of a proposed multidimensional approach to dealing with debt vulnerabilities.  

He underscored that this strategy aims to create fiscal space, improve resilience, and progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.  

In addition, Al-Jadaan also participated in a session titled “Initiatives for Development with a Focus on Africa.” 

In this meeting, the minister shed light on how Africa has great potential, represented by its ambitious people, young population, and rich natural resources.  

Furthermore, the finance minister joined a session titled “Cross-Border Payments,” where he highlighted the G20’s agreement under the Saudi Presidency in 2020 on a clear roadmap to support cross-border payments. 

Al-Jadaan elaborated that this roadmap led to the establishment of the Cross-Border Payments Coordination Group, which collaborates with international organizations to enhance global payments. He stressed the importance of building on current efforts in this area. 

On the sidelines of the meeting, Al-Jadaan met with several ministers and leaders of global organizations to discuss key economic and financial developments and topics of mutual interest. 

Throughout the three-day meeting, the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors exchanged views on the global implications of AI, ongoing development initiatives, and cross-border payments. They agreed to continue close cooperation in relevant multilateral fora, such as the G20. 

During the sessions, the ministers and governors reaffirmed their commitment to multilateral cooperation to promote sustainable development, recognizing the multiple challenges requiring a coordinated response from the international community. 


Fitch upgrades Saudi Electricity Co. to ‘A+’ citing strong govt support

Fitch upgrades Saudi Electricity Co. to ‘A+’ citing strong govt support
Updated 26 May 2024
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Fitch upgrades Saudi Electricity Co. to ‘A+’ citing strong govt support

Fitch upgrades Saudi Electricity Co. to ‘A+’ citing strong govt support

RIYADH: Saudi Electricity Co. received an upgrade from Fitch Ratings, raising its long-term foreign and local currency issuer default rating to “A+” from “A,” citing government support. 

In its latest report, the agency also upgraded the company’s national long-term rating to “AAA” from “AA,” with a stable outlook. 

According to Fitch, SEC’s standalone credit profile remains at “bbb” due to its dominant position in Saudi Arabia’s electricity market. 

“The upgrade follows our reassessment of SEC’s links with the Saudi Arabian government under Fitch’s recently updated Government-Related Entities Rating Criteria. SEC’s ratings are now equalized with those of Saudi Arabia (A+/Stable),” stated Fitch in the report. 

According to the US-based agency, an “A+” rating denotes expectations of low default risk and a strong capacity to meet financial commitments. 

On the other hand, a “bbb” rating indicates that while default risk expectations are currently low and the capacity to meet financial commitments is adequate, adverse business or economic conditions could impair this capacity. 

Commenting on the upgrade, Khaled bin Hamad Al-Gnoon, CEO of SEC, said the rating action is a testament to the company’s efforts and investments to bolster the reliability and efficiency of Saudi Arabia’s electrical grid. 

“This improved rating is reflective of our best-in-class governance, our close alignment with the Ministry of Energy and Saudi Arabia’s decarbonization strategy, and our solid financial profile,” said Al-Gnoon.  

He added: “We are committed to maintaining our service excellence and fulfilling our pivotal role in powering Saudi Arabia’s future.”  

In a statement, the company said the upgrade was driven by several key factors, including recognition of SEC’s robust decision-making and strong government support. 

Additionally, the upgrade acknowledges SEC’s stable financial profile, bolstered by the conversion of SR168 billion ($44.80 billion) of liabilities into equity-like instruments, the company’s leverage headroom, and strong cash flow visibility. 

Earlier this month, SEC reported a net profit of SR897 million for the first quarter of 2024, marking an 87 percent increase compared to the same period the previous year. 

 


Saudi’s ACWA Power signs several MoUs with Japanese companies

Saudi’s ACWA Power signs several MoUs with Japanese companies
Updated 26 May 2024
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Saudi’s ACWA Power signs several MoUs with Japanese companies

Saudi’s ACWA Power signs several MoUs with Japanese companies

Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power signed memorandums of understanding with several Japanese companies on the sidelines of the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 Business Forum that took place on May 21. 

ACWA Power signed agreements with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Mizuho Bank, SBI Holdings and Toray Membrane Middle East to encourage collaboration on sustainable energy and water solutions. 

 

 

According to ACWA Power, the objectives of the MoUs are to promote sustainable energy transition and attracting foreign investment. 

The MoUs are important to the Kingdom in terms of water desalination supplies, reducing carbon emissions and economic development. 

The Saudi Arabia-Japan Vision 2030 Business Forum took place in Tokyo last week with over 300 industry officials and leaders discussing ways to boost trade, investment and cultural ties. 

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud and Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry SAITO Ken attended the forum, each giving a speech commemorating the relationship between the two nations. 

Saito said the Japanese government will extend its maximum support to expand business with Saudi Arabia, while Prince Abdulaziz said the Kingdom “will bring collaborations to the forefront and will make sure that in all of the forums, we advocate the same aspirations in the national transition process attending to energy requirements.” 

Al-Falih said in his closing remarks that the Kingdom’s non-oil income has “doubled and is looking for an accumulated investment of over $3 trillion that offers big chances to Japanese.” 

He added that Saudi Arabia has a “bubble of projects as it will host Expo 2030 in Riyadh.” 

Saudi Arabia will also host the Winter Olympics in NEOM, and the World Cup 2034, that offers investment chances for the Japanese companies to participate, he explained. 

Sessions at the forum included “Forging stronger manufacturing collaboration between KSA and Japan,” “Collaboration in the new era of sustainability and circular economy,” “Reinventing entertainment and gaming industries across borders,” and “Expanding the area of cooperation in healthcare.” 

Additionally, the forum hosted a “Digital Entertainment Roundtable,” to discuss Saudi Arabia’s efforts to build a local gaming industry, which includes localizing Japanese games for the Saudi market, collaborating with esports tournament organizers, and investing in the digital entertainment sector.