Refinancing of GCC debt to take centrestage this year

UAE bond issuance growth highest last year, reaching $31.5 billion

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Somshankar Bandyopadhyay

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The UAE Central Bank. — File photo
The UAE Central Bank. — File photo

Published: Mon 15 Jan 2024, 6:55 PM

With close to $45 billion of GCC debt maturing this year, refinancing of these instruments are expected to account for the bulk of the bond issuances by corporates and governments in the region this year, a report showed.

According to Kamco Invest’s GCC Fixed Income Market : 2023, this would be further supported by a strong pipeline of projects across the GCC related to the respective diversification goals. “We expect fresh issuances to be front-end loaded as seen recently and earlier-than-expected rate cuts to more evenly spread the issuances during the year,” Junaid Ansari, Kamco’s head of investment strategy and research, wrote in the report. Fiscal deficits by some sovereigns in the region is another factor supporting issuances by GCC sovereigns, he added.

Issuances of sukuk is expected to increase this year after seeing two straight years of declines until last year. “Key motivations for growth in sukuk issuance includes lower prevailing rates, crude oil prices remaining subdued around the $70 per barrel levels as well as diversification as a number of countries and corporates are embracing Islamic sukuk in their funding mix. Sovereigns in the GCC would be particularly looking at raising debt using the sukuk route due to the subdued expectations for oil prices,” the report said.

Moreover, maturity of sukuk is probably the highest on record in the case of GCC issuers at $37.9 billion in 2024. Refinancing of these securities should keep GCC issuances elevated in 2024, the report said.

The UAE witnessed the biggest growth in bond issuances during the year reaching $31.5 billion during 2023 as compared to $19.8 billion in 2022. Total bond issuances by GCC countries stood at $58.2 billion during 2023 as compared to $40.4 billion during 2022, registering an increase of 44.2 per cent or $17.8 billion.

Expectations in terms of fixed income issuances globally remain positive for 2024 with both sovereigns and corporates encouraged to tap the market. The year started on a positive note with record issuances of emerging market bonds. Forecasts from Bloomberg suggests government bond issuances of close to $2.1 trillion globally, an increase of 7 per cent from 2023. The sizable maturities expected in 2024 are mostly related to issuances during the pandemic. There is also a risk of sustained inflation, although recent data suggests otherwise, and as a result, a number of corporates and governments are seen rushing to issue bonds by locking in lower prevailing rates.

Globally, the outlook for 2024 shows central banks across key countries looking at cutting interest rates for the first time in two years.

The point of divergence between central banks is the size of cuts expected during the year. The most recent consensus forecast from Bloomberg shows that the US Fed is expected to slash rates by around 150 bps in 2024 to 3.9 per cent (mid-point) while the eurozone is expected to undertake a steeper rate cut of around 200 bps. “The Fed dot plot projections show 75 bps rate cuts in 2024. The rate cuts by other central banks are expected to be relatively lower depending on the existing rates, the pressure on foreign exchange rates, economic trends in the market and last but not the least, inflation,” the report said.

With most GCC currencies pegged to the greenback, rate cuts by GCC central banks to be broadly in line with the US Fed, with Kuwait being the exception as its currency pegged to a basket of currencies.


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