Pakistan’s Imran Khan to visit China next week for Belt and Road Forum

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, second right, meets with China’s President Xi Jinping (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 2, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2019
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Pakistan’s Imran Khan to visit China next week for Belt and Road Forum

  • China has pledged about $60 billion in infrastructure loans for Pakistan, touted as a success story of its Belt and Road initiative
  • But Pakistan’s economy has hit serious turbulence over the past year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit China next week to meet its leaders and deliver a keynote speech at the vast Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, the South Asian nation’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday, as economic anxiety grows at home.
China has pledged about $60 billion in infrastructure loans for Pakistan, touted as a success story of its Belt and Road initiative, which aims to build road and maritime trading routes across the globe.
But Pakistan’s economy has hit serious turbulence over the past year and Islamabad is now finalizing a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to stave off a balance of payments crisis, despite more than $10 billion in short-term loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia.
Khan will visit China from April 25, and give a keynote speech at the three-day Belt and Road Forum that starts the following day. The high-profile gathering is one of China’s biggest annual state events.
“In addition to participating in the Belt and Road Forum, the Prime Minister would also hold bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang,” the ministry said in a statement.
The two countries will sign several pacts to enhance cooperation, and Khan will meet corporate and business leaders, it added.
Khan’s visit to Pakistan’s all-weather friend China comes as his government, in power since August, faces a deepening economic crisis, with a ballooning current account deficit and fast-depleting foreign reserves.
It initially tried to avoid an IMF bailout by securing loans from friendly countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates but has since changed tack and said it had agreed in principle to turn to the IMF.
The long-delayed rescue package would be Pakistan’s 13th IMF bailout program since the late 1980s.


Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

Updated 23 April 2019
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Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

  • The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios
  • SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year

RIYADH: Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. (SRC), modelled on US mortgage finance firm Fannie Mae, aims to issue up to 4 billion riyals ($1.07 billion) of long-term sukuk this year, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios from mortgage financing companies and banks to boost the Kingdom’s secondary mortgage market.

SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year, Fabrice Susini told Reuters in an interview.

“Our strategy is clearly to tap the market twice this year,” he said. “We are really looking at probably issuing something between ... 2 and 4 billion riyal that we may be issuing in two tranches.

He said SRC was looking at sukuk in the 10 to 15-year range, to help minimize refinancing risks. “Generally speaking we are trying to issue as long as possible,” Susini said.

He said the company was assessing whether it could also issue bonds in currencies other than the local riyal.

In March, SRC completed a 750 million riyal sukuk issue with multiple tenors, under a program that allows it to issue up to 11 billion riyals of local currency denominated Islamic bonds.

“The rule of the game for us is, like many projects across the Kingdom, attract liquidity from foreign investors,” Susini said.

He said SRC had spent 1.2 billion riyals from its balance sheet buying mortgages from local mortgage financing companies and provided liquidity to these firms.

It has also signed initial accords with several commercial banks to acquire housing mortgage portfolios.

Saudi Arabia’s housing ministry is targeting the mortgage market to reach a total value of 502 billion riyals by 2020 from around 300 billion riyals now.

The government wants to increase activity in the real estate market as it moves to revitalize the economy and is taking steps to reform the sector as part of its 2030 reform plan.

It has been working with developers and local banks to counter a shortage of affordable housing — one of the country’s biggest social and economic problems. Saudi Arabia wants 60 percent of its nationals to own homes by 2020, up from 47 percent in 2016.

The size of real estate financing relative to its gross domestic product is 5 percent in Saudi Arabia compared to 69 percent in the United States, 74 percent in the United Kingdom and 43 pct in Canada, the housing ministry has said.

“The goal of SRC in this market was to make sure that we will be able to refinance at least around 10 percent of the market in 2020, and 20 percent of the market by 2028,” Susini told Reuters.