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Banks offload Dubai World debt

dubai world trade centreLloyds Banking Group and Natixis have sold their holdings in debt of Dubai World, the state-owned conglomerate nearing a $14.6 billion debt restructuring, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) also sold at least part of its exposure in the conglomerate, said two sources, which could mean more than $1 billion of Dubai World’s debt has changed hands.

The moves help pave the way for Dubai World to secure 100 percent creditor assent for its restructuring, which would involve debt currently falling due in 2018 extended to 2022 in exchange for incentives.

Lloyds, RBS and Dubai World declined to comment. Natixis didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

RBS and Lloyds were said to be asking creditors late last year for backing in a challenge to the proposed deal, although Dubai World said on Jan. 12 it had secured enough support to trigger a court process which would impose the terms on errant creditors.

Dubai World then announced on Feb. 15 it had unanimous backing for the deal, pointing to either the lenders backing down in their challenge or exiting their positions.

Lloyds had sold its Dubai World debt, said three sources, with one saying the sale was completed around the turn of the year. The bank had attempted to offload much of its stake, worth around $535 million according to investment bank Exotix, in June, but pulled the deal when it couldn’t achieve a suitable price.

RBS was believed to have at least $500 million of Dubai World exposure in total, but it was unclear from sources if it had sold its entire stake or just part. Natixis sold all its debt, said two sources, with one saying its exposure was worth around $50 million.

The buyers of all three of the banks’ debt were existing Dubai World creditors, said one of the sources. The price of the transactions was not revealed but one said Dubai World’s debt was trading around 85 cents on the dollar.

Lloyds and RBS have cut their links to the region in recent years as they refocus on their domestic market after receiving bailouts during the financial crisis.

HSBC bought most of Lloyds’ operations in the United Arab Emirates in 2012. RBS was exploring options for the sale or wind-down of its corporate and institutional banking operations in central and eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the bank said earlier this week.

The sale was aided by an improvement in Dubai’s economy since 2011 and heightened confidence in the emirate’s ability to meet obligations, which has helped Dubai World’s debt value in the secondary loan market to rise. Lloyds received bids in the high-70 cents when it tried to sell in June.

For local banks, who are cash-rich after fast-rising deposits but sluggish loan growth in recent years, buying Dubai World debt makes sense as they can classify it as a performing asset and immediately mark up the value to 100 cents, booking a profit in the process, according to one of the sources.

When Emirates NBD, Dubai World’s largest creditor, reclassified its exposure to the conglomerate as performing in its fourth-quarter earnings, this reversed its provision against the debt and helped send its profit up 82 percent.-Reuters