October 8, 2018 / 7:00 AM / in 13 days

Oman could announce U.S. dollar sukuk sale as early as Monday - sources

DUBAI, Oct 8 (Reuters) - The government of Oman could announce a plan to issue new U.S. dollar-denominted sukuk, or Islamic bonds, as early as Monday, sources familiar with the matter said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

One of the financially weakest states in the Gulf, Oman has borrowed extensively in the international markets over the past few years to finance state spending and development projects at a time of lower oil prices.

Its latest foray in the foreign debt markets was a $6.5 billion conventional bond, the country’s largest ever, sold in January this year.

With that bond, Oman covered the vast majority of a three billion rial ($7.79 billion) deficit projected in its 2018 state budget.

But sources told Reuters earlier this year that the government was also holding discussions with banks over a sukuk sale.

The new Islamic bond issue could be announced as early as Monday, said the sources. The ministry of finance did not immediately respond to an email and telephone calls seeking comment.

Oman’s sukuk would be the country’s second public Islamic bond issue in international markets. It sold its first last year, raising $2 billion with a seven-year maturity.

The ratio of Oman’s external government debt to gross foreign exchange reserves jumped to 70 percent in 2017 from 36 percent in 2016 and 6 percent in 2015, according to a central bank report published last month.

A rebound in oil prices has shrunk the country’s budget deficit in the first half of 2018, but Oman would need oil prices to average $84.1 in 2018 to eliminate its current account deficit, the International Monetary Fund has estimated.

$1 = 0.3850 Omani rials Reporting by Davide Barbuscia Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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