North Africa/Middle East

The political crisis in Lebanon has sent yields on some of its dollar bonds into triple digits. Rates on the government’s $1.2 billion of notes maturing in March next year have climbed 28 percentage points this week to 105%, Bloomberg News reported. They were at 13% five weeks ago, just before the start of protests that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and exacerbated the nation’s economic woes. Protesters marched to parliament in Beirut on Tuesday, forcing it to suspend a session as the army and riot police tried to disperse them.

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A new insolvency law to help UAE residents clear bad debts will ease the burden of heavy liabilities as the threat of criminal sanctions is removed, according to analysts, The National reported. The federal law, passed by the UAE Cabinet on Sunday, protects Emiratis and residents in debt from legal prosecution and decriminalises their financial obligations, offering them an opportunity to work to resolve their financial dilemma while still supporting their families.

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Investors are braced for more losses on Lebanese bonds as Beirut faces urgent calls to restructure its towering debt pile, the Financial Times reported. The value of Lebanon’s sovereign debt has plummeted since rating agencies pushed the dollar bonds even deeper into junk territory earlier this month. The country’s two-year bond has lost a quarter of its value over the past 30 days and now trades at 64 cents on the dollar.

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The withdrawal of a candidate to become Lebanon’s prime minister is once again threatening to drag out the process at a time the country faces calls to take urgent steps necessary to avoid economic collapse, Bloomberg News reported. Mohammed Safadi, a wealthy Lebanese businessman and former finance minister, put an end to his bid just two days after winning the backing of Lebanon’s major political parties. Lebanon has been without a government since Saad Hariri resigned late last month in the face of protests over mismanagement that’s pushed the economy to the verge of bankruptcy.

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Lebanon just got one of its starkest warnings yet that it will need to restructure its $30 billion of Eurobonds. Franklin Templeton, which oversees more than $690 billion of assets worldwide, said the government will have to renegotiate the debt load to stave off an economic collapse, Bloomberg News reported. “The system is broken and the credibility is gone,” Mohieddine Kronfol, the firm’s Dubai-based chief investment officer for Middle Eastern and North African fixed income, said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Tracy Alloway and Yousef Gamal El-Din.

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Investors in frontier-market bonds are on course to get their best returns in seven years. It looks like it’ll be a lot tougher in 2020, Bloomberg News reported. Some of the biggest money managers are already becoming more selective. BNP Paribas Asset Management, which oversees almost $500 billion in assets, is sticking to countries with sound fiscal management such as Ivory Coast, or those with investment-grade ratings like Kazakhstan, Uruguay and Morocco. Aberdeen Standard Investments sees opportunities to get above-market returns by buying the bonds of Sri Lanka, Ecuador and Ghana.

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Lebanon’s banks are worried that a central bank deadline for compulsory capital increases is too tight as they grapple with the fallout from weeks of anti-government protests, banking sources familiar with the matter said, Reuters reported. They said it was possible lenders might ask the banking regulator for an extension to the requirement to raise their Common Equity Tier 1 capital, a key measure of financial strength, by 10% through cash injections by the end of the year. The central bank did not respond to a request for comment.

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Lebanon’s credit rating was cut one notch further into junk territory by Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday as protests roil the nation, reflecting the increased likelihood of debt rescheduling or other steps that may constitute a default, Bloomberg News reported. Moody’s analyst Elisa Parisi-Capone said the viability of the currency’s peg to the U.S. dollar and macroeconomic stability are both threatened by social protests and a loss of investor confidence.

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Saudi Aramco is undoubtedly huge and very profitable. But what’s the company worth? That question was one of many left unanswered Sunday when the company, the world’s dominant oil producer, announced it would sell a stake to investors, the International New York Times reported. Just about everything about the initial public offering remains to be determined in the coming days and weeks, including how large a portion Aramco will sell, and at what price. Most of the questions will revolve around decisions made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s main policymaker.

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Lebanon’s central bank asked local lenders to raise their capital by 20% in the next year, the state-run National News Agency reported, to boost their liquidity and prepare for possible downgrades in credit ratings, Bloomberg News reported. The Banque du Liban said raising capital by $4 billion would help banks “confront the current situation and any future developments particularly in the face of a possible credit downgrade,” the news agency said.

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