Etisalat Raises $4.3bn In Region’s Largest Corporate Bond Sale

The issue’s success was due partly to factors specific to Etisalat, including its state ownership and healthy financial profile.

Abu Dhabi-based telecommunications operator Etisalat sold $4.3 billion worth of bonds on Wednesday, setting one record as the region’s biggest corporate issue ever and another for the cheapest pricing, bankers said.

The issue’s success was due partly to factors specific to Etisalat, which is rated Aa3/AA-/A+ by the main credit agencies, including its state ownership and healthy financial profile.

It is also partly due to the Gulf’s strong economic performance during the global instability of the past few years, which has made more investors view the region as a safe haven.

In its maiden bond issue, Etisalat sold fixed-rate debt in four tranches with maturities ranging from five to 12 years to replace some of the debt used to fund its 4.2 billion euro ($5.7 billion) purchase of a majority stake in Morocco’s Maroc Telecom from France’s Vivendi.

The firm tightened pricing for a seven-year, 1.2 billion euro tranche to 80 basis points over mid-swaps, 20 bps inside its initial thoughts, while a 12-year euro tranche of the same size was priced at 110 bps, 15 bps within the guidance.

A five-year, $500 million U.S. dollar bond was priced at 67.5 bps over mid-swaps, compared to initial price thoughts of 80 bps, and a 10-year, $500 million offering was printed at 87.5 bps, against original thoughts of 100-110 bps.

The issue eclipsed past jumbo bond issues in the Gulf, including a $3.5 billion Islamic bond from Dubai property developer Nakheel which was repaid in 2009, bankers said.

It was also the first time that any debt issuer from the Gulf, including governments, had priced a bond in the double digits above mid-swaps. The Qatar government achieved 115 bps over mid-swaps with a five-year sukuk in July 2012, and a 10-year trade from Abu Dhabi National Energy Co in April this year was at the same figure.

Despite the tight pricing, the Etisalat bond still offered a small pick-up compared to the current secondary market prices of some Gulf quasi-sovereign issuers, such as Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala Development Co, which had an eight-year bond trading at 66.6 bps over its Z-spread on Wednesday.

Lead managers for the Etisalat issue were Deutsche Bank , Goldman Sachs, HSBC and RBS.