Kuwait appoints banks for debut bond

23 January 2017

The oil-rich Gulf state could raise as much as $10bn from international debt market

Kuwait has appointed a group of six local and international banks to help it raise funds through its debut international debt sale.

The US-based lenders Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase and the UK’s HSBC are working as lead managers on the potential sale, according to news agency Bloomberg, which cited unnamed sources familiar with the matter. Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered and local NBK Capital have are hired as advisers, on the transaction.

The country, which is rated AA at S&P Global Ratings, the third-highest investment grade, in November had asked banks to submit proposals for the sovereign bond deal. Timing of the transaction, however, is not clear.

Kuwait relies heavily on the sale of crude for revenues to fuel its economy. A slide in oil prices from the mid-2014 peak of $115 has pushed the Kuwait and its GCC peers to look for alternative funding sources. Most GCC countries have already taken advantage of relatively lower interest rates and have tapped the international markets to bridge the fiscal gap.

Last year, GCC sovereign borrowers raised $33bn on global debt markets, 10 times the amount borrowed the previous year. Saudi Arabia, the biggest regional economy and the world’s top oil exporter, led with record breaking $17.5bn debut sale in October, which attracted $67bn in orders from global investors. Qatar, Abu Dhabi have also tapped the bond market.

Kuwait in July said it planned to sell as much as $10bn in conventional and Islamic bonds in international markets to help plug deficit for the current fiscal year, which will end on 31 March.

Deputy Prime Minister Anas al-Saleh said on 20 January that he expects the budget deficit to drop below the KD9.6bn ($31.5bn) forecast by the government. An average oil price of $55 would cut the shortfall by half, he said.

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