Sovereigns and banks: borrowing and bonds

21 March 2003
MEED has introduced a new league table this year which ranks those banks providing finance to governments and financial institutions (FIs) in the Gulf. Given the fragmented nature of the market, MEED has built the table from the lead arrangers of sovereign and FI borrowings and from the underwriters of bonds and floating rate notes (FRNs).

BNP Paribas dominates the rankings, completing four deals that cover the breadth of the sector: from sovereign bonds in Iran and Bahrain to a syndicated borrowing by Arab Banking Corporation.

The new league table highlights the rapid development last year of a corporate FRN market - an important new departure for the region. Four banks staged issues worth a total of $1,325 million in a matter of months, where no issue had ever been staged before. One of the main beneficiaries was JP Morgan Chase & Company, which picked up three of the mandates, propelling itself to second place in the MEED rankings. Similarly, Morgan Stanley picked up two mandates and came fourth.

The emergence of the FRN market contributed to another thin year in the FI syndications market. It was further depressed by two regional institutions - BMB Investment Bank and Bahrain International Bank - defaulting rather than rolling over syndicated facilities. Only three deals worth more than $100 million were brought to market in 2002, down on the five done in 2001, and the 11 completed in 2000.

However, the likelihood is that the FRN market will be more active this year, with a number of regional banks seeking to roll over three-year facilities signed in 2000. Whether the market will be open to them remains to be seen, but the chances are that pricing patterns might have moved in an uncomfortable direction.

The is also likely to be changes in the sovereign finance market. Qatar has made it clear that it will stage no more sovereign borrowing, but both Iran and Bahrain are likely to come again. The possibility of Oman tapping the market is also rising.

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