Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dubai wades back into international capital markets, sukuk coming back or are defaults too strong a headwind for the next year

Dubai Civil Aviation may issue sukuk and conventional bonds to refinance $1 billion in debt maturing in November, in signs that Dubai may be re-approaching the sukuk and bond markets despite uncertainty about the level of debt in government-related entities like Dubai World and Nakheel, which has a $3.52 billion sukuk maturing in December. The ability of Dubai to tap capital markets has been buoyed by the return of risk appetite among investors as well as the repayment a month early by Nakheel of over $1 billion in bank debt extended earlier this year. However, there is still skepticism about Dubai's ability to restructure its debt and government-related entities.

A senior executive at Nomura believes that there will be a further uptick in the issuance of new sukuk by corporate and sovereign issuers in the next 18 months. The issuance through the end of September was $13.5 billion, primarily out of Saudi Arabia, which accounted for 44% of issuance and included sukuk from Saudi Electric Company and the Islamic Development Bank. Other more recent data shows that $18 billion in sukuk have been issued so far this year.

The sukuk market remains in a state of flux because of the unresolved issues about asset-based and asset-backed sukuk, which is discussed in an article in the Financial Times. The important point brought up in the FT article is that not all sukuk transfer ownership of the underlying asset to the investors. In many cases of asset-based sukuk, the asset is transferred to the SPV that issued the sukuk but with a repurchase agreement that requires the issuer to repurchase the asset in the case of default. This means that the asset ownership transfers back to the company and the sukuk holders are given essentially an IOU that the company will redeem the principal of the sukuk in a default. This is different from an asset-backed sukuk where ownership is transferred to the sukuk holders, who then have legal right to the asset. This was the case in the East Cameron sukuk, which was based on an overriding royalty interest that entitles the sukuk holders to a share of production in the underlying lease. Other sukuk transfer ownership of a tangible asset (the ORRI is legally recognized as real property in Louisiana, but is not a transfer of the underlying properties being drilled, which are leased from the US government).

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