Monday, July 26, 2010

How tough is the market for new issues in the GCC?

An article in Bloomberg describes the falling yields on GCC sukuk, Dubai World and the sovereign Dubai bonds and sukuk with some optimism. However, it notes that the spread on Dubai World's debt (it doesn't say what the spread is based on, but one would assume comparable maturity US Treasuries) from 647 basis points after the standstill to 545 basis points (it incorrectly says the spread is 545 percentage points). The yields on sukuk from GCC-based issuers was 7.17 percent on July 23 (compared to 8.76 after the Dubai debt crisis), the Dubai 6.396% soverign sukuk is yielding 7.38% (435 basis points higher than the recently issued Malaysian sovereign sukuk), the Dubai World yield is sitting at 8.4% (for the 6.25% sukuk).

These figures reflect only limited thawing of GCC credit markets in the aftermath of the financial crisis and, in particular, the Dubai debt crisis. It is hardly surprising that other articles written recently describe a move in momentum in sukuk issuance from the GCC to Malaysia. That is in many respects not entirely fair. The Dubai debt crisis was triggered by specific factors--primarily an overvalued real estate market in Dubai that saw significant declients. However, it does suggest a general attitude that sukuk from the GCC are more risky than other emerging market debt (including sukuk) offerings. This will reduce the level of issuance of sukuk in the near term from the GCC, which would hurt the emergence of sukuk secondary markets. If anything, investors need more sukuk issuance to fill the portfolios of long-term, hold-to-maturity investors (like takaful funds) and therefore a reduction in issuance from one of the largest markets (and the regional market for many of the funds investing in sukuk) could reinforce the hold-to-maturity mentality among many investors. Some of those investors are probably sitting on large losses from Dubai-related sukuk that they are unwilling to realize.

Meanwhile, Nakheel is working through its own debt restructuring. Reports suggest that full payment will be made over 5 years for its syndicated banks loans (including Shari'ah-compliant financing) and 7 years for its sukuk. According to Reuters, "Bankers have until the end of August to respond to undisclosed terms of Nakheel's multi-billion dollar restructuring plan, including the rates of interest and repayment schedules for syndicated and bilateral loans. " Reuters is usually pretty good at describing the presence of Shari'ah-compliance in financing facilities, so the description they give (while it may be limited by sources speaking on background) does reflect the lack of a structure for restructuring in Shari'ah-compliant transactions. The restructuring of the loans (many of which are based on ijara) is probably being done in a rather ad hoc manner. The interest rate and payment terms are dealt with first and the Shari'ah-compliant structure are dealt with later. If this is the case, there remain significant gaps in the Islamic finance industry in dealing with distressed situations that should be at the forefront of the agenda before the next crisis comes.

Other News
  • Kuwait-based International Investment Group defaulted for a second timek on a sukuk this year, missing a $152.5 million payment.
  • Mushtak Parker offers his thoughts on the Sukuk ALIM being issued by Cagamas working with Al Rajhi Bank to be viewed as Shari'ah-compliant in both the GCC and Malaysia. He also offers his thoughts on the recent entry into the Islamic finance markets by Japanese firms, several years after the country said it wanted to encourage Islamic finance in the country to attract capital.
  • A former Supreme Court justice in India, Krishna Iyer, believes that Islamic finance can help in efforts to alleviate poverty.
  • Arab News has an interview with the CEO of the Islamic Corporation for Development of the Private Sector, part of the Islamic Development Bank group.
  • The state-owned Islamic bank in the Philippines is planning the country's first sukuk to "fund growth in Muslim Minanao".
  • A Malaysian firm is providing the first financial guarantee for a sukuk.
  • A writer in the Business Recorder in Pakistan, Saqib Masood Chisti, suggests that Islamic microfinance could be expanded in the country while criticizing a program that provides cash payments to poor families as causing inflation and creating dependency (I am not knowledgable enough about the program to comment, but the description given resembles the successful Bolsa Familia program in Brazil).

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