Budget deficit fix? Oman readies third bond sale in three months

The largest oil exporter outside of OPEC is selling $3.25bn in debt in three parts.

Oman is back in the debt market for the third time in less than three months, taking advantage of investors’ appetite for yield to help plug the Gulf Arab region’s widest budget deficit. The largest oil exporter outside of OPEC is selling $3.25 billion in debt in three parts.

  • Oman set final terms of 6.25% for $1.75 billion in 10-year notes, according to people familiar with the matter, compared with an initial price target of 6.625%.
  • It is selling another $1 billion in 30-year securities at 7.25%, versus guidance of 7.5% and initial price talk of between 7.625% and 7.75%.
  • Also tapping $500 million of its 2025 bond at 4.45%; earlier guidance was for 4.625%-4.75%, and the initial price talk was 4.875%, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details are confidential.

Oman may need to borrow about $4.2 billion this year to cover a fiscal shortfall that has swelled after lower oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic battered the finances of one of the Gulf’s weakest sovereigns.

The sultanate is trying to win over investors concerned about its dwindling reserves by reducing spending and introducing a 5% value-added tax this year. It also established a new government-owned energy company last year, with plans to use its largest oil block to raise debt.

Investors are worried about “execution risks” of Oman’s plans, said Abdul Kadir Hussain, the Dubai-based head of fixed-income asset management at Arqaam Capital. “The market will probably be a little skittish until it sees how things are moving on these fronts.”

Oman is also in talks to win fiscal support from some regional neighbors, easing fears about any risk of devaluation pressure on its currency peg.

The sultanate’s dollar debt jumped 11% in the fourth quarter, more than triple the average 3.2% gain among Gulf Arab peers, as global investors sought higher returns. Yields on the nation’s $2.75 billion of bonds due in January 2048 have climbed 34 basis points to 7.08% since falling to a 10-month low on Jan. 8.

The country last raised $500 million in a tap of its bonds due in 2027 and 2032 in November. It returned to international debt markets for the first time in more than a year in October, when it raised $2 billion in seven- and 12-year bonds.

Citigroup Inc., HSBC Holdings Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Standard Chartered Plc are the global coordinators for the latest sale, joined by Bank Dhofar SAOG, Gulf International Bank BSC, Natixis SA and QNB Capital as joint lead managers.

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