Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, hired banks to raise more than $5 billion in bonds as early as next week to shore up its finances against the global coronavirus pandemic and oil-price war.
The gas-rich Gulf state mandated banks including Standard Chartered Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays Plc and Deutsche Bank AG for the sale, according to people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
The nation is planning the bond to support its finances as low oil prices and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic weighs on Gulf Arab states, one of the people said. Gas prices are closely tied to the cost of oil, which has dropped more than 50% over the past month.
No final decision on the timing of the sale has been made and the country may decide against the sale depending on market conditions. A representative at Qatar’s Ministry of Finance didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
On top of the collapse of oil prices and meltdown in global markets, sovereign wealth funds in Gulf Arab states are channeling some of their billions back home to counter slowing economic growth triggered by the coronavirus. The decline in assets from funds in countries such as Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia could exceed $300 billion this year, according to the Institute of International Finance, the industry’s global association.
“Qatar, of course, has a large sovereign wealth fund, but much of it is not liquid and it also has large government-related enterprise liabilities,” said Hasnain Malik, Dubai-based head of strategy at Tellimer. In the time of the coronavirus crisis, “the potential for delayed payments from overseas gas customers, cash requirements for the sovereign go up.”
Qatar, a country of about 2.8 million, has unveiled stimulus packages worth 75 billion riyals ($20.3 billion) for the private sector to help mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak and allocated 3 billion riyals to local banks as guarantees to back the finance and economic sectors.
The country has reported 835 cases of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, and two deaths.
Qatar would be among a handful of high-rated governments in emerging markets to brave the market turmoil and sell dollar debt in recent weeks. On Tuesday, Israel sold a century bond in international markets as part of a record $5 billion deal to help the economy cope with the coronavirus outbreak. Demand for the offering topped $25 billion.
Government bonds from oil and gas producing nations in the Gulf have been pummeled after Saudi Arabia unleashed a record volume of crude into the already-glutted global oil market, escalating a price war with Russia.
The country, whose debt carries the fourth-highest investment grade at S&P Global Ratings, raised $12 billion in March 2019.
(Updates throughout. An earlier version corrected the period of the last bond sale.)
© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.