Saudi wealth fund takes orders for debut Islamic dollar bond
The launch is first big test for Middle East markets since the escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict
Dubai — Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund started taking orders for its debut dual-tranche Islamic dollar bond on Wednesday, in the first major test for Middle East markets since the sharp escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) gave initial price guidance for the bonds of 150 basis points (bps) over US treasuries for its five-year tranche and 170 bps over the same benchmark for the 10-year tranche, banking documents showed.
PIF’s Islamic bonds drew more than $20bn in demand, excluding interest from lead managers, a separate bank document showed.
“They’re looking pretty attractive from an investor’s point of view. For PIF, they probably are looking at higher costs given the current conditions,” a fixed income analyst said, taking into account that final pricing is often less generous.
The sale is seen as a key test of investor appetite for Middle Eastern bonds, after the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas and subsequent response from Israel.
Saudi sovereign spreads — or the premium investors demand to hold its bonds rather than those of the US — have widened by about 15 bps so far in October.
Major investment banks such as JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley have downgraded their view on the broader region due to the still-escalating conflict.
The PIF is the chosen vehicle of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, to drive an economic agenda aimed at cutting reliance on oil.
The planned issuance will be PIF’s second international debt issue in 2023 after it raised $5.5bn from green bonds in February.
The wealth fund has raised tens of billions, including a $17bn loan in November, to fund a mammoth investment programme to create new industries and jobs, including building a planned futuristic city in the desert known as Neom.
This year, the government transferred a 4% stake in Saudi Aramco worth $80bn to the PIF, which it said was aimed at bolstering the fund’s financial position and high credit ratings.
The PIF had $85bn in loans and borrowings at the end of 2022, its annual report released in July showed, an almost 30% increase from end-2021.
It took an $11bn hit on its investments in 2022, a year after reporting a profit of $19bn.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.