Saudi Arabia Said to Consider Sale of Islamic Bonds Next Quarter

Saudi Arabia has met with banks to discuss the potential sale of shariah-compliant bonds in the first quarter to help plug its budget deficit, according to five people familiar with the matter.

The country is considering selling sukuk, or Islamic bonds, with different maturities to the five-, 10- and 30-year debt it sold in October, one of the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. This could include tenors of seven and 16 years, the person said. No final decisions on the size or timing have been made, the people said.

Saudi Arabia raised $17.5 billion in October in the biggest ever emerging market bond sale, attracting $67 billion of bids, people familiar told Bloomberg at the time. The kingdom is turning to debt markets to help fill a budget gap estimated by the International Monetary Fund to reach 13 percent of economic output this year, before dropping below 10 percent in 2017. Former Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf said in October that the country might follow its first international debt issuance with an Islamic bond sale.

Government debt levels will increase to 30 percent of economic output by 2020, from 7.7 percent, according to targets set out in an economic transformation plan released in June.

The Ministry of Finance wasn’t immediately available to comment.

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