GCC countries face further credit rating downgrades

The region’s macro momentum is losing steam, says Fisch report



GCC countries face further credit rating downgrades as the region continues to encounter macro-economic uncertainty, a new report has found.

Research by Fisch Asset Management showed a slowdown across GCC money markets with prices softening.

Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain have all suffered ratings downgrades since 2015, although Qatar and Bahrain have shown greater resilience, the report stated.

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Fisch’s market trend indicator for pricing from mid-August to late-September showed decline in performance in Abu Dhabi equities, Dubai corporate bonds and equities, Kuwait corporate bonds and equities and Saudi Arabia equities.

However, credit default swaps in Qatar showed improvement.

With oil prices remaining relatively low, GCC deficits are expected to grow, with sovereigns and corporates likely to lever up.

This will lead to further rating downgrades, the report stated.

Also read: Moody’s cuts Saudi, Oman, Bahrain debt ratings

While the pipeline for new issuances for the end of the year is valued at around $50bn, most global debt investors will continue to take a “cautious approach to GCC issuers”, it added.

Philipp Good, head of Portfolio Management at Fisch Asset Management, said: “It’s true that the GCC debt market still looks good compared to negative yields in developed markets, but regional credits have had a substantial rally with the huge overhang of new issuances that we’ve been waiting to see before the year-end.

“We think there will probably be some re-pricing. Global debt markets are uncertain at the moment, in part due to the US election, the Italian referendum and the problems experienced by Deutsche Bank,” he said.

“While bond yields in the GCC still look attractive compared with other markets, investors need to believe in issuers – for example, the reforms scheduled for the Saudi economy.

“Bonds ultimately need buyers, and that means the market needs to be in the right shape – not just the pricing. In our view, momentum has peaked, so our strategy for the GCC is defensive,” he added.