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Saudi mortgage refinance firm eyes $500m sukuk in Q2 2023
The impact of rising rates has been "limited" as roughly 70 to 80% of its mortgages are fixed rate, says Susini

Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co (SRC), the kingdom’s equivalent of US mortgage finance business Fannie Mae, plans to issue debut dollar-denominated sukuk between the end of the first and second quarters of this year, its chief executive said.

The company, a regular issuer of local currency Islamic bonds, initially aimed to issue its inaugural dollar sukuk last year.

SRC, owned by the sovereign Public Investment Fund (PIF), is working to help Saudi Arabia reach its goal of boosting Saudi home ownership to 70 percent as part of Vision 2030 reforms to reduce the economy’s reliance on oil.

Some of the documentation for the dollar issuance “needed to be revamped, readjusted with some discussions with some of our stakeholders,” SRC CEO Fabrice Susini told Reuters, without giving details.

SRC will raise at least $500 million, Susini said. JPMorgan, Societe Generale, GIB, HSBC and Islamic Development Bank, which set up the dollar issuance programme, will arrange the debt sale, he added.

“We were a bit lucky… not having to issue internationally” last year, he said, as the US Federal Reserve hiked rates at a rapid clip to tame decades-high inflation, with the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) closely mirroring the moves despite lower inflation, as the riyal is pegged to the dollar.

Issuance in local currency will remain “alive and active,” Susini said, adding the firm could eventually issue euro-denominated bonds “if at one point the rates are attractive enough and interest is there,” while hedging would also be a consideration.

The impact of rising rates on SRC has been “limited” as roughly 70 to 80 percent of its mortgages are fixed rate, Susini said.

New residential mortgages provided by banks fell 23.4 percent last year to 154,392, having already dropped 10.5 percent in 2021 from 2020, data from SAMA showed.

“There is the cost for mortgage borrowers that could put some of them off buying. And then there is also perhaps a slight slowdown with the banks which see these prices going up and not being sure of what conditions they will refinance themselves,” Susini said.

SRC has no plans currently in place for an initial public offering but it “could make sense” in the coming years, Susini said, adding PIF would keep at least a 51 stake stake.