Oman and Bahrain are stuck on the sidelines of the international debt markets after a record borrowing tally by Gulf Arab economies this month underscored a divide between the region’s strongest and weakest sovereigns, Bloomberg News reported. Facing external financing needs that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimates at $5.5 billion this year, Oman and Bahrain are all but shut out from bond funding, waiting for their yields to retreat before wading into the market.
Oman’s ministry of finance has cut by 5% the budget allocated to government agencies for 2020, according to two sources and a government circular seen by Reuters. The decision was “in response to the financial challenges of the country,” a source at the ministry of finance said. Oman, a small Gulf oil producer rated ‘junk’ by all major rating agencies, is expected to see its deficit widen this year because of lower oil prices, Reuters reported.
Oman is in talks with banks to raise around $2 billion in loans, sources familiar with the matter said, as part of plans to manage an estimated $6.5 billion fiscal deficit that may widen due to plunging oil prices, Reuters reported. Oman, one of the weakest economies in the oil-rich Gulf region, has piled up debt in recent years to offset the impact of falling crude revenues. Its debt to GDP rate soared to nearly 60% last year from around 15% in 2015, and according to S&P Global Ratings it could reach 70% by 2022.
Moody’s downgraded Oman’s credit rating deeper into junk territory on Thursday citing the Arab country’s lower fiscal strength, evident in its higher government debt and weaker debt affordability metrics than the ratings agency expected. Moody's cut Oman's rating here to 'Ba2' from 'Ba1' and changed the outlook to stable, Reuters reported. On Feb. 23, Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said said the government would work to reduce public debt and restructure public institutions and companies to bolster the economy.
Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said said on Sunday the government would work to reduce public debt and restructure public institutions and companies to bolster the economy, Reuters reported. Haitham, in his second public speech since assuming power in January, said the government would create a national framework to tackle unemployment while addressing strained public finances. “We will direct our financial resources in the best way that will guarantee reducing debt and increasing revenues,” he said in the televised speech.
Oman’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) said that the Sultanate’s bankruptcy and insolvency law will come into effect from July 2020 and it will help companies to get out of the financial turmoil after paying debts and reconciling with creditors as per a restructuring plan, Islamic Business and Finance reported.
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.
Oman’s Raysut Cement said on Tuesday it plans to acquire Kenya’s ARM Cement, which went into administration in August, as part of its expansion plans. Raysut has expressed its interest to the administrators to acquire the company, it said in a statement. “The acquisition will complement Raysut’s revised strategy to manufacture clinker in proximity to the markets it supplies to in East Africa,” Raysut said in the statement, adding that the acquisition was estimated to be worth more than $100 million, Reuters reported.
A surge in Oman’s international bond yields suggests that, with investor concerns about its twin deficits growing, the country is fast replacing Bahrain as the weak debt market link among Gulf Arab oil exporters, Reuters reported. Oman’s January 2023 dollar bond yield has jumped 81 basis points since end-September, making Oman by far the worst performer in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. Saudi Arabia, the second worst, has seen its March 2023 bond yield rise just 44 bps, amid concern the killing of dissident Jamal Khashoggi could hurt ties with the West.