Saudi Arabia: domestic bond sell-off gains pace

Modern Saudi Arabia money, banknotes close up background photo texture

The Saudi Arabian government is raising up to SAR20bn ($5.3bn) from banks in this month’s sale of domestic bonds, financial website Maaal reported.

The government began the regular monthly sales in mid-2015 to help cover a budget deficit caused by low oil prices. Since then it has sold SAR156.6bn of bonds, of which SAR70.5bn has come in the first half of this year, Maaal said.

The government has informed banks of August’s allocations, Maaal quoted unnamed sources as saying, without specifying how large they were.

The central bank and finance ministry have not responded to inquiries about the bond sales.

There are signs that Saudi banks are becoming less willing or able to buy government bonds as persistently low oil prices reduce the amount of spare cash they have available for such purchases.

Saudi banks’ holdings of government bonds increased by just SAR3.1bn month-on-month in June, a slower rise than in previous months, central bank figures show. Bankers say that because the bond offers are shrouded in secrecy, it is impossible to be sure how much debt the government is selling.

Maaal quoted sources as predicting issues in 2016 would total SAR100bn. In this month’s sale, the government offered five-year bonds at 64 basis points over U.S. Treasuries, seven-year bonds at 77 bps over and 10-year bonds at 91 bps over, Maaal said. That is within the pricing ranges offered in last month’s sale.

The government also offered floating-rate bonds. Five-year bonds were offered at 25-30 bps below the three-month Saudi interbank offered rate, seven years at 10-15 bps below and 10 years at flat to 5 bps above SAIBOR – the same ranges as in July’s offer.

This article was originally published by Gulf Business

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