Coronavirus hits Gulf banks’ dealmaking ahead of Ramadan lull

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DOHA Gulf banks are losing out on a critical quarter for earnings with the coronavirus outbreak, as deals and lending activity come to a near standstill ahead of a lull that starts with the fasting month of Ramadan in April and extends into summer. Several deals – such as the initial public offering (IPO) of Saudi Arabia’s Amlak International for Real Estate Finance and a sukuk, or Islamic bond, issuance by Dubai Islamic Bank- have been called off, sources close to the deals told Reuters. Amlak and DIB did not respond to requests for comment. “On the origination side, things have slowed down to a standstill. Nothing new is coming across,” said a Dubai-based banker who declined to be named. “Banks are reviewing their portfolios and identifying clients that are going to be impacted. We’re at the identification stage,” the banker said. Data from Refinitiv for the Gulf Arab region shows the first quarter saw no equity capital market deals, with debt capital markets down by 36.3%. Mergers and acquisitions plunged 86.1%. Some bankers see the coming few months as a write-off, with no meaningful activity until the fourth quarter. “Basically no one is looking for funding today. All the capital markets issuances that we’ve worked on, we’ve been like, ‘do you guys need a bridge Do you guys want to put funding in place’ And all the responses have been no,” a second Gulf banker said. “Any bond mandate we have, the issuers are saying, ‘fine, markets are not there, let’s look at next quarter, let’s look at the September-October window,’” he added. Gulf states have announced stimulus packages to support their hydrocarbon-dependent economies, which are also being hit by an oil price collapse, as they take drastic measures to contain the coronavirus spread. Many have instructed banks to grant grace periods on loan repayments for private sector firms.— Reuters