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Diversification on the horizon

Next year the Middle East's sovereign bond markets look likely to expand in scope, with new issuers coming in longer maturities and larger amounts

Micky Chebli

The Middle East has a chance of establishing a genuinely diversified sovereign Eurobond market, as Egypt and Iran now seriously consider raising money on the international capital markets for the first time. Oman, which raised $250 million in 1996, is also planning a return to the market.

The critical time for these issues may come as early as next January, after the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Already bankers are testing the appetite among potential buyers. And the reports are that while investors are expected to react enthusiastically if Iran becomes the first Islamic fundamentalist state to issue in the international debt markets, Egypt and Oman will find it more difficult to attract interest, particularly if they try to borrow at narrow spreads.

If these issues go ahead, they will add breadth to a market that has until now been dominated by three countries and only had seven sovereign issuers in total.

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