Middle East international bond sales are off to the strongest ever start to a year as borrower demand for funds outstrips the firepower of local banks in an era of depressed oil prices. Hard-currency bond issuance from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which accounts for the bulk of the region’s capital markets and includes Saudi Arabia, its largest economy, more than quadrupled in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to Bloomberg data. In contrast, syndicated lending, traditionally the preferred source of capital for GCC borrowers, is having its worst year since 2010, declining 73 percent in the first three months of the year. “It is mainly the sovereigns that have issued this year and they are very conscious about not sapping liquidity in the local banking system so that access to credit to the small and medium sized companies is not hindered,” said Anita Yadav, head of […]
Russian state-owned oil and gas giant Gazprom is currently working out the matter of creating a liquefied natural gas (LNG) distribution hub in Bahrain. The hub will be meant to intake LNG from various sources, including Russia. The news was announced by Saint Petersburg’s Regional Governor, Georgiy Poltavchenko, following a visit of the region’s delegation to Bahrain. Russia is currently negotiating the possibilities of LNG deliveries to the island nation in the Persian Gulf, with possible financing provided by Russia’s Vnesheconombank (VEB). The possibility of Russian independent natural gas producers has also been taken into consideration. Various instrument and equipment manufacturers from the Saint Petersburg region could also partake in the project. The exact volume of LNG deliveries is hard to evaluate at the moment; according to preliminary estimates, it could amount to several billion cubic meters annually. Bahrain’s own natural gas stock is limited and the country is […]
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The head of the International Monetary Fund on Monday urged energy exporters of the Middle East to raise more taxes as governments across the region grapple with a dramatic drop in oil revenues. “These economies need to strengthen their fiscal frameworks and re-engineer their tax systems by reducing their heavy reliance on oil revenues and by boosting non-hydrocarbon sources of revenues,” Christine Lagarde said at a finance…
Banks for members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, face pressure from low oil prices despite government support, Moody’s said. Crude oil prices continue to hold near 10-year lows as markets favor the supply side. A rally sparked by talks of a production freeze from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries faltered by the end of last week after U.S. data showed oil inventories at historically high levels. Moody’s Investors Service reported Monday the banks for GCC members might get squeezed by dual pressures from low oil prices and dwindling options for governments looking to arrest the slide. “Despite low oil prices and a high dependency on oil revenues […]
The negative impact from the plunge in oil prices rippled further throughout crude-producing nations as Standard & Poor’s cut the credit ratings of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and Kazakhstan. Saudi Arabia’s credit grade was cut two levels to A- from A+ as oil prices continued to tumble. Oman’s was lowered to BBB- from BBB+, following a reduction in November. Kazakhstan is now rated BBB-, down from BBB. Bahrain was cut to BB from BBB-, putting it two steps below investment grade and the only one of the four to be rated junk. The Saudi downgrade comes less than four months after S&P cut the kingdom’s credit rating one level to A+ in late October, when Brent crude was selling for around $50 a barrel. It traded at a high of $34.76 in London on Wednesday. The decline in oil prices “will have a marked and lasting impact” on the […]
Bahrain and Oman on Tuesday reduced government subsidies on gasoline, becoming the latest Gulf Arab countries to try to cut back on spending and offset the effect of oil prices, which have fallen to their lowest level since 2003. On Tuesday, gas prices at the pump rose by up to 60 percent in Bahrain, climbing to $1.25 per gallon for regular gasoline and $1.60 per gallon for premium fuel. Hundreds of people lined up at gas stations a day earlier to fill their cars before the higher prices went into effect. The tiny island-nation in the Gulf ended subsidies on meat and poultry in October, increasing consumer prices between three and four-fold. Bahrain plans to make further cuts in electricity and water subsidies in March. Earlier this month, Bahrain cut government subsidies for diesel and kerosene. Meanwhile, Oman said it would reduce gasoline subsidies starting Friday, with prices set to rise by 33 percent for premium fuel and 23 percent for regular fuel. The moves come as crude prices closed Monday at $31.41 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange — the lowest in 12 years. The dip in global oil prices has cut into the revenues of oil-exporting countries, including many Gulf Arab states where citizens have become accustomed to generous government subsidies and state handouts.
A caustic slogan is doing the rounds on social networks in the Gulf states this festive season: “All I want for Christmas is for oil prices to go up.” Gloom has descended on the region amid an oil price rout that has halved the price of crude over 18 months and wiped $360bn off export earnings just this past year. State contractors, the property sector and even foreign investors have all felt the pain as the slump pushes governments to cut back spending. “2015 has been a difficult year, but this is just the beginning of a multiyear adjustment process: 2016 will be just as tough, and then there is 2017 and 2018,” says Masood Ahmed, the International Monetary Fund director for the Gulf region. “Next year the slowdown is not going to ease up.” Swingeing spending cuts have unnerved private businesses in Saudi Arabia, the region’s largest economy, and elsewhere — as well as undermining the policy of government largesse long used to defuse social tensions.
The Gulf island nation of Bahrain says it has deployed fighter planes to Jordan, a day after it announced plans to send troops to the kingdom. Bahrain’s brief statement early Monday said the planes would “participate in the international efforts aiming to eliminate terrorism.” It did not provide details, and military officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and like Jordan is part of the U.S.-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group. Gulf neighbor the United Arab Emirates previously deployed a squadron of F-16 fighters to Jordan. Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa visited Jordan last week, and his government on Sunday announced it was sending an unspecified number of troops to help support Jordan.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have issued a joint statement withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar. “The three states have decided to start taking measures they see fit to protect their security and stability, affirming that they are safeguarding the interests of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, including neighbouring Qatar,” the statement read. Qatar has failed to “stick to the principles of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states and refraining from supporting all who threaten the security of the council states,” the statement added. In response, Qatar said it “regrets” the move, but will not reciprocate, AFP reported Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani committed to a security agreement during a meeting with Kuwait’s emir and the Saudi monarch in Riyadh on 23 November 2013. Calls for Qatar to abide by the agreement were reiterated on 17 February in Kuwait and again during a […]
An explosion killed three policemen in Bahrain on Monday during a protest in a village near the capital Manama, the Interior Ministry said, in one of the worst incidents of violence in recent months. The United Arab Emirates said one of its police officers, serving in a Gulf Cooperation Council force operating in the island kingdom, was among the three dead officers, according to the UAE state news agency WAM. The Bahraini Interior Ministry said on its Twitter account that a group of protesters had broken away from a mourning procession in the village of Daih and started blocking roads. The explosion took place as police were trying to disperse the rioters, it added. There was no immediate word on what had caused the blast. Both the UAE and Bahrain are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a political and military alliance that also includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman […]
Bahraini authorities say a police officer wounded by a bombing on the third anniversary of the start of the Gulf island kingdom’s anti-government uprising has died. The Interior Ministry said Saturday that the officer was one of two injured in what it called a “terrorist blast” the day before in the village of Dair, near the country’s main airport. It did not identify the officer. The ministry also said it arrested 26 people suspected of rioting and vandalism Friday, the anniversary of widespread protests that began in 2011 and set off three years of ongoing unrest in the country. Activists say dozens of protesters have been wounded in recent clashes with police. Opposition groups dominated by the country’s majority Shiites are seeking political rights from the country’s Sunni rulers. © 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten […]
AP Photo MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Thousands of people have marched in the tiny Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, demanding more reforms in the country. Among the protesters Friday was prominent opposition figure Khalil al-Marzooq, freed Thursday as he faces charges of encouraging violence. He has denied any support for bombings and other attacks, which have been on the rise. Protesters chanted anti-government slogans Friday and some masked youths confronted police. An Associated Press journalist saw police fire tear gas at demonstrators. Bahrain has been gripped by nonstop unrest after the kingdom’s Shiite majority began an uprising in early 2011 calling for a greater political voice. Many protesters and other senior opposition figures have been jailed during crackdowns in the strategic island nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. © 2013 The Associated Press . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or […]