North Africa/Middle East

Oman returned to the debt market for the third time in less than three months, taking advantage of investors’ appetite for yield to help plug the Gulf Arab region’s widest budget deficit, Bloomberg News reported. The largest oil exporter outside of OPEC sold $3.25 billion in a three-part debt offering. Oman priced $1.75 billion in 10-year notes at a yield of 6.25%. It sold another $1 billion in 30-year securities at 7.25%, versus guidance of 7.5% and initial price talk of between 7.625% and 7.75%.

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A unit of the main conglomerate controlled by Dubai’s ruler is facing off against creditors including Mashreqbank PSC after telling them it won’t fully repay a loan that was restructured in 2013, Bloomberg News reported. The $1.2 billion syndicated facility is linked to Dubai Holding Investments Group LLC’s acquisition in 2007 of a 10% stake in U.S. hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, since renamed Sculptor Capital Management.

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Saudi Arabia is preparing to return to global capital markets with a bond sale aimed at raising about $5 billion to help cover financing needs heightened by last year’s slide in oil prices, Bloomberg News reported. The kingdom is close to hiring banks for a sale earmarked for as early as this month, the people said, declining to be identified because the matter is private. No final decision on the timing has been made and the country may still put off the sale should market conditions deteriorate, they said. The Finance Ministry in Riyadh didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Qatar’s neighbors agreed Tuesday at a regional summit to set aside festering differences that had caused a destabilizing break among the U.S. allies and undermined a pressure campaign on Iran, but sidestepped efforts to resolve the sources of their repeated rifts, the Wall Street Journal reported. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt will reopen their airspace to Qatari jets, restore diplomatic ties with Doha and reverse all other actions taken since they cut relations in 2017.

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Saudi Arabia pledged additional, voluntary oil output cuts of one million barrels per day (bpd) in February and March as part of a deal under which most OPEC+ producers will hold production steady in the face of new coronavirus lockdowns, Reuters reported. Saudi is going beyond its promised cuts as part of the OPEC+ group of producers to support both its own economy and the oil market, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Tuesday. Benchmark Brent oil prices rose on the news, trading up almost 5% above $53 per barrel at 2023 GMT.

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Gulf Arab leaders signed a declaration on Tuesday to ease a rift with Qatar, following Saudi Arabia’s decision to end a 3 1/2-year embargo of the tiny energy-rich country that deeply divided regional U.S. security allies and frayed social ties across the Arabian Peninsula, the Associated Press reported. Saudi Arabia also said that it was restoring full diplomatic relations with Qatar, although it was not clear how soon the step would be followed by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, which had joined the kingdom in isolating the country over its regional policies.

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Qatar, Saudi Arabia Set to End Feud

Qatar and Saudi Arabia and its allies are expected to sign a deal on Tuesday designed to end a protracted feud that has split the Middle East and hampered U.S. efforts to isolate Iran, senior Trump administration officials said on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported. Under the deal, the U.S. officials said, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt are expected to officially end a blockade of Qatar they began in June 2017 when the countries accused Qatar’s leaders of supporting terrorism and aligning itself with Iran.

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Egypt’s central bank has extended two debt relief initiatives for another 6 months which were launched earlier to help companies and tourism firms struggling as a result of the coronavirus’ impact on the economy, Bloomberg News reported. In a statement released on Jan. 3, the regulator said that the move affects companies with bank debt of less than 10 million Egyptian pounds and tourism firms with debts of more than 10 million pounds. The initiative entails removing the names of these firms from blacklists, removes asset restrictions and halts legal action.

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With its economy hammered by the pandemic and plunging oil and gas prices, which account for 90 percent of government revenue, Iraq was unable to pay government workers for months at a time last year, the New York Times reported. Last month, Iraq devalued its currency, the dinar, for the first time in decades, immediately raising prices on almost everything in a country that relies heavily on imports. And last week, Iran cut Iraq’s supply of electricity and natural gas, citing nonpayment, leaving large parts of the country in the dark for hours a day.

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The implementation of a 5% value-added tax in Oman this year is seen bringing in 300 million rials ($779 million), the Oman News Agency reported Saturday, citing the Gulf nation’s finance minister, Bloomberg News reported. Oman’s 2021 budget, announced Friday, forecasts a 14% drop in spending and a 19% decline in revenue after finances were ravaged by lower crude prices and the coronavirus pandemic. The country last year announced it would impose a 5% VAT in an effort to bolster the economy and curb its widening budget deficit.

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