Overview

  • 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.

Rating Action

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.

Outlook

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.

Rationale

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.

Key Statistics

 

Table 1

Qatar Selected Indicators
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
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
Investment/GDP N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Savings/GDP N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Exports/GDP 71.2 67.1 61.4 46.9 37.6 40.3 39.0 37.6 36.5 36.1
Real exports growth N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Unemployment rate 0.1 0.3 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
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
CARs/GDP 81.0 76.5 71.9 61.2 52.6 56.7 54.4 53.3 52.1 51.5
Trade balance/GDP 54.7 51.3 46.3 29.6 16.6 21.9 21.6 20.6 19.8 19.6
Net FDI/GDP (0.8) (4.5) (2.8) (1.8) (4.7) (0.4) (1.0) (1.0) (1.0) (1.0)
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. $) 14,884 22,987 20,479 15,516 7,710 (12,109) (3,628) (1,572) (500) (1,149)
FISCAL INDICATORS (%, General government)
Balance/GDP 23.6 22.2 16.2 (5.4) (2.9) 0.7 0.6 2.5 4.1 4.7
Change in net debt/GDP (14.9) (31.1) (20.1) 9.3 0.0 16.4 1.7 (2.5) (4.1) (4.6)
Primary balance/GDP 25.0 23.3 17.1 (4.3) (1.6) 1.8 1.7 3.7 5.4 5.9
Revenue/GDP 54.5 56.1 46.8 27.0 37.7 38.6 31.8 31.5 30.1 29.3
Expenditures/GDP 30.9 33.9 30.6 32.5 40.6 37.9 31.1 28.9 26.0 24.7
Interest /revenues 2.7 1.9 1.9 4.3 3.3 2.9 3.4 3.9 4.1 4.3
Debt/GDP 29.8 29.1 23.6 33.9 44.5 48.7 51.3 51.9 51.1 50.1
Debt/Revenue 54.8 51.8 50.5 125.5 118.0 126.2 161.6 165.0 169.7 170.8
Net debt/GDP (50.7) (78.8) (96.1) (111.0) (119.9) (92.7) (83.3) (81.6) (81.9) (83.0)
Liquid assets/GDP 80.5 107.9 119.7 145.0 164.4 141.4 134.7 133.5 133.0 133.1
MONETARY INDICATORS (%)
CPI growth 0.8 5.1 3.1 1.9 2.9 0.4 1.5 3.0 2.5 2.0
GDP deflator growth 6.4 1.9 (0.2) (22.9) (9.4) 8.2 6.0 2.5 2.5 2.0
Exchange rate, year-end (LC/$) 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

 

Table 2

Qatar Ratings Score Snapshot
Key rating factors
Institutional assessment 4
Economic assessment 1
External assessment 4
Fiscal assessment: flexibility and performance 1
Fiscal assessment: debt burden 1
Monetary assessment 4
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.

Related Criteria

Related Research


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 List

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: 
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(46) 8-440-5914; or Moscow 7 (495) 783-4009.
Primary Credit Analyst:Benjamin J Young, Dubai (971) 4-372-7191;
benjamin.young@spglobal.com
Secondary Contact:Zahabia S Gupta, Dubai (971) 4-372-7154;
zahabia.gupta@spglobal.com
Research Contributor:Shokhrukh Temurov, CFA, Dubai + 97143727167;
shokhrukh.temurov@spglobal.com
Additional Contact:SovereignEurope;
SovereignEurope@spglobal.com

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