UAE'S RAK eyes next tranche of $2 bln bond programme

Thu Jul 9, 2009 6:29am EDT

* Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah eyes new sukuk

* Part of $2 bln Islamic bond programme launched in 2008

* Gulf Arab region bond sales surge

By John Irish

DUBAI, July 9 (Reuters) - Ras al-Khaimah, a member of the United Arab Emirates, has started marketing the next tranche of a $2 billion Islamic bond programme, the latest government-backed debt issuance in the Gulf Arab region.

The emirate began investor meetings on July 6 in the Middle East, Asia and Europe, it said in a statement distributed by lead managers Standard Chartered and BNP Paribas.

The roadshow would update investors on its "certificate issuance programme", it said without providing more details.

In May 2008, RAK sold sukuk worth 1 billion dirhams ($272.3 million), the first tranche of a $2 billion bond programme aimed at setting a benchmark for future dirham issuance in the emirate and to finance infrastructure development.

State and corporate issuers in the world's largest oil exporting region have raised more than $8 billion by issuing bonds over the last three months.

Many are eyeing further sales as demand rises for high-rate emerging market debt and governments look to boost infrastructure spending to shelter the region's economy from the global financial crisis.

Bankers say sovereign sukuk make corporate issuance easier by providing a benchmark against which pricing can be compared.

Ratings companies Fitch and Standard & Poor's each have given the government of Ras al-Khaimah an "A" rating.

Islam bans interest, and sukuk returns are derived from underlying physical assets which typically pay a rent or profit to bondholders.

Mohammed Sultan Al-Qadi, managing director of the Investment Development Office, the entity behind the bond sale, could not be reached for comment and Chief Executive Brian Nolan declined to comment.

Qadi, who is also chief executive of RAK Properties RPRO.AD, told Reuters in April the firm planned to raise between $150 million and $200 million in the fourth quarter either by issuing bonds or taking bank loans for developments in Abu Dhabi and Ras al-Khaimah.

The developer, the third largest on the Abu Dhabi bourse, had been working towards creating a real estate portfolio of about 12 billion dirhams, but it stalled at about 4 billion dirhams as the global financial crisis hit United Arab Emirates. (Additional reporting by Tamara Walid; Editing by Victoria Main)

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