UPDATE 1-Dubai returns to public debt markets for first time in six years

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By Davide Barbuscia and Yousef Saba

DUBAI, Sept 2 (Reuters) – The government of Dubai started marketing a dual-tranche bond on Wednesday, its first sale in public debt markets in six years, as the Middle East trade and tourism hub seeks to boost finances hit by the coronavirus crisis.

Dubai offered investors about 250 basis points over mid-swaps for 10-year sukuk, or Islamic bonds, and about 4.375% for 30-year conventional bonds, according to a document issued by one of the banks leading the deal and seen by Reuters.

The transaction is expected to close later on Wednesday.

“There is no value in the sukuk but there will be local buyers,” a fund manager said on the initial pricing. “For the 30-year, I’d rather own Bahrain or Oman – more risk, but I am paid for it. It’ll get done but I don’t see any upside.”

The emirate’s first public debt issuance since 2014 comes amid a sharp economic downturn that has revived concern over Dubai’s finances and revived memories of the 2009 debt crisis that wobbled its economy.

Dubai has budgeted a $3.2 billion deficit this year, a bond prospectus showed.

It also showed that while the government’s direct debt amounted to nearly $34 billion at the end of June, Dubai had no consolidated estimates for the outstanding total debt of government-related entities.

Dubai is unrated, which may exclude a pool of investors from the debt offering, said advisory and research firm Azure Strategy.

“A rating process would require a more granular disclosure of Dubai’s credit profile,” it said in a report on Tuesday.

In July, ratings agency S&P said Dubai’s economy could shrink 11% this year, as it cut the credit ratings of two of the emirate’s biggest property firms to ‘junk’ status. (Additional reporting by Saeed Azhar; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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