The insurance sector across the GCC is expected to report growth in gross premiums on continued growth in infrastructure investment and favourable regulatory changes. S&P Global Ratings analyst Emir Mujkic said gross premiums will increase in 2017 by around 30% in Kuwait, and by up to 10% in the other three markets. GDP growth will range between 1.5% for Kuwait and about 3.5% for Qatar. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) is expected to support the efforts of the traffic police to ensure drivers of illegally uninsured vehicles to buy motor coverage. There are currently 2.5 million Saudi nationals working in the private sector that are not covered by their employers’ group medical schemes.During 2017, the authorities will seek to prompt private employers to provide medical cover for all their staff.
According to S&P Global Ratings, the lower liquidity level in the GCC is not the main reason for a drop in the region’s sukuk issuances in recent years. The volume of sukuk was muted last year, particularly compared with conventional bond issuance in GCC countries. S&P believes the complexity of structuring sukuk is the main reason behind muted sukuk issuance in 2016 and it will continue to weigh on volumes in 2017. S&P also estimates GCC sovereigns financing needs at around $275bn over the next three years, the majority of which pertains to Saudi Arabia. While sukuk comprise only a small amount of total outstanding issuance, various governments established the necessary legal frameworks for their issuance.
Sukuk issuance growth in the Arabian Gulf is likely to remain subdued this year even as countries in the region need to raise more debt to plug budget deficits. According to the latest research from S&P Global Ratings, the reason lies in the complexity of selling Sharia-compliant bonds. S&P's analyst Mohamed Damak said sales of Islamic bonds fell in 2015 and 2016 in the GCC as the issuance of conventional bonds soared. Globally, the market for sukuk is also expected to remain stable this year at between US$60 billion and $65bn. Despite the recent rebound in oil prices, the GCC will need about $275bn of financing between this year and 2019, of which half is expected to come from bonds and sukuk. Complexity of sukuk issuance is not the only headwind facing Islamic financing. According to S&P, rising interest rates in the US will also dampen appetite for sukuk this year.
According to S&P's latest report, the global sukuk market is expected to remain fairly quiet in 2017, with total issuance reaching around $60bn -$65bn. The relatively subdued sukuk market anticipated for this year is mainly due to reasons related to complexity of sukuk issuance. S&P Global Ratings’ Global Head of Islamic Finance Dr Mohamed Damak said returning issuers, new entrants, and regulatory developments can stimulate issuance activity, but more likely in the medium term. S&P anticipates some GCC countries might take the Islamic finance route alongside a conventional one. Bahrain will most likely remain a prominent player after issuing $3.2bn of sukuk in 2016. Other GCC members will probably tap the market in 2017. The buyers of sukuk are not only in the GCC or Malaysia, but come from a broad range of investors, including conventional financiers in developed markets. More importantly, there is reportedly a large gap between sukuk issuance and demand.
According to Standard & Poor’s (S&P), global sukuk issuance fell short of market expectations last year, although it was higher than in 2015. The sukuk market will remain subdued in 2017, since the issuance process is still quite complex. S&P Global Ratings' Global Head of Islamic Finance Dr. Mohamed Damak said the sukuk market did not play a countercyclical role in core Islamic finance markets in 2016 and a stabilisation of total issuance in 2017 is forecasted at around $60 billion-$65 billion. Standard & Poor’s do not foresee a substantial increase in sukuk issuance in the GCC this year. The rating agency thinks that some member countries might take the Islamic finance route alongside a conventional one. Bahrain will most likely remain a prominent player after issuing $3.2 billion of sukuk in 2016. Other GCC members will probably tap the market in 2017.
S&P Global Ratings may not be ready to upgrade Indonesia’s credit rating from junk, concerned by rising bad debts and risks to the growth outlook. Indonesia failed in June to win an upgrade from S&P, which rates the nation’s debt at BB+ with a positive outlook. S&P said at the time that while the country’s fiscal framework had improved, it still faced challenges on its budget performance. Josua Pardede, an economist at PT Bank Permata in Jakarta, said Indonesia still faces fiscal risks. He estimated the tax shortfall for this year will be more than 200 trillion rupiah ($15 billion), causing the budget deficit to widen to around 2.7% of gross domestic product. The government has a deficit cap of 3% of GDP. The ratings company will meet with Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati within the next few weeks before it makes its next assessment due in December. S&P is the last of the three main credit-rating companies to keep Indonesia on junk status.
Oil’s rally from a 12-year low has gone far enough to revive demand for Islamic bonds, but not so far that frequent issuers aren’t still in need of funds. Stimulus efforts in oil-producing nations helped drive sales of Islamic bonds up 34% to $37.5 billion in 2016, after dropping to a five-year low in 2015. A two-year slump in energy markets has compelled governments in Malaysia and the Middle East to boost debt sales to finance projects built in partnership with private companies. S&P Global Ratings estimates that weak energy prices will leave Gulf Cooperation Council countries with $560 billion of funding needs from 2015 through 2019. According to Apostolos Bantis, head of credit research at Commerzbank AG in Dubai, GCC sukuk activity will rise next year and there will be some first-time issuers.
According to S&P Global Ratings, banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries will remain under pressure for the remainder of 2016 and 2017. The operating environments in these emerging markets are suffering from the effects of low commodity prices and weakening local currencies outside the GCC. S&P thinks that not only will banks' loan growth decline, but profitability will also drop. On a positive note, S&P thinks that the deterioration will be largely controlled and that banks have the capacity to absorb the negative impacts thanks to their strong asset quality, good profitability, and strong capitalisation.
S&P Global Ratings believes that the drop in Islamic finance growth is likely to continue in 2017. Nevertheless, it estimates the industry’s total assets will reach $2.1 trillion at year-end 2016. S&P Global Head of Islamic Finance Mohamed Damak said Islamic finance will maintain growth of around 5% in 2017. The oil price environment will weigh negatively on economic growth in the GCC for the next two years. A broader consensus around the need to standardize legal structures and Sharia interpretation could help the industry to progress. Another great help could be the industry’s potential contribution to the United Nation’s sustainable development financing goals.
Oil prices have plummeted sharply since mid-2014, putting an end to the commodities super cycle that started a decade ago. S&P Global Ratings expects oil prices will remain substantially below peak levels and stabilize at $50 per barrel by 2018 and beyond. While governments affected by the price drop are looking to spending cuts, taxation, and the privatization of state companies, their financing needs remain significant. Despite the significant drop in oil price since mid-2014, total sukuk issuance didn’t pick up in 2015 or the first half of 2016. In fact, issuance actually dropped in the first half of 2016 by 12.5% compared with the same period in 2015. Issuances in the second half of 2016 will continue to depend on monetary policy developments and volatility in developed markets as well as the policy actions of sovereigns in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Malaysia.
S&P Global Ratings expects Sukuk issuance will remain muted over the next 6 to 18 months, with total issuance of US$50 bil to US$55 bil in 2016. The ratings agency explained that plummeting oil prices have not boosted sukuk issuance despite some commentators' expectations. Instead, total issuance actually dropped in 2015 compared with the previous year. S&P Global Ratings Global head of Islamic finance Mohamed Damak said while governments affected by the price drop are looking to spending cuts, their financing needs remain significant. At the same time, he believes the European Central Bank's quantitative easing programme and the entrance of a few new issuers to the Sukuk market will continue to support issuance volumes.