(Bloomberg) — The state energy company of Qatar has started the sale of what could be the biggest emerging-market bond so far this year, as it seeks to raise output of liquefied natural gas and cement its domination of the market.
Qatar Petroleum is issuing dollar debt for the first time in 15 years and may aim to raise around $10 billion, Bloomberg has reported.
The producer is selling a four-part deal with tranches maturing in five, 10, 20 and 30 years, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company’s last dollar sale was in 2006, when it raised $650 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The debt will help the Persian Gulf state pump more gas from the giant North Field that extends into Iran’s waters. Qatar — one of the world’s richest countries per capita — is planning to spend $29 billion to lift production of LNG to 110 million tons per annum by 2027 from 77 million tons today.
QP has received offers from firms including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, TotalEnergies SE and Exxon Mobil Corp. to co-fund the expansion. The company has already started the work and Chief Executive Officer Saad Al-Kaabi has said it may still finance the project on its own.
The bond comes just as natural gas prices in Europe — home to some of Qatar’s biggest buyers — have jumped to the highest level in nearly 13 years amid a global supply crunch. Qatar is banking on demand for the fuel growing amid efforts in Europe and Asia to reduce dependence on coal. Utilities are turning to cleaner-burning natural gas in a bid to lower their carbon footprint.
The initial price talk is about 80 basis points over U.S. Treasuries for the five-year note and about 120 basis points for the 10-year portionIPT for the 20-year tranche is about 145 basis points, and 155 basis points for the longest portion — which will be marketed to investors in Taiwan and known as a Formosa bond
QP has capital expenditure needs of around $59 billion in the next five years, according to a prospectus seen by Bloomberg. It made an after-tax profit of almost $5 billion in the first quarter. That was an increase from $3.6 billion a year earlier as a reopening of major economies from the coronavirus pandemic lifted energy prices.
The Qatari government itself doesn’t need to return to the debt market any time soon, Ali Al Kuwari, the acting finance minister, told Bloomberg last week. Still, it may choose to take advantage of low interest rates in the U.S. and Europe, which make it cheaper to issue in dollars and euros. The country has sold $34 billion worth of sovereign bonds since 2018.
QP is rated AA- or its equivalent by Moody’s Investors Service, S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings. That’s the same as the government, whose dollar bonds have an average yield of 2.3%, according to Bloomberg Barclays indexes.
Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are global coordinators for the transaction. Bank of America Corp., Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., HSBC Holdings Plc, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. and Qatar National Bank are also managing the sale.
(Updates with details on expansion in 5th paragraph.)
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