* Gas-rich Qatar seen as safe haven in global turmoil
* Biggest bond issue from Gulf this year
* Sale attracts orders in excess of $9 bln
* Proceeds may go for infrastructure projects
* Banker says bonds to help finance Barzan gas project
By Dinesh Nair
DUBAI, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Qatar, the world’s biggest natural gas exporter, has raised $5 billion with its first sovereign bond issue in two years, capitalising on investors’ appetite for safe havens as the European debt crisis destabilises global markets.
The international bond sale, priced late on Tuesday, was the biggest from the Gulf this year. The tiny Arab state sold $2 billion in five-year bonds at a yield of 3.184 percent, $2 billion of 10-year bonds with a yield of 4.63 percent, and $1 billion of 30-year bonds yielding 5.825 percent.
“This is a very big deal. There are very few credits in the world today who can come in and raise $5 billion under such choppy market conditions,” said Abdul Kadir Hussain, Chief Executive of Mashreq Capital in Dubai.
“They did pay for it but for issues of this size you have to pay up.”
The sale attracted investor orders in excess of $9 billion, according to Hussain. Another source in the fixed income markets said the order book was $9.5 billion.
Although Qatar has not publicly announced how it will use the bond proceeds, the country will host the 2022 World Cup and has allocated 40 percent of its budget between now and 2016 to infrastructure projects.
“It’s all about diversifying your financing options,” said Shehzad Janab, head of asset management at Dubai-based Daman Investments.
“If you keep going back to your local banks, you are effectively tapping your own sources of capital. Access to international capital is key and obviously, the bond route is the preferred choice now.” The international market in syndicated loans has frozen up in recent months as Western banks’ balance sheets have been hit by the European crisis.
One Doha-based banker, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak publicly, said the bond proceeds were expected to help finance the $10.3 billion Barzan gas project, which will supply gas to Qatar’s domestic market. It is Qatar’s most expensive project since Royal Dutch Shell launched the $19 billion Pearl gas-to-liquids plant in 2006.
Qatar’s last global bond deal was a three-tranche, $7 billion issue in November 2009. Demand for debt issues from the energy-rich Gulf region has remained strong this year, as financial instability dents investors’ appetite for bonds from Europe and many emerging markets.
Last month, Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Co issued a three-tranche, $3.75 billion bond which was significantly oversubscribed.
Bahrain, hit by political protests earlier this year, succeeded in issuing a $750 million, seven-year Islamic bond this month, offering a yield of 6.273 percent.
Qatar, which along with Abu Dhabi is highly rated by credit rating agencies at AA, has largely avoided the political upheaval that has swept the Middle East this year.
Analysts polled by Reuters in September forecast Qatar’s economy would grow 18.9 percent in 2011, slowing to 7.7 percent in 2012 -- still an extremely fast rate by global standards -- as the country’s decades-long gas expansion programme wound down.