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Fitch downgrades Omani banks, companies as government finances weaken

Yousef Saba/Dubai
Filed on August 26, 2020
Fitch has downgraded Oman's credit rating for the second time this year, bringing it to BB-(minus) from BB and keeping its outlook negative. - Reuters

Oman is burdened by high levels of debt and is therefore more vulnerable to oil price swings than most of its wealthier neighbours.

Ratings agency Fitch has cut the credit ratings of several Omani banks and companies after downgrading the sovereign itself earlier this month for the second time this year, it said on Wednesday.

Oman, one of the weakest economies in the hydrocarbon-reliant Gulf, is burdened by high levels of debt and is therefore more vulnerable to oil price swings than most of its wealthier neighbours.

Fitch on Wednesday downgraded by one notch HSBC Bank Oman , Ahli Bank, and Bank Muscat.

All three were assigned a negative outlook, along with Bank Dhofar and National Bank of Oman, whose ratings were affirmed.

Sohar International, another bank, was affirmed at 'B plus' and was also given a negative outlook.

Fitch said while it saw a "moderate probability of support" for HSBC Oman by its parent HSBC, its downgrade reflected a slightly higher risk that Oman could interfere in the country's banking system given the weakening of its external finances.

The agency said the downgrade to Ahli Bank reflects pressure on its standalone credit profile from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and lower oil prices on the economy and its wider operating environment.

"Together, this will increase pressure on asset quality," it said.

Bank Muscat's rating was cut for similar reasons.

On Tuesday Fitch also downgraded state-owned Oman Electricity Transmission Co (OETC), Mazoon Electricity Co and majority government-owned Oman Telecommunications Co (Omantel) to BB-(minus) from BB.

All three were given a negative outlook.

Earlier this month the agency downgraded Oman's credit rating for the second time this year, bringing it to BB-(minus) from BB and keeping its outlook negative, citing the continued erosion of its fiscal and external balance sheets.

OETC, Mazoon and Omantel's downgrades were a result of the sovereign's downgrade.

"Their standalone credit profiles (SCP) are higher than the Oman sovereign rating of 'BB-'," Fitch said. - Reuters


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