North Africa/Middle East

Tunisia’s state-owned firms are in dire straits, facing a perfect storm of debt, mismanagement, the coronavirus pandemic and a decade of political instability that could push some to bankruptcy, Agence France Presser's reported. Ten years since a revolution that overthrew the nepotistic regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the sweeping reforms economists say are needed to clean up state finances have yet to materialise. The situation has pushed many of the cash-strapped North African country’s 110 state-owned firms towards the edge.
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Lebanon's caretaker prime minister warned Saturday that the country was quickly headed toward chaos and appealed to politicians to put aside differences in order form a new government that can attract desperately needed foreign assistance, the Associated Press reported. Hassan Diab, who resigned almost seven months ago as prime minister, threatened to suspend his caretaker duties if that would increase pressure for a new Cabinet to be formed.

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Saudi Aramco has asked banks to extend by a year a $10 billion loan it raised last May, two sources familiar with the matter said, suggesting that rebounding crude prices are not pushing the oil giant to reduce debt for the time being, Reuters reported. The sources confirmed a report by Loan Pricing Corporation, a fixed-income news provider owned by Refinitiv. It is at the banks’ discretion whether to extend the loan, but lenders will likely agree in order to maintain a good relationship with Aramco in the hope of receiving future business, LPC said citing a banker.
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Ezdan Holding Group faces the risk of debt restructuring or default as the Qatari real estate developer is yet to obtain credit-lines to meet upcoming maturities, according to S&P Global Ratings, Bloomberg News reported. “Despite discussing payment option plans, the company is still in the negotiation stage of securing a committed credit line to address its significant upcoming debt maturities and amortization schedule,” according to the ratings agency. S&P cut Ezdan’s rating to CCC from B- with negative outlook. Ezdan’s $500 million senior unsecured sukuk matures on May 18.
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Kuwait’s government submitted a draft law to parliament seeking permission to withdraw as much as 5 billion dinars ($16.5 billion) a year from the country’s sovereign wealth fund to help finance a spiraling deficit, Bloomberg News reported. If approved by lawmakers, it would be the first time since the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1990 that Kuwait had extracted funds from the $600 billion Future Generations Fund. Previous withdrawals were treated as loans and had to be repaid.
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Paralysed by financial crisis and riven with political risk, a number of Lebanon’s banks are struggling to meet a central bank target to raise their capital defences by 20% by the end of this month, Reuters reported. Less than half of the country’s dozen or so large banks are expected to meet the requirement, which the central bank set in August to reinforce the sector, according to four banking sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
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Satellite operator Intelsat SA said on Friday it has filed a restructuring plan backed by some of its creditors, in a bid to reduce debt and emerge from bankruptcy in the second half of the year, Reuters reported. The plan aims to reduce debt by more than half to $7 billion and has the support of holders of about $3.8 billion of its debt, the company said. It has sought a hearing on Mar. 17 for a court approval to solicit votes on the plan.

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Egypt held interest rates, putting monetary easing on pause for another month as the coronavirus keeps global markets on edge, Bloomberg News reported. The deposit rate will remain at 8.25% and the lending rate at 9.25%, the central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee said Thursday in a statement. Ten of 13 economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted the decision. The second wave of the pandemic and containment steps “continue to weigh on the near-term outlook,” the MPC said.

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