- The Qatari authorities continue to effectively use the country's large fiscal and external assets to mitigate the impact of an ongoing Saudi-led boycott. Nevertheless, the boycott is expected to continue for an extended period, with no clear resolution in sight.
- We are affirming our 'AA-/A-1+' ratings on Qatar.
- The outlook remains negative.
On July 27, 2018, S&P Global Ratings affirmed its 'AA-/A-1+' long- and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign ratings on Qatar. The outlook is negative.
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen cut diplomatic ties, as well as trade and transport links, with Qatar on June 5, 2017. The negative outlook primarily reflects our view of the geopolitical risks and potential consequences of the ongoing diplomatic tensions for Qatar's economic, fiscal, and external metrics, especially if the boycott is tightened or prolonged. We could lower the ratings if the boycott ultimately has a more severe impact than we currently anticipate, leading, for example, to significant capital outflows or pressures on the hydrocarbon sector. The ratings could also come under pressure if Qatar's fiscal or external performance turned out weaker than our current forecast. Should the boycott drag on, and the Qatari public sector continues to draw on its external assets to support the economy, we could reassess our current estimation of the government's liquid assets. We could consider a downgrade if we believe the Qatari authorities' fiscal cushion to absorb additional shocks has reduced. We could revise the outlook to stable if regional tensions substantially recede while Qatar's fiscal and external metrics regain strength. Better disclosure about public sector assets and the international investment position would also potentially stabilize the ratings.
The ratings affirmation reflects our expectation that the authorities will continue to actively manage the boycott while preserving Qatar's core rating strengths, including its strong public sector balance sheet. The government has taken measures to ease the immediate economic and financial effects of the boycott. In particular, it has established new trade routes through other countries in the region, resulting in a recovery in imports. The fall in nonresident deposits and inter-bank placements has been offset by liquidity injections by Qatar Central Bank (QCB) and repatriation into the domestic banking sector of about $40 billion (24% of GDP) of public sector assets (mostly Qatar Investment Authority [QIA]), previously held abroad. The deposit outflows have stabilized to a manageable level since November 2017. This somewhat reduces the likelihood that the banks would need substantial additional government support. Qatar may see further nonresident deposit outflows as they mature, which we expect would be manageable. We expect Qatar's liquid external assets to continue to offset the country's stock of debt by a reasonable margin. However, Qatar's gross external financing needs remain sizable, owing to the share of short-term external funding in Qatar's large banking system.
Institutional and Economic Profile: Government policies will remain supportive of economic growth and mostly mitigate the impact of the boycott
- Decision-making is centralized at the level of the emir and the ongoing boycott complicates policy predictability.
- However, we expect government policy to continue to actively mitigate the impact of the boycott and remain supportive of accelerating economic growth.
- The ongoing diplomatic rift could weigh on economic growth, but the government's infrastructure plan will continue to support economic activity.
In our view, the current tensions complicate policy predictability for Qatar. Qatar has indicated that it will not meet the boycotting nations' demands, but that it is willing to engage in a dialogue with them. Under our base case, we do not expect the regional geopolitical risks to escalate significantly, although the current boycott could continue for an extended period. Domestic political and social stability prevails in Qatar, despite what we view as only gradual political modernization and a highly centralized decision-making process. In our view, the country's public institutions are still relatively undeveloped compared with those of most sovereigns we rate in the 'AA' category. Executive power remains in the hands of the emir. We see the predictability of future policy responses as being tempered by weak political institutions, although in our base case we assume the focus on the development of the hydrocarbon sector will continue, alongside ongoing attempts to diversify the economy. Data transparency is limited in relation to Qatar's international investment position; the government neither discloses nor reports the level of its fiscal assets. We expect the authorities to continue the key macroeconomic policies of the Qatari riyal (QAR) 461 billion infrastructure development plan for 2015-2024. In response to the boycott, the government has deployed significant financial support to its domestic banks (see "Flexibility and Performance Profile" below). Our estimate of government liquid assets is still very high at over 130% of GDP in 2018. The Qatari authorities' policy response to falling oil prices since 2015 has been relatively strong and included reigning in current expenditures, merging line ministries, and implementing numerous cost-saving initiatives within its core government-related entities--fiscal deficits have been modest as a result. Supporting the ratings, Qatar has the world's third-largest proven natural gas reserves and is the largest exporter of liquid natural gas. We expect Qatar's reserves to provide many decades of production at current levels. The hydrocarbon sector contributes about 55% of Qatar's GDP, 80% of government revenues (oil and gas taxes and royalties, plus dividends from Qatar Petroleum), and 90% of exports. We note that real GDP per capita trend growth is weak, with our 10-year weighted average at about minus 1.5%, predominantly reflecting high population growth (related mainly to expats working in the construction sector) averaging about 8% over the past five years. In our view, with GDP per capita estimated at $66,500 in 2018 (among the highest of the sovereigns we rate) Qatar has sufficient wealth to mitigate the impact of weak trend growth. We note that population growth slowed sharply to about 2% in 2017 and will increase only modestly to about 3% annually until 2021, following the completion of many of the government's large infrastructure projects. The most recent national accounts data--which is only available in real terms and broken down by economic activity but not expenditure--shows that GDP growth slowed to 1.6% in 2017, following the boycott. More recent indicators suggest that growth has started to recover, as expected, and we project real GDP growth at 2.5%-3.0% over 2018-2021. Our growth assumptions factor in broadly stable gas production, but cautious business activity and confidence, alongside lower private-sector consumption. However, with improving hydrocarbon prices, the government's infrastructure program continues to support economic growth in addition to investment related to a new petrochemicals refinery. The government has announced measures to help boost growth in the tourism sector and support the labor supply, including a visa-free entry program for 80 nationalities. We do not include the 2017 lifting of the moratorium on production from Qatar's North Field in our projections because we expect the potential related revenues, for the most part, to fall outside of our rating horizon. The government expects LNG production to increase by approximately 30% in 2023-2024.
Flexibility and Performance Profile: Despite the boycott, external balances are projected to improve with the fiscal balance remaining strong in 2018-2021
- We estimate the current account surplus at about 4.5% of GDP in 2018, supported by higher hydrocarbon prices.
- Outflows of nonresident funding from Qatar's banks totaled about $18 billion (10% of GDP) at year-end 2017 as a result of the boycott, but liquidity injections by QCB and Qatari public sector deposits to support the banks were more than double that at $40 billion (24% of GDP).
- We expect the high level of government assets will remain a core rating strength. However, we have lowered our estimate of government assets by an amount equivalent to the public sector funds used to support the banks, because we no longer view these assets as liquid.
- While pressures may emerge, we expect no change to Qatar's monetary arrangements.
Qatar's goods exports to the boycotting nations are relatively limited (10% of total); most of its gas receipts come from Asian customers. Furthermore, the UAE accounts for 6% of Qatari exports, including gas exports through the Dolphin pipeline; which we do not currently expect to be affected by the boycott. Therefore, the effect of the continued boycott on Qatar's export earnings will be manageable, in our view. On the import side, Qatar has found alternative sources of goods that previously arrived from boycotting nations, likely at higher prices though. Nevertheless, according to the most recent data, the current account returned to surplus in 2017 due to higher oil prices, with which most of Qatar's gas contracts are linked. Over the medium term, we expect the current account balance to remain in a surplus of 4% in line with our revised modest increase in our oil price assumptions for 2018-2021 (see "S&P Global Ratings Raises 2018 Brent And WTI Oil Price Assumptions And 2019 Brent Price Assumptions," published May 7, 2018, on RatingsDirect). Outflows of nonresident funding from Qatar's banks totaled about $18 billion (10% of GDP) at year-end 2017 following the boycott. The outflows were largely related to the boycotting countries repatriating deposits they had in Qatar. However, liquidity injections into the Qatari economy of $40 billion (24% of GDP) by QCB and public-sector entities--mostly QIA--more than compensated for the outflows. Nonresident deposits in Qatar's banking system substantially increased between 2015 and 2017. This has weakened its external liquidity position because related external short-term obligations have increased (see our ratio of gross external financing needs); the average maturity of these deposits is less than one year. Over the same period, bank credit directly to the government increased by a similar amount, and the funds were generally used to finance Qatar's ongoing significant infrastructure program. This dynamic has weakened Qatar's external ratio (narrow net external debt) because the increase in external liabilities financed domestic activities that required significant imports content, instead of building up external liquid assets. We estimate that Qatar's external liquid assets net of external debt was around 105% of current account payments in 2017 and will remain around 117% on average over 2018-2021. While we expect foreign deposit outflows will continue as they mature, we believe they will remain manageable given the support already provided by the government, our expectation of limited outflows from Asian and European depositors, and banks' sufficient liquidity. Qatari banks are well capitalized and can withstand substantial withdrawals. We view the authorities as being very willing and able to provide support if and when needed. Nevertheless, a prolongation or any significant escalation of the boycott could result in another surge of outflows from Qatar's banks and require additional government support. The use of government assets to support the domestic banks also affects our estimate of Qatar's net fiscal position in that it reduces government assets. We estimate the government's net asset position to have reduced from 120% of GDP in 2016 to around 93% in 2017. We expect its asset accumulation to continue, and the net asset position to average 82% of GDP over 2018-2021. Deterioration in the net asset position is partly associated with the government's debt issuance to fund its budget deficits. In particular, the government has increased its domestic debt issuance substantially over 2017 and made a significant comeback in the international bond markets with a US$12 billion Eurobond issue in April this year. Though we expect government debt to continue to grow gradually in absolute terms, total indebtedness measured as a proportion of GDP is expected to remain stable at around 50% on average. That said, we foresee Qatar's government net asset position remaining a ratings strength over our forecast period. We estimate that the fiscal deficit will be about 5% of GDP in 2018 at the central government level, and average 2% over 2018-2021. Gross government debt will peak at 53% of GDP in 2019. We include investment income estimates on government assets in the general government balance, and exclude them from the central government balance. We expect the financing needs created at the central government level will be met largely by further debt issuance rather than drawing on assets. Our base-case revenue and expenditure forecasts reflect broadly flat hydrocarbon production estimates--at about 3.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day--and high capital expenditure, but continued control of current expenditure. QCB raised its repo rate by 25 basis points in December 2017 for the third time that year, following the hike in the Federal Reserve's key policy rate. We expect Qatar to continue tracking the gradual U.S. tightening cycle, given the currency peg to the U.S. dollar. The peg has served Qatar reasonably well, providing stability for income flows and financial wealth and anchoring prices of tradables and therefore inflation. Despite limited monetary policy flexibility attached to the peg regime, the authorities reiterated their commitment to the system. The peg is supported by the sizable pool of external assets available to protect if needed.
|Qatar Selected Indicators|
|ECONOMIC INDICATORS (%)|
|Nominal GDP (bil. LC)||680||723||751||599||555||610||665||700||735||768|
|Nominal GDP (bil. $)||187||199||206||165||152||168||183||192||202||211|
|GDP per capita (000s $)||101.7||97.2||92.3||67.5||58.7||63.4||66.5||68.0||69.3||70.3|
|Real GDP growth||4.7||4.4||4.0||3.6||2.2||1.6||2.8||2.8||2.4||2.4|
|Real GDP per capita growth||(2.7)||(6.2)||(4.9)||(5.0)||(4.1)||(0.1)||(1.2)||(0.2)||(0.6)||(0.6)|
|Real investment growth||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Real exports growth||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|EXTERNAL INDICATORS (%)|
|Current account balance/GDP||33.2||30.4||24.0||8.4||(5.4)||3.8||4.4||4.1||3.9||3.9|
|Current account balance/CARs||41.0||39.8||33.3||13.7||(10.3)||6.8||8.0||7.7||7.4||7.5|
|Net portfolio equity inflow/GDP||(4.1)||(8.3)||(8.1)||(7.0)||(6.6)||6.8||(4.0)||(4.0)||(4.0)||(4.0)|
|Gross external financing needs/CARs plus usable reserves||78.7||79.5||79.2||104.3||144.4||156.6||174.6||160.2||157.8||156.5|
|Narrow net external debt/CARs||(56.1)||(100.0)||(126.4)||(151.8)||(151.3)||(97.5)||(103.6)||(108.4)||(109.5)||(111.1)|
|Narrow net external debt/CAPs||(95.0)||(166.0)||(189.5)||(175.8)||(137.1)||(104.5)||(112.6)||(117.4)||(118.3)||(120.1)|
|Net external liabilities/CARs||(105.4)||(158.7)||(202.5)||(284.9)||(340.0)||(243.8)||(256.4)||(265.2)||(273.1)||(277.0)|
|Net external liabilities/CAPs||(178.6)||(263.5)||(303.6)||(330.0)||(308.3)||(261.5)||(278.7)||(287.3)||(295.0)||(299.5)|
|Short-term external debt by remaining maturity/CARs||21.6||27.0||24.8||39.2||62.0||76.1||61.3||62.2||62.9||63.3|
|Usable reserves/CAPs (months)||0.5||2.0||2.8||2.8||2.1||1.0||(1.6)||(0.5)||(0.2)||(0.1)|
|Usable reserves (mil. $)||14,884||22,987||20,479||15,516||7,710||(12,109)||(3,628)||(1,572)||(500)||(1,149)|
|FISCAL INDICATORS (%, General government)|
|Change in net debt/GDP||(14.9)||(31.1)||(20.1)||9.3||0.0||16.4||1.7||(2.5)||(4.1)||(4.6)|
|MONETARY INDICATORS (%)|
|GDP deflator growth||6.4||1.9||(0.2)||(22.9)||(9.4)||8.2||6.0||2.5||2.5||2.0|
|Exchange rate, year-end (LC/$)||3.64||3.64||3.64||3.64||3.64||3.64||3.64||3.64||3.64||3.64|
|Banks' claims on resident non-gov't sector growth||25.3||24.4||10.4||12.2||12.8||10.2||2.0||3.0||5.0||5.0|
|Banks' claims on resident non-gov't sector/GDP||64.7||75.6||80.4||113.1||137.8||138.1||129.3||126.4||126.4||127.1|
|Foreign currency share of claims by banks on residents||37.3||13.5||12.5||15.8||16.3||16.3||23.0||23.0||25.0||25.0|
|Foreign currency share of residents' bank deposits||39.6||35.7||35.2||33.4||28.2||38.7||39.0||39.0||39.0||39.0|
|Real effective exchange rate growth||3.1||3.6||3.2||12.8||2.8||(2.8)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Savings is defined as investment plus the current account surplus (deficit). Investment is defined as expenditure on capital goods, including plant, equipment, and housing, plus the change in inventories. Banks are other depository corporations other than the central bank, whose liabilities are included in the national definition of broad money. Gross external financing needs are defined as current account payments plus short-term external debt at the end of the prior year plus nonresident deposits at the end of the prior year plus long-term external debt maturing within the year. Narrow net external debt is defined as the stock of foreign and local currency public- and private- sector borrowings from nonresidents minus official reserves minus public-sector liquid assets held by nonresidents minus financial-sector loans to, deposits with, or investments in nonresident entities. A negative number indicates net external lending. LC--Local currency. CARs--Current account receipts. FDI--Foreign direct investment. CAPs--Current account payments. The data and ratios above result from S&P Global Ratings' own calculations, drawing on national as well as international sources, reflecting S&P Global Ratings' independent view on the timeliness, coverage, accuracy, credibility, and usability of available information.|
Ratings Score Snapshot
|Qatar Ratings Score Snapshot|
|Key rating factors|
|Fiscal assessment: flexibility and performance||1|
|Fiscal assessment: debt burden||1|
|S&P Global Ratings' analysis of sovereign creditworthiness rests on its assessment and scoring of five key rating factors: (i) institutional assessment; (ii) economic assessment; (iii) external assessment; (iv) the average of fiscal flexibility and performance, and debt burden; and (v) monetary assessment. Each of the factors is assessed on a continuum spanning from 1 (strongest) to 6 (weakest). S&P Global Ratings' "Sovereign Rating Methodology," published on Dec. 18, 2017, details how we derive and combine the scores and then derive the sovereign foreign currency rating. In accordance with S&P Global Ratings' sovereign ratings methodology, a change in score does not in all cases lead to a change in the rating, nor is a change in the rating necessarily predicated on changes in one or more of the scores. In determining the final rating the committee can make use of the flexibility afforded by §15 and §§126-128 of the rating methodology.|
- Criteria - Governments - Sovereigns: Sovereign Rating Methodology, Dec. 18, 2017
- General Criteria: Methodology For Linking Long-Term And Short-Term Ratings , April 7, 2017
- General Criteria: Guarantee Criteria, Oct. 21, 2016
- General Criteria: Methodology For Rating Sukuk, Jan. 19, 2015
- General Criteria: Use Of CreditWatch And Outlooks, Sept. 14, 2009
- General Criteria: Methodology: Criteria For Determining Transfer And Convertibility Assessments, May 18, 2009
- Default, Transition, and Recovery: 2017 Annual Sovereign Default Study And Rating Transitions, May 8, 2018
- GCC Economic And Social Structures Will Likely Curb Tax Reforms, Jan. 25, 2018
- S&P Global Ratings Raises 2018 Brent And WTI Oil Price Assumptions And 2019 Brent Price Assumptions, May 7, 2018
- Banking Industry Country Risk Assessment: Qatar, Jan. 11, 2018
- Middle East And North Africa Sovereign Rating Trends Midyear 2018, July 16, 2018
- Sovereign Ratings History, July 5, 2018
- Sovereign Risk Indicators, July 5, 2018. An interactive version is also available at http://www.spratings.com/sri
- Qatar Ratings Affirmed At 'AA-/A-1+'; Outlook Negative, Feb. 10, 2018
- Credit FAQ: Potential Implications Of Qatar Boycott For Gulf Cooperation Council Sovereigns, Aug. 9, 2017
- Gulf Sovereigns Will Find It Hard To Diversify Away From Hydrocarbons, July 25, 2017
- A Sharp Rise In External Debt Leaves Qatari Banks More Vulnerable, May 8, 2017
- 2016 Sovereign Ratings Update: Outlook And CreditWatch Resolutions, April 18, 2017
In accordance with our relevant policies and procedures, the Rating Committee was composed of analysts that are qualified to vote in the committee, with sufficient experience to convey the appropriate level of knowledge and understanding of the methodology applicable (see 'Related Criteria And Research'). At the onset of the committee, the chair confirmed that the information provided to the Rating Committee by the primary analyst had been distributed in a timely manner and was sufficient for Committee members to make an informed decision. After the primary analyst gave opening remarks and explained the recommendation, the Committee discussed key rating factors and critical issues in accordance with the relevant criteria. Qualitative and quantitative risk factors were considered and discussed, looking at track-record and forecasts. The committee's assessment of the key rating factors is reflected in the Ratings Score Snapshot above. The chair ensured every voting member was given the opportunity to articulate his/her opinion. The chair or designee reviewed the draft report to ensure consistency with the Committee decision. The views and the decision of the rating committee are summarized in the above rationale and outlook. The weighting of all rating factors is described in the methodology used in this rating action (see 'Related Criteria And Research').
Ratings Affirmed Qatar Sovereign Credit Rating AA-/Negative/A-1+ Transfer & Convertibility Assessment AA Senior Unsecured AA- Qatari Diar Finance Q.S.C. Senior Unsecured AA- SoQ Sukuk A Q.S.C Senior Unsecured AA-
Certain terms used in this report, particularly certain adjectives used to express our view on rating relevant factors, have specific meanings ascribed to them in our criteria, and should therefore be read in conjunction with such criteria. Please see Ratings Criteria at www.standardandpoors.com for further information. Complete ratings information is available to subscribers of RatingsDirect at www.capitaliq.com. All ratings affected by this rating action can be found on S&P Global Ratings' public website at www.standardandpoors.com. Use the Ratings search box located in the left column. Alternatively, call one of the following S&P Global Ratings numbers: Client Support Europe (44) 20-7176-7176; London Press Office (44) 20-7176-3605; Paris (33) 1-4420-6708; Frankfurt (49) 69-33-999-225; Stockholm (46) 8-440-5914; or Moscow 7 (495) 783-4009.
|Primary Credit Analyst:||Benjamin J Young, Dubai (971) 4-372-7191;|
|Secondary Contact:||Zahabia S Gupta, Dubai (971) 4-372-7154;|
|Research Contributor:||Shokhrukh Temurov, CFA, Dubai + 97143727167;|
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