Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil exporter in the world, has asked banks to submit proposals to help it raise funds through the sale of a dollar-denominated shariah-compliant bond.
The move follows Riyadhs record-breaking $17.5bn debut bond, the largest ever sold in the emerging market in October. Officials have, primarily, approached lenders who had helped the kingdom with the fist issuance, according to news agency Reuters, which cited unnamed sources.
Citi, HSBC, JP Morgan were engaged as global coordinators on the conventional bond. Bank of China, BNP Paribas, Deutsche, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, MUFG, and NCB Capital were also involved in the transaction.
The timing or the size of the Islamic bond were not specified. Riyadh is pursuing its debt plans as part of its efforts to diversify its funding sources and help it plug a fiscal deficit, on the back of falling oil revenues.
Saudi Arabias bid to tap the debt markets comes at a busy time for GCC corporate and sovereign issuers. Bahrain and Oman are the other two sovereigns looking to raise funds internationally. The kingdom of Bahrain, which is not a member of Opec, on 21 February started marketing a tap of its $1bn October 2028 bond to raise as much as $600m, while sultanate of Oman is expected to announce the launch of a sovereign bond as early as this week.
Oman has already appointed Citi, HSBC, JP Morgan, Societe Generale and Standard Chartered to lead the transaction could raise around $1bn or more. It had invited banks to pitch for advisory roles in first week of January and initially had guided that it could do either a dollar bond or raise funds through sale of sharia-compliant paper.
The sale of bonds by the Gulf sovereigns is sign of financial distress, as the governments rely heavily on the sale of crude for revenues. The price of oil is still 50 per cent below the mid-2014 peak.
The deal pipeline in the GCC also includes a bond by Bank of Sharjah, which is expected to issue a US dollar bond by the end of this week, after it publishes 2016 financial results and obtains final approval of bond-related documentation.