Oman and Bahrain are stuck on the sidelines of the international debt markets after a record borrowing tally by Gulf Arab economies this month underscored a divide between the region’s strongest and weakest sovereigns, Bloomberg News reported. Facing external financing needs that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimates at $5.5 billion this year, Oman and Bahrain are all but shut out from bond funding, waiting for their yields to retreat before wading into the market.
As the coronavirus crisis deepens in emerging economies around the world, collapsing currencies, commodity prices, export earnings and tourism revenues threaten to shred the finances of many governments, leaving them scrambling to avoid default, the Financial Times reported. Zambia has already called in advisers to restructure its debt while Ecuador has asked for more time to make coupon payments on three dollar bonds. Few analysts believe they will be the last.
Saudi Arabia, along with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, came to the rescue of Bahrain last year when a prolonged period of lower oil prices pushed its public debt to nearly 93 percent of annual economic output, Reuters reported. Their $10 billion bailout pledge, along with Bahrain’s inclusion in JPMorgan’s emerging market indexes, have transformed its bonds from a busted bet to a boon for investors. The price of Bahrain’s 2028 dollar bonds has risen by a third from a record low last June when the country looked in danger of default.
Bahrain went from being a bond-market pariah to a darling this year after its Gulf neighbors came to its rescue to ward off any default. But falling oil prices have brought the island kingdom’s finances into focus again, Bloomberg News reported. After outperforming its Gulf peers in the third quarter, Bahrain’s dollar debt has been hurt by crude’s slump in the past two months. Investors are concerned about the government’s ability to put its austerity plan into action, with oil prices well below what it needs to balance its budget.