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Saudi Arabia passes bond test as investors look past Khashoggi

Reuters  |  DUBAI 

By Davide Barbuscia

DUBAI (Reuters) - drew a strong response on Wednesday in its first test of international bond market sentiment since coming under intense scrutiny in October from foreign governments and investors over the murder of

Seeking to raise $7.5 billion, attracted demand that topped $27 billion for the dual-tranche paper maturing in 2029 and 2050, according to a document issued by one of the banks leading the deal and seen by

The sale coincides with improved conditions across emerging markets, with yields compressing over the past few weeks, and Timothy Ash, senior emerging at Bluebay Asset Management, called it "opportunistic".

A said the impact of the Khashoggi case was fading.

The ministry of confirmed in a statement on Thursday the completion of the $7.5 billion bond sale. "The issuance received significant interest from international investors, with the orderbook peaking at $27.5 billion," it said.

It was not yet clear where most of the demand for the paper came from.

Hit by slumping oil prices, has become one of the biggest issuers across emerging markets, having sold $52 billion in international bonds since its debut in 2016. It plans to boost borrowing this year, along with state spending.

But its stock among investors took a hit after Khashoggi's killing, for which a definitive explanation has yet to emerge, and as the humanitarian consequences of its war in have become clearer.

'TIMING IS GREAT'

started marketing Wednesday's bonds at around 40 basis points above its existing curve, according to another document - suggesting the kingdom was willing to pay up in order to attract hefty demand.

Spreads were later tightened by 25 basis points on the 2029 tranche, the size of which has been set at $4 billion, and by 20 basis points on the 2050 tranche, set at $3.5 billion.

"Timing-wise this is great, because risky assets are in vogue - 2019 went off like crazy and investors want to put their money to work," said Philipp Good, at

Sergey Dergachev, of EM corporate at Germany-based Union Investment, said he thought investors had relegated the Khashoggi case to the background, "especially since some significant government reshuffling two weeks ago."

The sale - arranged by BNP Paribas, Citi, HSBC, and - was also the first this year by a Gulf borrower, and comes as crude prices recover.

"When you issue first or among first in early January it is both good test for market perception for your credit story and investors have cash balances to be put to work," Dergachev added.

Saudi's public debt amounted to 560 billion riyals ($149.29 billion) or 19.1 percent of GDP in 2018, and the budget forecasts a rise to 678 billion riyals or 21.7 pct of GDP this year.

The country is rated A1 by and A+ by Fitch.

($1 = 3.7511 riyals)

(Reporting by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Alexander Smith, John Stonestreet and Toby Chopra)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, January 10 2019. 14:41 IST
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