Saudi Arabia seeing rising interest in credit ratings amid broader investments and economy diversification: Moody’s exec

Saudi Arabia seeing rising interest in credit ratings amid broader investments and economy diversification: Moody’s exec
Moody’s has contributed to enhancing financial literacy and the understanding of credit ratings among investors, businesses, and the general public in Saudi Arabia through various publications, forums, and conferences. (SPA)
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Updated 24 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia seeing rising interest in credit ratings amid broader investments and economy diversification: Moody’s exec

Saudi Arabia seeing rising interest in credit ratings amid broader investments and economy diversification: Moody’s exec
  • Moody’s activities in the Kingdom have positioned the organization as a key player in the financial markets

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is seeing a growing interest in credit ratings, mainly driven by expanding global investments, regulatory reforms, and economic diversification, according to Moody’s.

Jihad Al-Toukhi, senior vice president and relationship manager at Moody’s Saudi Arabia, affirmed in an interview with Arab News that the firm has “indeed observed a growing interest in credit ratings” in the Kingdom. 

Al-Toukhi pointed out that this heightened interest can be attributed to various factors. 

“Firstly, the ongoing financial market development, as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plans, has boosted the demand for credit ratings. These ratings provide an independent assessment of credit risk, which is crucial for facilitating investment decisions, including foreign direct investment,” he said. 

Moreover, as Saudi companies aim to expand their presence globally, their reliance on financing through debt capital markets has grown. Consequently, credit ratings have become indispensable in providing unbiased assessments of risk, vital for potential international investors or lenders, according to the official. 

Al-Toukhi went on to explain: “Regulatory bodies in Saudi Arabia are increasingly requiring credit ratings for certain types of financial transactions to enhance transparency and understanding of credit risk. This regulatory change has, in turn, increased the demand for credit rating services.” 

Furthermore, with the Kingdom’s shift away from oil-dependency, new sectors and businesses are emerging, all of which require credit ratings to secure funding and entice investors. Al-Toukhi emphasized Moody’s role, describing it as being “instrumental in cultivating a credit rating culture in the region.” 

He added: “Our role is to provide independent, objective opinions and analysis of credit risk, which are essential for the financial market development, international investments, regulatory compliance, and economic diversification efforts currently underway in Saudi Arabia.”

Discussing industries that have seen significant developments in terms of credit ratings, Al-Toukhi noted: “We have observed a substantial interest from the insurance sector and large corporates in obtaining credit ratings.”

Acknowledging the importance of Islamic finance in the local economy, Al-Toukhi remarked: “Islamic finance is indeed a significant component of the Saudi financial system, and Saudi Arabia is recognized as the world’s largest Islamic finance market.”




Jihad Al-Toukhi, senior vice president relationship manager at Moody’s Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

“Our approach to assessing Islamic financial instruments is thorough and meticulous. Our expert analysts provide valuable ratings for Sukuk issuances based on thorough analysis,” he stated.

Looking ahead to 2024, the expert anticipated a “continued expansion and development of this segment in KSA and the region.”

Al-Toukhi anticipated that the increased role of government-related institutions and the private sector in Saudi Arabia’s financial environment is expected to have a “transformative impact.”

He further explained: “Firstly, it demonstrates a diversification of the Saudi economy, which has traditionally been heavily reliant on oil revenues. Secondly, the involvement of government-related institutions can provide a level of stability and confidence in the market.”

Al-Toukhi pointed out that the increased participation of the private sector can lead to increased competition, which can result in better pricing and more efficient allocation of resources.

“Lastly, the increased activity in the debt capital market can lead to greater liquidity, making it easier for both companies and investors to buy and sell securities,” Al-Toukhi concluded, highlighting the potential benefits of increased activity in the debt capital market.

Speaking of Moody’s plans, the senior vice president shared that a number of strategic initiatives are in place to further enhance presence and influence in the Kingdom’s financial markets. “One of our key strategic initiatives is to increase our educational endeavors,” he explained.

“In addition to our educational initiatives, Moody’s also plans to leverage technology to improve our services and operations,” Al-Toukhi added.

Moody’s believes that several factors will play a crucial role in shaping the credit landscape in the coming years.

“Saudi Arabia is becoming more transparent in its financial dealings, thanks to the efforts of regulators to improve and stimulate the debt markets,” Al-Toukhi explained, highlighting the efforts to improve transparency in financial dealings.

He emphasized the growth of the firm’s local footprint since the inception of its office, saying: “Since opening the Moody’s office in Saudi Arabia in 2018, we have had tremendous success in expanding our local presence and coverage. We now have 39 entity ratings in the Kingdom and rate $200 billion of debt.”




Moody’s activities in the Kingdom have positioned the organization as a key player in the financial markets, and specifically in the debt capital market, supporting the country’s economic transformation and growth. (AN file photo)

The thriving financial landscape in Saudi Arabia is boosting investor confidence and market maturity, Al-Toukhi affirmed, saying: “Being on-ground in Saudi Arabia has allowed Moody’s to better cater to the specific needs of the local market. This has helped in building stronger relationships with clients and stakeholders within the country.”

Al-Toukhi said that Moody’s has contributed to enhancing financial literacy and the understanding of credit ratings among investors, businesses, and the general public in Saudi Arabia through various publications, forums, and conferences.

He stated: “We are also actively engaging with local regulatory bodies ensuring we stay up to date with the evolving regulatory landscape in the Saudi financial markets, which we are happy to do.”

Moody’s activities in the Kingdom have positioned the organization as a key player in the financial markets, and specifically in the debt capital market, supporting the country’s economic transformation and growth, according to the top official.

Discussing the extensive ratings coverage in Saudi Arabia, Al-Toukhi underscored the agency’s comprehensive analysis, covering 100 percent of all Islamic and conventional banks and major corporations like Saudi oil giant Aramco and petrochemicals manufacturer Sabic.

“In fact, we have the highest coverage in Saudi Arabia across both corporate finance and financial institutions. This broad and deep coverage enables our analysts to provide a more comprehensive and accurate analysis of the creditworthiness of entities,” he remarked, emphasizing the breadth and depth of Moody’s coverage in the Kingdom.

As the Saudi economy diversifies away from oil, the firm anticipates growth in sectors like technology, renewable energy, and tourism.

“One significant development we are observing is the growing awareness and integration of Environmental, Social, and Governance factors into investment decisions,” said Al-Toukhi.

According to the official, Moody’s has been offering Second-Party Opinions on the environmental credentials of financial instruments such as green, social, and sustainability bonds.

“Overall, we believe these factors will play a significant role in shaping the credit landscape in Saudi Arabia in the coming years,” Al-Toukhi said, expressing optimism about the future of the credit landscape in the Kingdom.


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.