First Gulf Bank sets up new $3.5 billion Islamic bond programme

Reuters, Tuesday 12 Jul 2011

United Arab Emirates lender is looking to tap a burgeoning market in religiously-prescribed 'sukuk' products as Gulf buyers show increasing demand for regional Islamic paper

Abu Dhabi's First Gulf Bank has set up a new US$3.5 billion Islamic bond programme, a London Stock Exchange filing showed, paving the way for the lender's first sukuk sale.

FGB, 67-per cent owned by Abu Dhabi's ruling family, picked Citi, Standard Chartered and HSBC to arrange the program, a prospectus from the lender, dated 11 July showed.

The UAE's second largest lender by market value said in March that the bank was considering an Islamic bond as it planned to tap debt markets this year. Sukuk yields in the Gulf have narrowed significantly in recent months, a sign of returning confidence and demand for regional Islamic paper.

"There is still a lot of pent up demand in the sukuk space and very few places to invest in currently," said one Dubai-based trader, adding that recent sukuk issues were oversubscribed even though the pricing was not overly attractive.

The lender has a separate $3.5 billion euro medium term notes programme under which it raised $500 million in November 2009.

FGB issued a five-year 200 million Swiss franc ($206 million) bond, carrying a coupon of 3 per cent in January. The bond was the first from the Gulf Arab region in 2011. 

The political uprisings in the region had virtually halted the sukuk market in the Gulf but the sector has seen a revival buoyed by high-profile issuances such as HSBC Middle East's benchmark sukuk.

Sharjah Islamic Bank's $400 million issuance was also oversubscribed and indicated that demand was on the rise for Islamic paper in the Gulf.

FGB shares were trading down 1.4 per cent at 0830 GMT on the Abu Dhabi stock exchange. 

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