Dubai debt plan fails to calm Gulf markets

Dubai debt plan fails to calm Gulf markets

Dubai: Gulf markets tumbled again on Tuesday, taking no comfort from Dubai World’s plan to restructure about $26 billion of its estimated $59 billion in liabilities, which appeared to calm global fears of contagion.

In a sign that concern among banks was subsiding, UAE interbank offered rates eased, with the 3-month rate falling to 1.90500% from Monday’s 1.94125% fix.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi stocks fell about 6% on their second trading day since Dubai last week asked creditors of government-controlled conglomerate Dubai World and property arm Nakheel for a delay on debt repayments as a first step to restructuring.

Dubai World, which led the emirate’s transformation into a regional hub for finance, investment and tourism, unveiled details late on Monday of a plan covering $26 billion of debt owed by its main property firms, Nakheel and Limitless.

“This is definitely good news, it shows they are still committed to their payments, and it removes all fears that this is a complete default," said Hassaim Arabi, chief executive at Gulfmena Alternative Investments.

News of the plan helped global markets edge higher, but did not halt the sell-off in the Gulf, which followed comments by Dubai’s leading finance official on Monday that the government would not guarantee Dubai World’s debts.

The market in Qatar, reopening after a five-day Eid al-Adha holiday, plunged more than 9%, while Kuwait’s bourse was down 2.55%.

“It’s a beginning, and it’s definitely a positive step in that it gives us a scale of the problem," said a Dubai-based strategist. “But the main concern remains unchanged. What is the outcome of those negotiations with regard to the Nakheel problem?"

The Abu Dhabi market had also plunged on Monday, an 8.3% fall that was its worst one-day drop on record, while Dubai’s 7.3% slide was its biggest in more than a year.

But after sharp falls last week, Asian and European stocks were up on Tuesday, following a rise on Wall Street overnight.

“Dubai is still a risk, but most of Asia has very limited exposure to Dubai, other than isolated banks. So people may want to avoid the banks, but most other companies are okay," said Francis Cheung, an equities strategist at CLSA in Hong Kong.

Dubai World said its restructuring efforts would not include other firms such as Infinity World Holding, Istithmar World and Ports & Free Zone World, which includes DP World, Economic Zones World, P&O Ferries and Jebel Ali Free Zone, or JAFZA. Dubai World said those firms were financially stable.

The statement said Dubai World would look at options for deleveraging, including asset sales, funding requirements and formulating restructuring proposals to financial creditors.

“It’s a step in the right direction," said Raj Madha, a banking analyst at EFG Hermes in Dubai.

“I’d like to see the details it promises, basically: which entities they’re talking about (selling), how big a haircut they’re going to take."