In the largest-ever bond sale from an emerging market, Saudi Arabia just sold $17.5 billion in debt.
The sale is being hailed as a major success for the world's top oil exporter, as it attracted investor interest totaling $67 billion, nearly four times the amount of the sale.
"This should dampen any lingering concerns that the riyal will be devalued. The government’s debt-to-gross domestic product ratio will rise as a result of the bond sale but, given its low starting point, it is hardly on a worrying path," Capital Economics, an economic research consultancy based in London, said, according to Reuters .
Capital Economics also said that "the U.S. dollar issue would finance around a third of next year’s state budget deficit and almost all of the kingdom's current account gap." The consultancy expects that Saudi Arabia's foreign exchange reserves are unlikely to fall much further in the next few years.
"Not only could the bond help develop the Kingdom’s debt markets by introducing a more sophisticated type of investor, but there are also positive ripple effects for Gulf Cooperation Council fixed income as well as more global investors to take a closer, and longer-term, look at the region," Mohieddine Kronfol, chief investment officer for Middle East fixed income at major asset manager Franklin Templeton Investments, told Reuters.
The bond sale fits into the Saudi Arabia's drastic economic reform plan, which is an integral part of the kingdom's Vision 2030. This successful sale is also a sign that when the initial public offer of shares in state oil giant Saudi Aramco happens – another key component of the economic reform plan – there will be a similar interest from international investors. Saudi Aramco's public offering is expected to take place in 2018.
Last year, Saudi Arabia's record budget deficit totaled 15 percent of gross domestic product at $98 billion. This has led the kingdom to turn to international markets to help finance its deficit this year, with domestic investors struggling to buy government bonds due to a lack of petrodollars.
Previously, the largest-ever bond sale from an emerging market came from Argentina, which sold a $16.5 billion bond in April. That sale set the record for attracting investors, totaling $69 billion.