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Qatar biggest mall’s $1 bln loan refinancing frozen

The refinancing of a $1 billion loan by Doha Festival City,  a retail and hospitality complex in Qatar, has been indefinitely postponed as a diplomatic crisis deters regional banks from doing new Qatari business, bankers said.

The refinancing, coordinated by Doha-based investment bank QInvest, was marketed earlier this year to both Qatari and regional banks, including institutions in the United Arab Emirates. It was to have been larger in size than the original loan – perhaps around $1.2 billion, bankers said. But the proposed deal has been put on hold, the sources said. Two Qatari bankers involved in the deal told Reuters that the diplomatic crisis was the main reason for the deal being postponed, as it had reduced banks’ appetite for the transaction. A banker said Qatari banks looked at the refinancing when market interest rates were lower, but they were no longer keen on it now the crisis had tightened liquidity in the local market.  The three-month Qatar interbank offered rate has jumped more than 50 basis points since early June.

Most regional banks freezed new loan transactions for Qatari borrowers since last month. Doha Festival City, which includes the world’s biggest store under the brand name of French retailer Monoprix, is owned and developed by Bawabat Al-Shamal Real Estate Co, a joint venture comprising Dubai-based Al-Futtaim Real Estate Services, Qatar Islamic Bank, Aqar Real Estate Investment Co and a private Qatari investor. That loan, comprising conventional and Islamic tranches, was led by QInvest with Commercial Bank of Qatar and Barwa Bank as mandated lead arrangers. Ahli Bank, Doha Bank, International Bank of Qatar, Al Khaliji Commercial Bank, Qatar International Islamic Bank and Qatar National Bank also participated.

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Doha Festival City’s shopping mall opened last April after a months-long delay which the owners attributed to issues with supporting infrastructure. Many of the mall’s stores have not yet opened to the public. Mall and hotel owners in Qatar have expressed concern about a dwindling customer base after government bodies fired thousands of expatriates in recent years amid declining global oil and gas prices.

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