GCC banks hit international bond market

13 October 2006
A flurry of bond issues from GCC financial institutions hit the market in early October, including Islamic and conventional paper and senior and subordinated debt. The biggest issue to be priced came from Commercialbank a $500 million, five-year floating-rate note (FRN) arranged by Citigroup and HSBC. An order book in excess of $1,100 million was secured and the paper was priced at 45 basis points (bp).
Demand came 52 per cent from Europe, 25 per cent from the Middle East and 22 per cent from Asia, with banks and treasuries accounting for about 77 per cent of subscription and fund managers 20 per cent. The issue is part of a $1,500 million euro medium-term note (EMTN) programme, covering both senior and subordinated debt (MEED 6:10:06).

'The response was very good because, although it is the first bank deal to come out of Qatar, international investors are already familiar with the state and its credit story,' says Samad Sirohey, director, co-head of Europe, Middle East and Africa debt capital markets, at Citigroup. 'Commercialbank has reopened the market for GCC financial institutions after a period of soft market conditions since May. It has also benefited from the lack of supply for three months or so.'

The next EMTN issue to be launched will be the first drawdown of an $850 million programme by Arab National Bank (ANB). Roadshows in the Middle East and Asia have been completed and moved on to Europe in mid-October, with launch and pricing due by the end of the month. Citigroup and HSBC are again advising. ANB's debut issue will be of subordinated rather than senior debt. 'Normally you would expect senior debt first but this route meets ANB's strategic needs securing funds is not

paramount,' says Sirohey.

Roadshows are due in mid-October for a subordinated debt issue by National Bank of Dubai, likely to be worth $400 million-500 million. Barclays Capital and UBS were recently appointed lead managers, while appointments on a similar issue planned by Emirates Bank International (MEED 22:9:06).

A one-off subordinated debt issue by United Gulf Bank was launched in early October the first such issue from a sub-

investment-grade rated GCC institution. The $100 million note, which has a tenor of 10 years callable in five, was priced at 180 bp.

Subscription came 55 per cent from the Middle East, 37 per cent from Europe and 8 per cent from Asia. Banks took 56 per cent and funds 31 per cent. ABN Amro, Morgan Stanley and UBS were the arrangers (MEED 22:9:06).

On the Islamic side, a $200 million sukuk issue by Sharjah Islamic Bank has also been priced, at 65 bp, following late-September roadshows in the GCC, Asia and Europe. HSBC was the sole arranger and bookrunner (MEED 22:9:06).

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