GCC bond and sukuk issuance surged by USD 32 billion in Q1 2019 – NBK Research

Thursday 23 May 2019
Kuwait City - MENA Herald:

GCC bond and sukuk issuance surged by USD 32 billion in Q1 2019, lifting outstanding debt in the region to USD 478 billion. Meanwhile, yields in the GCC trended lower, supported by rising oil prices which have benefitted fiscal consolidation efforts across the region – according to research published by the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK).

A sharp rise in regional debt issuance, led by the sovereigns of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, was driven by low borrowing costs, good credit ratings, and a strong appetite for regional bonds among international investors. Regional yields are expected to remain low, while issuance is forecast to increase on 2018’s levels.

GCC yields decline, supported by higher oil prices

Global and regional yields continue to trend down in Q1 2019, driven by expected global economic slowdown, dovish signals on monetary policy, low inflation, and a sharp recovery in oil prices from December 2018 lows. Falls were led by Bahrain and Oman, despite continued pressure on fiscal positions. A fall in Bahrain sovereign yields was sparked by the provision of a USD 10 billion support package by neighboring countries last year of which it recently received , in tandem with a series of fiscal reforms. Oman yields also fell sharply, supported by the promise of fiscal reforms including the introduction of VAT.

NBK Group Chief Economist, Dr. Saade Chami, commented:

“All GCC sovereigns now have stable outlooks and most have investment grade ratings. International demand for GCC sovereigns is expected to receive a large boost in 2019 as a result of inclusion of five GCC sovereigns (excluding Oman) in the JP Morgan Emerging Markets Bond Index (EMBI). The region could receive as much as USD 30 billion in fund inflows, with most being allocated to larger debt markets such as Saudi Arabia,”

Across the region, policy makers are establishing regulation to improve debt management and increase transparency, market access, and availability of timely information. Last year the UAE set in place a new debt law and a debt management office, and in Saudi Arabia the local stock exchange, Tadawul, launched bond and sukuk trading.

Regional issuance expected to remain solid in 2019

Although debt issuance slowed in 2018, it has risen sharply in Q1 2019, to a historical high of USD 32 billion and is likely to continue to remain solid throughout the year.

“In the first quarter we saw significant developments including Aramco’s USD 12 billion debut bond. Issuance of bonds by GCC sovereigns and corporates is expected to grow in 2019, as a result of largely expansionary budgets and refinancing needs arising from maturing debt,” Dr. Chami concluded.

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