Oil-rich Persian Gulf set to add another member to triple-digit debt club

By Mohammed Aly Sergie on 5/3/2018

DUBAI (Bloomberg) -- Bahrain, one of only three Middle East oil exporters that needs crude above $100 to break even, will soon be part of another short list: the triple-digit debt club.

The smallest oil producer in the Persian Gulf will join Lebanon, Libya and Sudan in 2019 as the only countries in the Middle East and North Africa with debt that exceeds 100% of gross domestic product, according to the latest IMF economic outlook.

Oil has to average $113/bbl this year for Bahrain to meet its spending demands, the second highest break-even price in the region after Libya. Algeria needs $106/bbl to break even this year. Crude is trading at about $73/bbl.

Bahrain has been borrowing regularly from the international debt market, but had to shelve an issue in March as investors sought higher yields. Last year, it was said to ask Gulf allies for financial assistance as it sought to replenish its foreign-exchange reserves and avert a currency devaluation. The kingdom said in April it discovered a giant, offshore shale oil basin, which will be difficult and costly to recover.

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