Friday 6th May 2016
NEWS TICKER: Moody's says it has downgraded the ratings of Exeltium SAS's €1,000m 15 year floating rate bank term loan (Facility A), €155m 15 year floating rate institutional term loan (Facility B1) and €280m 15 year fixed rate institutional term loan (Facility B2), together, the senior debt, to Baa3, from Baa2. The senior debt matures in June 2030. Moody's has also downgraded the rating of Exeltium's €153m subordinated bonds, the junior bonds, maturing in December 2031 to B3, from Ba3. The outlook on the ratings is stable. The downgrade of the senior debt ratings reflects, says Moody’s, wholesale electricity market price falls in France, resulting in a material risk that Exeltium's customers will opt out of electricity purchases from 2020 to 2024 and a fall in the weighted average credit quality of clients to Baa3, from Baa2 and iii) the weakened credit quality of the put counterparty, a large French industrial rated Ba2 negative that is obliged to purchase 51% of volumes subject to Client opt-out (the Put Option). Moody's has also revised its French wholesale electricity price assumptions downwards, reflecting the current price environment and Moody's assumption that lower prices will be sustained. The industrial logic of the project is significantly weakened in a low electricity price environment. In Moody's revised base case, the rating agency assumes that clients would opt-out of electricity purchases between 2020 and 2024. Over this period, Moody's assumes that just over half of Exeltium's electricity would be sold under the Put Option, with the remainder sold at market rates. - CORPORATE REPORTING - Lufthansa Group says is maintaining its full-year earnings forecast for an adjusted EBIT which is “slightly above” the previous year’s €1.8b, after reducing its operating losses for the first quarter, having introduced substantial cost cuts and despite a decline in revenues. The firm’s adjusted EBIT loss for the three months to the end of March fell by more than two-thirds to €53m ($61m). Revenues fell slightly to €6.9bn because of pricing pressures in the group’s passenger airlines, says chief financial officer Simone Menne. Lufthansa’s passenger airline division improved its adjusted EBIT by €244m and that for Austrian Airlines was up by €23m. However, currency effects, however, dragged on the result at Swiss International Air Lines, where adjusted earnings fell by €28m. However, the firm issued a health warning that its forecast does not take into account any negative effects of possible strike actions and that it does not expect that pricing pressures will ease any time soon. Lufthansa Group turned in a net loss of €8m, compared with a €425m profit last year, but stresses that this included a large benefit from transactions relating to US carrier JetBlue Airways. Taking this into account, it says, the first quarter net result equates to an improvement of €70m. - SOVEREIGN DEBT - THE UK’s DMO says the auction of £2.5bn of 1.5% treasury gilt 2026 says bids worth £4.473bn were received for the offer of which £2.125bn was sold to competitive bidders and £374m sold to gilt edged market makers (GEMMs). An additional amount of the Stock totalling up to £375.000 million will be made available to successful bidders for purchase at the non-competitive allotment price, in accordance with the terms of the information memorandum. Higher priced bids came in at £98.566, providing a yield of 1.653% and the lowest accepts was £98.526, providing a yield of £1/656% - CYBER SECURITY - Global Cyber Alliance, an organisation founded by the New York County District Attorney's Office, the City of London Police and the Center for Internet Security, say they will collaborate with M3AAWG to push the security community to more quickly adopt concrete, quantifiable practices that can reduce online threats. The non-profit GCA has joined the Messaging, Malware and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group, which develops anti-abuse best practices based on the proven experience of its members, and M3AAWG has become a GCA partner for the technology sector – ASSET MANAGEMENT JOBS - IFM Investors today announced the appointment of Rich Randall as Global Head of Debt Investments. Mr. Randall takes on this senior leadership role from his prior position as Executive Director of Debt Investments, which he had held since joining IFM Investors in 2013. Randall replaces Robin Miller, who will semi-retire from IFM Investors after a 17-year association with the company. Miller will remain with IFM Investors and will transition to the role of Senior Advisor and Chair of Investment Committee within the organisation. In his new role, Randall will manage IFM Investors’ global debt investment teams and maintain the organization’s global debt investment process and relationships with investors. He will also oversee the sourcing of infrastructure debt opportunities internationally. He will continue to be based in IFM Investors’ New York offices and will report directly to CEO Brett Himbury – ACQUISITIONS - Intercontinental Exchange says it has backed off from its counterbid for the London Stock Exchange. In a statement issued by ICE, chief executive Jeffrey Sprecher says LSEG did not provide enough information to make an informed decision on the value of the merger. "Following due diligence on the information made available, ICE determined that there was insufficient engagement to confirm the potential market and shareholder benefits of a strategic combination. Therefore, ICE has confirmed that it has no current intention to make an offer for LSEG – POLITICAL RISK – Global risk analysts Red24 reports that political parties, including the National Movement for the Organisation of the Country (MONOP) and the Fanmi Lavalas party, held a series of demonstrations in Port-au-Prince, yesterday. The action was launched to show support for the Commission to Evaluate Haiti Elections (CIEVE), a body established to verify the 2015 elections. The latest call to action came amid heightened tensions between the aforementioned political parties and former president Michel Martelly's Parti Haitien Tet Kale (PHTK), which launched general strikes against CIEVE on 2 May. Further opposition party-led demonstrations are expected to continue in the near-term due to the indefinite postponement of the country's 24 April run-off election and issues surrounding the evaluation of the 2015 elections – INDEX TRADING – Investors have not yet leant into the wind as a ruff of mixed data discombobulated markets yet again, with a lacklustre Asian trading session. More pertinently perhaps, investor sentiment is hanging in advance of tomorrow’s US labour market report. Peter O’Flanagan ClearTreasury reports that uncertainty around Brexit has impacted business sentiment in the UK and “if we are seeing this filter through into Q2 data there may well be additional downside for UK data until we have a referendum result. That may not be an end to the uncertainty as the “Out” campaign appears to be gathering some momentum. Depending on what poll you look at, it would appear the “uncertain” portion of the polls is narrowing, and while the position is currently still far too close to call by looking at the polls, bookies are still favouring the ‘In’ campaign with a 75% probability of remaining”. In the Asian trading session meantime, Japanese stock indexes fell to three week lows, and in line with sentiment this year, the yen has touched yet another 18-month high against the dollar, no doubt testing the resolve of the central bank not to act, despite stating that the yen is way over-priced. The Nikkei225 was down 3.11% today. The Hang Seng ended down 0.37%, while the Shanghai Composite rose marginally by 0.23%. The ASX All Ordinaries ended 0.17% higher, though the Kospi fell 0.49% and the FTSE Bursa Malaysia dropped 0.75%. The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 0.53 points or 0.02% lower to 2772.54, taking the year-to-date performance to -3.82%. The top active stocks today were SingTel, which gained 0.53%, DBS, which declined 2.22%, OCBC Bank, which declined 1.06%, UOB, which declined 1.04% and Wilmar Intl, with a 0.57% advance. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index declined 0.27%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index rose 0.01%. OIL PRICES RISE - The story today was oil as prices climbed in the Asian session, with the Brent crude price breaking through $45; wildfires in Canada were behind the rise. Wildfires look to be burning out of control in the Alberta oil sands region of Canada, which mines and ships heavy crude to the US. Oil companies there have reduced operations as non-essential employees are evacuated. Moreover, US oil output fell last week by more than 100,000 barrels a day to 8.83m, its lowest level since September 2014, though inventories continue to rise. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery next month was up $1.19, or 2.7%, at $44.97 while Brent prices for July supply rose 94 cents to $45.56. The price of oil has rallied recently because of the 400,000 bpd cut in US oil output (IEA data), US dollar weakness and Asian demand optimism. The next OPEC meeting scheduled for June 2nd will likely be another watershed, as all recent meetings have been. One beneficiary of the recent rally in oil prices is Russia, where the ruble has appreciated 14% against the US dollar this year. As well, investor sentiment towards Russia risk is highly influenced by the oil price. Year-to-date the dollar-denominated Russia RDX equity index is up 25%, and that compares with a gain of 6% for the MSCI EM Index and 1% for the S&P 500 Index reports Chris Weafer at macro-advisory.com. Weafer says the current oil price also makes the removal of financial sector sanctions less urgent for 2016 and eases both short-term geo-political and economic pressure on the Kremlin and reduces social stability concerns. “Oil should rise by [the end of the decade] but be less important by mid-next decade. Medium-term, an oil price rally to over US$100 per barrel is perfectly feasible due to the combination of steadily rising Asia demand (in particular) and the lack of investment by the oil majors since late 2014. Longer-term, the age of oil, or the importance of oil, may already be over or significantly in decline. The strong growth in alternative energy and the commitments made as part of the Paris Agreement make that a very high probability”. Gold is still seen under pressure this morning, say Swissquote’s Michael van Dulkin and Augustin Eden in their morning note today, which they attribute as usual to “pre Non-Farms trading (or lack thereof). We’re of the opinion, however, that employment is OK in terms of the US economic picture such that while there will be short term volatility around it, there’s little point giving this print much attention. Better to concentrate on US inflation data which, if it starts rising, could boost Gold (an inflation hedge) much more efficiently. There is, after all, a fair amount of concern that current easy US monetary policy could lead to inflation overshooting the 2% target when it does finally pick up.” In focus today, UK Services PMI (flat).

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Fortunes divide in infrastructure spending in the GCC

Monday, 03 October 2011
Fortunes divide in infrastructure spending in the GCC The growing disparity of fortunes in the GCC project segment was starkly exposed by a Citigroup report, which highlighted the fact that while some $170bn of projects in the United Arab Emirates have been put on hold or cancelled outright, the MENA region has seen a substantial uptick in infrastructure project spend. Who are the winners and runners up in the GCC project stakes right now? http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

The growing disparity of fortunes in the GCC project segment was starkly exposed by a Citigroup report, which highlighted the fact that while some $170bn of projects in the United Arab Emirates have been put on hold or cancelled outright, the MENA region has seen a substantial uptick in infrastructure project spend. Who are the winners and runners up in the GCC project stakes right now?

Citigroup’s latest MENA construction tracker report holds that the value of projects either delayed or cancelled rose to $170bn in August alone; a signal indication that the construction segment, particularly related to real estate in the Emirates, is still suffering from the fallout of local construction firms overstretching their credit exposure in the early years of this century. The figure is significant; the value of projects cancelled or delayed accounts for 56% of the all stymied projects across the survey area and is up 13% on July’s figures.  The property boom in the Emirates has now been languishing for over 3 years, with some prices of private property estimated to have fallen by as much as 60% in Dubai. No wonder many developers have been forced to abandon projects.

Projects cancelled or on hold across the wider MENA region in contrast, fell slightly to $1.69bn, compared with $1.7bn in July.  However, key markets in the GCC continue on the fast track in terms of new project spend. Saudi Arabia added $81bn worth of projects to the already $100bn it intends to spend on infrastructure in general and $20bn it will spend on downstream petrochemical projects over the coming five years.  Saudi Arabia, the UAE, also Jordan and Egypt are reportedly now pushing forward the idea of building nuclear power capacity across the MENA region; with the estimated value of projects topping $400bn over the next 15 years.  Saudi Arabia will again dominate this segment, with a planned $350bn spend on the King Abdullah City of Atomic and Renewable Energy project, which aims to establish a zeroCo2 emissions city using a mix of nuclear and other renewal energy sources.  Around 16 separate nuclear units are planned.



Kuwait ($20bn) and Qatar ($2bn) also have projects that are in preliminary stages of construction. In contrast, the UAE also showed a $12bn decline in preliminary projects to $118bn.

It is a contrasting picture with the situation even two years ago. While the outlook for countries such as Saudi Arabia look strong in the near term, revised data issued by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority shows that the build up to the current construction pipeline was rather slow in 2009 and the first half of 2010. There was an uptick in growth in 2010, with the industry posting 3.7% year-on-year real construction industry growth, while an average growth in construction projects of some 4% a year over the next four years is expected, backed by a healthy project pipeline, strong government support, an ability to invest and local demand for infrastructure keeps the industry stable.

The country’s Ninth Development Plan announced a touch over a year ago sets out an investment spend on infrastructure of some SAR1, 444bn ($385bn) between 2010 and 2014. Then, in response to stirrings elsewhere in MENA, now called the Arab Spring, the government created two packages of social benefits worth $130bn to finance further investment in education, healthcare and housing projects. SAR250bn ($66bn) was pledged for housing alone, with 500,000 new units in the pipeline. Around 7% of development plan investment will be channelled into housing, encompassing some 1m new houses to be built on a public-private partnership basis.  Another 19% will be invested in healthcare, involving the build of some 117 hospitals and 750 so-called primary care units.  The government also has an $80bn 10-year investment plan for electricity infrastructure underway in parallel with the infrastructure investment plans, which run out to 2018. Some 20GW of electricity capacity is currently under construction, worth around $30bn.

In a boost to local construction firms, the Saudi Industrial Development Fund has announced it will finance up to 75% of costs for investment projects in under-developed regions.

The current crop of investments underway includes the SAR40bn expansion of the Grand Mosque, underscoring the Kingdom’s pivotal role in Islam. The expansion, in the northern part of the Grand Mosque will cover an estimated 356,000 square metres, ultimately accommodating up to 1.2m worshippers.  It includes the construction of four giant bridges allowing access to the northern courtyards inside the Grand Mosque. It is the largest expansion project within the Grand Mosque complex to date and will showcase the country’s move into the 21st century, while retaining its sacred role as protector of the Islamic faith.

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