Arab Times

New realism sets in Gulf after CBD’s deal

Liquidity constraint­s remain


LONDON, Nov 11, (RTRS): Commercial Bank of Dubai priced a comeback deal on Tuesday but failed to quell concerns about liquidity in the Middle East.

The lender printed a $400m fiveyear bond at par to yield 4% in the first convention­al deal by a non-sovereign from the region since Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank pulled a trade in September.

Leads, though, admitted it was hard going. “These deals are getting tougher,” said one.

Tighter liquidity has been a feature of the Gulf region for several months, and with year-end approachin­g many banks are even more reluctant to lend money.

Commercial Bank of Dubai (Baa1/A- by Moody’s/Fitch) did manage to get a decent bid from banks, which took 49% of the paper, with private banks and fund managers allocated 25% and 22% each.

What was notable, however, was that the Middle East take-up was less dominant than is typically seen in regional bank deals. Only half was placed with Middle East accounts, while Europe got 28%, and the UK and Asia 11% each.

“Did all the local accounts we’d like come in? No,” said a second banker close to the deal. “But we did see local demand.” That was in contrast to ADCB, which struggled to generate any significan­t regional interest for its deal.

“We have to be realistic,” added the banker. “Local banks are now takers of cash.”

Worries have grown throughout the year that Gulf sovereigns and their banks are coming under pressure from sustained low oil prices.

No Gulf bank had issued a senior convention­al bond since Bank of Sharjah sold a $500m 2020 deal on June 1. National Bank of Abu Dhabi subsequent­ly issued a Tier 1, while a few sukuk have priced in recent weeks.

The Commercial Bank of Dubai trade is making bankers reassess what is possible both in terms of size and price. On Monday as the bank was finishing investor meetings, it released initial price thoughts and said it was eyeing a benchmark size.

An update the following day then said to expect an issue size of $350m at a 4% yield, before the deal was launched and priced for $400m.

“The concept of benchmark around GCC trades is going to change,” said a third banker close to the deal. “Issuers are not looking for huge amounts of liquidity as they are not growing their asset bases.”

Pricing is also having to take into account the harsher backdrop. Commercial Bank of Dubai has a May 2018 bond that leads spotted at a Zspread of 175bp, although on Tradeweb the bond was at plus 167bp.

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