Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (Jafza) has finally presented banks with a plan to refinance its $2bn sukuk (Islamic bond) due in November. It is a further sign that Dubai is making progress on addressing its debt maturities this year.
In January, Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group (DHCOG) , a unit of Dubai Holding, repaid a $500m bond due on 1 February, the first of Dubai’s major debt challenges.
Jafza’s plan includes a mix of debt repayments, coupled with a new bond and loan, probably with differing maturities. The company has steady cashflows and banks are generally willing to lend to it. Their concerns have centred more around the size of Jafza’s debt and the fact that most of it is due all at once.
The new financing plan should alleviate those concerns. Jafza has also given itself plenty of time to get the funds in place and wants the new deal closed before Ramadan starts in July, well ahead of the November maturity.
The bigger concern for Dubai at this stage is DIFC Investments, the investment arm of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), whose $1.25bn sukuk matures in June. So far, it appears to have made less progress than Jafza on arranging to repay or refinance the debt.
Unless progress on the DIFC Investments refinancing moves forward quickly, Dubai risks another disaster like the one in 2009, when local property developer Nakheel narrowly avoided a default on its debt.
With confidence in Dubai now rising, another financial crisis is the last thing the emirate needs as it tries to manage its $110bn debt pile.