Saudi Arabia Returns to Eurobond Market as Gulf Tensions Ease

saudi stocks; middle east stock market
A digital screen displays stock prices and financial investment information inside the Saudi Stock Exchange, also known as the Tadawul, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. Foreign investors bought more Saudi stocks in March than ever before in anticipation of the kingdom’s upgrade to emerging-market status. Photographer: Abdulrahman Abdullah/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) –Saudi Arabia is set to issue its first Eurobond of the year as tensions in the Middle East over the U.S.’s assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani ease.

The kingdom is taking advantage of low borrowing costs globally and looking to plug part of its growing budget deficit by issuing around $32 billion of external debt over the course of the year.

Tuesday’s deal will be made up of three dollar tranches, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak about it. The country set initial price guidance of about 110 basis points over U.S. Treasuries for a seven-year offering, 135 basis points for a 12-year security and 180 basis points for a 35-year bond, which will be Saudi Arabia’s longest yet.

Saudi fixed-income assets have been more resilient than those elsewhere in the Middle East following Soleimani’s killing on Jan. 3. While the kindgom’s spreads spiked that day, they’ve since fallen back to 133 basis points over U.S. Treasures, around where they began the year, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. indexes. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign dollar bonds have gained 0.6% in 2020, more than those of any other country in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

“While remaining fully cognizant of the serious nature of the geopolitical risks of late, institutional investors are likely to show strong demand for this deal,” said Chavan Bhogaita, head of strategy at First Abu Dhabi Bank, who’s based in the emirate. There’s a “wall of cash that investors need to put to work” and Saudi Arabia “ticks all the boxes,” he said.

Citigroup Inc., Morgan Stanley and Standard Chartered Plc are leading the transaction. BNP Paribas SA, HSBC Holdings Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and NCB Capital are also helping to sell it.

Saudi Arabia last sold Eurobonds in October, when it raised a $2.5 billion sukuk. Fahad Al-Saif, head of the kingdom’s debt management office, had said in December the country would probably soon return to global debt markets. It issued $13.4 billion of euro and dollar bonds last year, more than any other emerging market aside from Turkey, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Demand for the longer-maturity bonds is likely to be relatively strong because of the higher yields and appetite from pension funds and insurance companies in Asia,” said Carl Wong, head of fixed income at Avenue Asset Management Ltd. in Hong Kong, who’s considering buying the notes.

–With assistance from Netty Ismail and Paul Abelsky.