Monday 8th February 2016
NEWS TICKER, February 8th: According to Reuters, Venezuela's central bank has begun negotiations with Deutsche Bank AG to carry out gold swaps to improve the liquidity of its foreign reserves as it faces debt payments of some $9.5bn this year. Around 64% of Venezuela's $15.4bn reserves are held in gold bars, which in this fluid market impedes the central bank's ability to mobilise hard currency for imports or debt service. We called the central bank to confirm the story, but press spokesmen would not comment - The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) says official foreign currency reserves stood at $357bn (equivalent to seven times the currency in circulation or 48% of Hong Kong M3) as at the end of January, down compared with reserve assets of $358.8bn in December. There were no unsettled foreign exchange contracts at month end (end-December: $0.1bn) - BNP Paribas today set out plans to cut investment banking costs by 12% by 2019 to bolster profitability and reassure investors about the quality of its capital buffers. The bank is the latest in a line of leading financial institutions, including Credit Suisse, Barclays and Deutsche Bank which look to be moving away from capital intensive activities. BNP Paribas has been selling non-core assets and cutting back on operations including oil and gas financing for the last few years as it looks to achieve a target of 10% return on equity. Last year the bank announced a €900m write-down on its BNL unit in Italy, which pushed down Q4 net income down 51.7% to €665m - Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed tech company, Huge Group, will move its listing from the Alternative Exchange (AltX) to the JSE main board on March 1st - Moody's says it has assigned Aaa backed senior unsecured local-currency ratings to a drawdown under export credit provider Oesterreichische Kontrollbank's (OKB) (P)Aaa-rated backed senior unsecured MTN program. The outlook is negative in line with the negative outlook assigned to the Aaa ratings of the Republic of Austria, which guarantees OKB’s liabilities under the Austrian Export Financing Guarantees Act – As the first phase of talks between Greece and its creditors draws to an end, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde stressed to journalists in Greece that debt relief is as important as the reforms that creditors are demanding, notably of the pension system. "I have always said that the Greek program has to walk on two legs: one is significant reforms and one is debt relief. If the pension [system] cannot be as significantly and substantially reformed as needed, we could need more debt relief on the other side." Greece's pension system must become sustainable irrespective of any debt relief that creditors may decide to provide, Lagarde said, adding that 10% of gross domestic product into financing the pension system, compared to an average of 2.5% in the EU, is not sustainable. She called for "short-term measures that will make it sustainable in the long term,” but did not outline what those measures might be. According to Eurobank in Athens, IMF mission heads reportedly met this morning with the Minister of Labour, Social Insurance and Social Solidarity, Georgios Katrougalos, before the team is scheduled to leave Athens today. According to the local press, it appears that differences exist between the Greek government and official creditors on the planned overhaul of the social security pension system. Provided that things go as planned, the heads are reportedly expected to return by mid-February with a view to completing the review by month end, or at worst early March. In its Winter 2016 Economic Forecast published yesterday, the European Commission revised higher Greece’s GDP growth forecast for 2015 and 2016 to 0.0% and -0.7%, respectively, from -1.4% and 1.-3% previously - Fitch says that The Bank of Italy's (BoI) recent designation of three banks as 'other systemically important institutions' (O-SIIs) has no impact on its ratings of the relevant mortgage covered bond (Obbligazioni Bancarie Garantite or OBG) programmes. Last month, BoI identified UniCredit, Intesa Sanpaolo. and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena as Italian O-SIIs. Banco Popolare and Mediobanca have not been designated O-SIIs. This status is the equivalent of domestic systemically important bank status under EU legislation. Fitch rates two OBG programmes issued by UC and one issued by BMPS, which incorporates a one-notch Issuer Default Rating (IDR) uplift above the banks' IDRs. The uplift can be assigned if covered bonds are exempt from bail-in, as is the case with OBG programmes under Italy's resolution regime and in this instance takes account of the issuers' importance in the Italian banking sector – Meantime, according to local press reports, Italian hotel group Bauer and special opportunity fund Blue Skye Investment Group report they have completed the rescheduling and refinancing of Bauer’s €110m debt through the issue of new bonds and the sale of non-core assets, such as the farming business Aziende Agricole Bennati, whose sale has already been agreed, the Palladio Hotel & Spa and a luxury residence Villa F in Venice’s Giudecca island – Meantime, Russian coal and steel producer Mechel has also agreed a restructuring of its debt with credits after two intense years of talks. The mining company, is controlled by businessman Igor Zyuzin - Asian markets had a mixed day, coming under pressure. Dollar strengthening worries investors in Asia; from today’s trading it looks like dollar weakening does as well. Actually, that’s not the issue, the dollar has appreciated steadily over the last year as buyers anticipated Fed tightening; but it has hurt US exports and that has contributed to investor nervousness over the past few weeks, which is why everyone is hanging on today’s The nonfarm payrolls report, a bellwether of change – good or bad in the American economic outlook. Back to Asia. The Nikkei 225 ended the day at 16819.15, down 225.40 points, or 1.32%; and as the stock market fell the yen continued to strengthen. The Nikkei has shed 5.85% this week. The dollar-yen pair fell to the 116-handle, at 116.82 in afternoon trade; earlier this week, the pair was trading above 120. It is a hard lesson for the central bank, whose efforts to take the heat out of the yen by introducing negative interest rates has done nothing of the sort. Australia's ASX 200 closed down 4.15 points, or 0.08% after something of a mixed week. The index closed at 4976.20, with the financial sector taking most of the heat today, with the sector down 0.7%. In contrast, energy and materials sectors finished in positive territory, buoyed by gains in commodities. The Hang Seng Index closed at 19288.17, up 105.08 points (or 0.55%) while the Shanghai Composite was down 0.61%. down 17.07 points to 2763.95. The Shenzhen composite dropped 20.36 points (1.15%) to 1750.70, while the Kospi rose marginally by 0.08% to 1917.79. Today is the last day of trading on the Chinese exchanges for a week.

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Investors pile into Islamic bonds

Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Investors pile into Islamic bonds April and May looked to be banner months for sukuk. Two deals, one from the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) and the other, from Banque Saudi Fransi, the Saudi lender part-owned by Credit Agricole, marked two rare but popular US dollar denominated issues which were highly prized by investors. The benchmark deals helped underscore growing investor appetite for Islamic bonds. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

April and May looked to be banner months for sukuk. Two deals, one from the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) and the other, from Banque Saudi Fransi, the Saudi lender part-owned by Credit Agricole, marked two rare but popular US dollar denominated issues which were highly prized by investors. The benchmark deals helped underscore growing investor appetite for Islamic bonds.

Saudi Fransi, Saudi Arabia’s fifth largest bank, launched $750m five-year Islamic bond mid-month at par amid strong investor demand for the issue in mid-May. The issue is the bank’s first sukuk sale under a recently-established $2bn debt programme. The sukuk came in at a spread of 185 basis points (bps) over midswaps, at the lower end of its ­indicated range. Initial price guidance was 200bps over midswaps. The deal was heavily oversubscribed, attracting investor orders worth $4bn, under­scoring growing investor appetite for sukuk issuance. The sukuk carries a profit rate of 2.947%. Citi, Deutsche Bank and Credit Agricole were arrangers on the deal.

The deal marks the second dollar denominated sukuk emanating from the Kingdom so far this year. Saudi Electricity’s $1.75bn sukuk, issued three weeks earlier, raised the bar with some $17.5bn in investor orders.  The Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), which is rated A1/AA-/AA- all Stable, is the largest utility in the GCC. The issue was made up of a five year $500m tranche and a $1.25bn ten year element. The ­transaction was led by Deutsche Bank and HSBC marked the inaugural ­international sukuk issuance by SEC and the largest international debt capital markets issuance out of Saudi Arabia for some years. The issuer also wanted to achieve a long tenor bond supported by a diversified investor base, which the arrangers helped secure after a comprehensive global road show. The dual-tranche Sukuk transaction was well received globally and generated a large order book with over 440 investors placing orders.



Shortly after the issue the SEC’s chief executive Ali Al Barrak explained, “The sukuk issue is important to us for strengthening our funding mix, accessing longer-tenor financing, broadening our investor base and helping us become more in line with our global peers while supporting SEC’s capital expenditure requirements.”

Saudi Arabian dollar-denominated bonds come to market relatively infrequently, and attract substantial demand when they do; illustrating that Gulf issuers are benefiting from their own economic micro-climate and are providing something of an oasis for investors starved of comprehensive corporate issuance opportunities. 

Investor appetite for the deals was marked and might just be a sign of a growing preference for Islamic instruments. The evidence is still thin: however Banque Saudi Fransi’s existing $650m conventional bond, which carries interest of 4.5% and matures in 2015, was bid at just over 103.97 in the second week of May, to yield about 2.8%, coming under some selling pressure ahead of the new issue.

Also in mid May Islamic Development Bank (IDB) enhanced the size of its medium term notes (NTN) ­programme from $1.5bn to $3.5bn, which will be issued in both London and Kuala Lumpur. The IDB’s forthcoming medium term sukuk (which is expected to range between five and seven years) will be issued under this programme sometime in June and is expected to raise between $750m and $1bn. Funds will be used to provide blended credits in support of capital goods projects in member countries. IDB, which is AAA-rated, priced a $750m five-year sukuk last May at a spread of 35bps over midswaps to yield 2.35%. According to local Saudi press reports, the sukuk will be 144a-compliant and, therefore, open to investors from the United States; though the IDB did not respond to questions about its forthcoming issue. 

Elsewhere, bond traders expect the first restructuring of an Islamic bond.  United Arab Emirates’ Dana Gas, the Sharjah-based energy company, is expected to restructure its $920m sukuk in coming weeks as investor concerns have heightened over the ability of the utility to meet its payment ­commitments. Up to now no Islamic bonds have been renegotiated though there have been examples of outright defaults (in both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait).

Dana has reportedly hired Blackstone, Latham Watkins and Deutsche Bank to advise on the various options for repaying the sukuk. The company is “committed to finding a consensual solution that is equitable to all stakeholders”, it said in a statement to the Dubai stock exchange.

Meantime, the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) says its monthly issue of the short-term Islamic leasing bonds, Sukuk Al-Ijaara, has been oversubscribed by 175%. Subscriptions worth BD35mwere received for the BD20m issue, which carries a maturity of 182 days. The expected return on the issue, which matures in mid-November 2012, is 1.34%.

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