North Africa/Middle East

Lebanese lawmakers urged the government to avoid a default on its local-currency debt and asked it to reevaluate central bank liabilities to help secure a critical bailout from the International Monetary Fund, Bloomberg News reported. Member of parliament Ibrahim Kanaan said Wednesday that the IMF held a meeting with lawmakers earlier this month and told them Lebanon faces a choice of “no reform, no program” -- referring to the $10 billion loan the government is trying to negotiate with the Washington-based lender.

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KBBO Group, whose chairman is a significant shareholder in troubled hospital group NMC Health, said on Wednesday it had hired advisers to restructure outstanding liabilities, Reuters reported. The group has appointed Trussbridge Advisory and PwC Middle East as financial experts, while Hadef & Partners LLC and Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton LLP have been appointed as legal advisers, it said in a statement. It did not disclose its outstanding debt.

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Dubai World has made a final $8.2bn payment to creditors, ending the most complicated and highest-profile restructuring to stem from the debt crisis that almost overwhelmed the Gulf emirate a decade ago, the Financial Times reported. Dubai was forced to raise $20bn in emergency loans in 2009 to cope with the credit crunch and to prevent a default by Dubai World’s main real estate arm that was heavily exposed to the then collapsing property market.

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Fitch Ratings treats some amend and extend (A&E) exercises initiated by stressed corporate borrowers as distressed debt exchanges (DDEs), eventually leading to restricted defaults (RDs), Fitch Ratings reported. Since the coronavirus pandemic began affecting Europe in March 2020, Fitch has classified 11 transactions in its EMEA bond and loan portfolio as DDEs, which will contribute to default rates rising towards 4%-5% by end-2020 from 1% in 2019.

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Saudi Arabia’s economy will shrink by 6.8% this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Wednesday, a sharper decline than the 2.3% contraction estimated in April, as low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic hit the kingdom hard, Reuters reported. In an update of its April World Economic Outlook forecast, the IMF said it now expects a deeper global recession in 2020 and a slower recovery in 2021, as the coronavirus crisis intensifies in many emerging and developing countries.

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Saudi Binladin Group failed to pay thousands of employees as the construction giant reels under the impact of coronavirus and restructures about $15 billion of debt, Bloomberg News reported. The conglomerate missed some salary payments in April and May, according to people with knowledge of the matter. It’s not clear yet whether the company, which employs about 100,000 staff, will be able to pay those employees in June, the people said, asking not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

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The International Monetary Fund remains in discussions with Lebanon about possible financing arrangements, an IMF spokesman said on Thursday, adding that it was premature to discuss the scope of any potential program, Reuters reported. Spokesman Gerry Rice declined to give any details on reforms the Fund would require before it would authorize a program, but said the Lebanese government needed to implement comprehensive, equitable reforms in many areas. He said Lebanon also needed to reach a common understanding about the source and size of the financial losses it faces.

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With countries across Africa shedding long-held taboos to seek International Monetary Fund help, Algeria is a rare holdout, Bloomberg News reported. It may need a quick recovery in oil prices or Chinese backing to stay that way. On a continent where a checkered experiences with the IMF or distaste for foreign interference has meant trepidation toward the lender, the economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus is sparking some sudden turnarounds.

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Lebanon’s tax revenues dropped 12.5% during the first quarter of 2020 compared to a year earlier, ministry of finance data showed on Thursday, as a bruising financial crisis took its toll, Reuters reported. Lebanon has seen its currency plunge in value and unemployment soar since anti-government protests erupted last October. It defaulted on its sovereign debt before entering talks with the International Monetary Fund last month. The finance ministry data is the first to capture a full quarter since the protests started.

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