North Africa/Middle East

The cost of insuring exposure to Lebanon’s sovereign debt rose to a record high on Friday after the president warned of the risk of harsh financial measures from international institutions unless sacrifices were made to save the country from economic crisis, Reuters reported. Lebanon’s five-year credit default swaps (CDS) rose to 990 basis points (bps), up 33 bps from Thursday’s close, data from IHS Markit showed.

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The number of distressed companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa rose in the first half for the first time in more than two years, according to a report by Moody’s Investors Service, Bloomberg News reported. Moody’s list of distressed companies rose to 47 from 39 in the first half of the year, according to the report published on Thursday. It’s the first time the list increased since the end of 2016.

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The Saudi Binladin Group is seeking a financial adviser for a restructuring of the group’s debt, which could range between $20 and $30 billion, sources familiar with the matter said. The move is the latest in state efforts to restructure the construction giant, in which the Saudi government took a roughly one-third stake from Bin Laden family members that were swept up in an anti-graft campaign that Riyadh launched in late 2017, Reuters reported.

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The Lebanese government is deferring payments to contractors and public entities, improving the budget numbers but endangering a lifeline for businesses, Bloomberg News reported. Delayed payments for this year alone have exceeded $900 million, pushing the outstanding total to over $2 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter. The government owes contractors about $300 million, half of which was incurred in 2019, said Maroun Helo, head of the Lebanese Contractors Syndicate of Public Works and Buildings. Contractors are defaulting on debt, he said.

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Dubai’s financial regulator fined Abraaj Group, the world’s biggest private equity insolvency to date, a record $315 million for deceiving investors and misappropriating their funds, Bloomberg News reported. The fines ordered by the Dubai Financial Services Authority come as Abraaj, once one of the world’s most influential emerging-market investors, faces legal action in the U.S.

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Oman’s bond investors gained some respite this week as Fitch affirmed its rating for the indebted country and the government published encouraging deficit figures, potentially paving the way for the Gulf oil producer’s next debt sale, Reuters reported. Rated junk by all three major rating agencies, Oman has relied heavily on borrowing over the past few years to spur growth and refill its coffers – depleted because of lower oil prices.

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Heavily indebted Lebanon has passed a budget seen as a “first step” towards fixing its public finances but still has much to do to steer the country away from crisis. Investors are waiting to see if Gulf Arabs will offer a lifeline that may provide some breathing space, Reuters reported. Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens, after years of big budget deficits rooted in waste, corruption, and sectarian politics.

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A decade after the international financial crisis and local political upheavals, many of the non-oil exporting nations in the Middle East and North Africa are undergoing a process of redefinition of how they are linked with the global economy. It is not going well, a Bloomberg View reported. Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan are becoming more dependent on external borrowing than on foreign direct investments compared to the pre-2008 period. This is visible with declining ratios of FDIs to GDP, in contrast with increasing ratios of foreign debt to GDP and total exports.

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Lebanon needs a plan to manage its huge public debt that offers a chance to “liberate the public budget from the burden of a deadly accumulation of debt and debt service”, finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil said on Thursday. Khalil told parliament that such a plan would need to be discussed by stakeholders including the government, the central bank and commercial banks, Reuters reported. “This requires a dialogue by the government, between the government and (parliament), a dialogue in which the central bank participates and the banks participate.

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Amlak Finance PJSC is nearing a deal to restructure debt for a second time as the Dubai-based Islamic mortgage provider navigates an ongoing property slump, according to two people with knowledge of the plan, Bloomberg News reported. The company is asking creditors to reschedule repayments on $1.2 billion of loans over the originally agreed period that ends in 2026, said the people, asking not to be identified because the information is private. Most lenders have agreed to the new terms but a final deal hasn’t been signed, they said.

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