Saudi Arabia bonds, stocks take U.S. sanctions mostly in stride

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh
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Tom Arnold and Saeed Azhar
·2 min read
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By Tom Arnold and Saeed Azhar

LONDON/DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's 2060 Eurobond rose on Friday after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was spared U.S. sanctions over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, though short-term debt and a basket of Saudi stocks ended lower.

The April 2060 sovereign issue was up more than 1 cent, while the 2025 and 2030 were both down 0.5 cent after the Biden administration announced sanctions and visa bans targeting Saudi citizens, but stopped short of imposing sanctions on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) himself.

"MBS will avoid sanctions but likely be persona non grata with the Biden administration as long as the king is alive," said Beth Morrissey, managing partner at Kleiman International Consultants, adding that the Saudi bonds were responding to both the non-sanctioning of the crown prince as well as oil prices.

The added risk for investors was most likely priced in given that Khashoggi's murder grabbed headlines across the world, according to Kristin Diwan, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

However, "the renewed attention to Khashoggi's brutal killing certainly doesn't help a Kingdom still trying to introduce itself to the world as an attractive tourist and investment destination," Diwan said.

Daniel Kern, chief investment officer for TFC Financial Management in Boston, said he expected the report would have a limited impact on foreign investment in Saudi Arabia.

"It seems that the Biden Administration wants to take action that falls short of cutting ties with MBS and Saudi Arabia," he said.

The iShares MSCI Saudi Arabia ETF drifted lower throughout the day to end down 1.9% at $32.14, near its session low but not far from the 19-month high hit earlier this week.

Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Saudi journalist and American resident who wrote columns for the Washington Post critical of the crown prince's policies, was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, and killed by a team of operatives linked to the crown prince. His remains have never been found.

(Reporting by Tom Arnold in London and Saeed Azhar in Dubai; Additional reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston and Rodrigo Campos in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis)