DUBAI - Economic recovery in Dubai is pushing both creditors and debtors to weigh new strategies in the US$25 billion (S$31 billion) restructuring of state-owned Dubai World, one of the Middle East's largest ever debt deals.
The conglomerate has begun talks to adjust a restructuring plan originally signed in 2011: it would make its first big repayment early, in exchange for more time before a second and much larger obligation needs to be repaid, two sources with knowledge of the matter said.
At the same time, some foreign banks are seeking to divest parts of their exposure to Dubai World as improved confidence in the emirate raises debt values to levels which make offloading favourable.
Lloyds, one of the banks on the committee which negotiated the original debt deal, attempted to sell off more than US$450 million of its exposure at the end of June, three sources said.
Other lenders are also reviewing whether to change their exposures to Dubai World - most notably two banks which might potentially offload over US$500 million of debt between them, according to investment house Exotix.
Dubai World and Lloyds declined to comment. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the commercial sensitivity of the matter.
RESTRUCTURING A RESTRUCTURING
Under Dubai World's original restructuring plan, it was scheduled to repay a US$4.4 billion chunk of debt in May 2015 and an additional US$10.3 billion in 2018.
The deal was supposed to allow time for the diverse conglomerate's assets to recover in value, after they were hit by the global credit crisis and a property crash in Dubai. This would permit them to be sold to fund repayments to creditors.
Initially, many assets recovered only slowly and some, such as US-based luxury retailer Barneys, saw their values drop. This inhibited the sale process.
However, some progress has been made in recent months and small repayments have been made to creditors, under a mechanism which distributes cash from asset sales once a certain threshold has been reached.
Dubai's economic recovery has also helped, with other state-owned entities gaining the financial strength to take on assets from Dubai World companies, such as Investment Corp of Dubai's acquisition of the landmark Atlantis hotel.
This led one of Dubai's top executives, Mohammed al-Shaibani, to tell Reuters in March this year that Dubai World had the cash to make the May 2015 repayment.
However, he also said various options involving the 2018 payment would be discussed with lenders. Blackstone Group was named as an adviser to Dubai World in April.
Under plans being discussed between Dubai World, its advisers and senior lenders including HSBC and Emirates NBD, the 2018 maturity would be extended to 2022, in exchange for early repayment of the full amount due next May, the two sources said.
The discussions have not so far included the full creditor group, and have not touched on whether a new interest rate would be set on the extended 2022 maturity, or on whether a new timetable for asset sales would be put in place, one of the sources added.