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Debt capital markets: Gulf states seek a bond market culture

Big jump in issuance from Abu Dhabi, Qatar; More Islamic and higher-yield issuance to come

"An explosion of debt issuance" is how Tom Healy, chief executive of the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, describes the capital markets environment in the Gulf. Bond issuance volumes out of the region reached $29.4 billion in 2009 up to October 22, more than double the $11.2 billion raised over the same period a year earlier, according to Dealogic. The number of deals has risen to 33 from 21, with JPMorgan ranked first in the league table.

This year the debt market has become dominated by government-linked entities from the two Gulf states with the least political risk and the most oil wealth per capita: Qatar and, above all, Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is the origin of more than 60% of the volume issued by the Gulf region as a whole. Qatari issuance has also increased 40 times. Last year, on the other hand, entities from Dubai issued more in the debt capital markets than any other Gulf market.

Leading the way in recent weeks have been the state-owned banks in Abu Dhabi. National Bank of Abu Dhabi became the first Gulf bank to issue in dollars since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, with an $850 million, five-year deal sold in September, at a price guidance of 190 to 200 basis points over five-year swaps.

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