United Arab Emirates: Examining Project Financing Issues And Regulations

Last Updated: 7 November 2018
Article by STA Law Firm
Most Read Contributor in United Arab Emirates, July 2019


Driving through Dubai one is inundated with the view of cranes and construction sites, however, if a closer look is taken it becomes increasingly more evident that many, if not most of these sites are inactive and the buildings are left skeletons of the creations that they were meant to be. Project financing in the GCC region has seen a rapid dive in recent times, and the feeling of the effects is throughout the GCC.

Due to a concerted drop in the oil prices, there was a resultant shortfall in government revenues and budget deficits across the region. The GCC region is suffering a reported two hundred and seventy billion dollars (USD) project finance gap. However, the region has announced a slew of infrastructure programmes, and this can be attributed to external sources keeping the funding tap open to infrastructure projects. With governments taking a cautious approach and only focusing on critical projects.

The value of UAE projects awarded rose by 15.1. Percent, quarter-on-quarter in the first half of 2016. Bahrain and Kuwait reported increases of 77.1 percent and 242.2 percent in projects awarded during the first quarter, on a quarter-on-quarter basis, while Oman and Bahrain saw yearly increases in projects. Saudi Arabia and Oman saw the sharpest quarterly falls of 42.9 percent, 45.7 percent, and 48.2 percent respectively, in value terms, while for GCC as a whole the value of project awards contracted by 14.8 percent quarter-on-quarter and 45.6 percent on a year-on-year basis.

Lower oil prices have been a significant constraint on the amount of funding available to GCC governments to finance capital and infrastructure projects, forcing them to look at alternate solutions.

Asian and European export credit agencies are increasingly providing funding or finance guarantees to help their contractors secure projects. An example of this was the USD 2.9 Billion LNG import and regasification terminal in Kuwait awarded to a consortium led by South Korea's Hyundai Engineering and Construction.

The project finance market in the GCC region conceals several challenges. These challenges include the drop in oil prices, the tightening fiscal positions across the region causing delays to protect, rationalization or even cancellations of projects.

It is against this backdrop, increasing capital requirements stemming from Basel III implementation are affecting regional banks' ability to support projects with longer tenors. Also, liquidity pressures linked to lower oil prices persist in some markets while in others they arise intermittently. "Banks in the GCC region traditionally operate with high levels of capital, but we expect Basel III to make a significantly less amount of capital available for project finance," says Micheal Wilkins, managing director of infrastructure ratings at S&P Global.

Filling the funding gap

In order to bridge the gap in the funding, there has been an evident trend emerging throughout the region. The first trend is the increasing presence of large international banks, specifically from Asia. This increase is having a significant positive effect on the market. These international banks have many years of experience engaging in global project finance deals and come with large balance sheets, and they are adding an extra dimension to the regional funding landscape. 

The contribution of non-regional lenders has been elevated to new heights due to various 'push' and 'pull' factors. Negative interest rates in Japan, for example, have contributed to a large-scale push by the country's banks to seek better returns overseas. Three Japanese banks topped a Thomson Reuters global league table for bookrunners on principal underwriters for project financing by value in 2016.

The bank that came out on top was Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), such a bank has had a stable presence in the region for over the past few decades. The bank provides that project finance is an asset class that the bank has extensive knowledge in, this knowledge is inclusive of all risks associated with project finance. In the GCC mainly, the expertise of this bank has seen it lead on some of the regions' most significant project and infrastructure deals of recent years. An example of this is the financing of Abu Dhabi's largest solar plant, a 1.17-gigawatt facility located in Sweihan, which included $650m raised from local and international banks, MUFG was the lead arranger for the loan.

Another trend is the innovative new financing methods, which include a growing role for regional capital markets by opening up new funding options for project finance participants.

Regional project finance market

There have been many delays and re-tender of projects in the GCC region in recent times, and this has meant that some bigger project finance markets have offered less stability than they did in the past. 

The proposal is that local bank funding across the region will become more expensive. This proposal reflects slow growth in deposits in some markets as well as higher capital requirements, which will force many institutions to be more selective when it comes to their balance sheet allocations. As a result of this, space is opening up for capital market financing for project and infrastructure finance.

Mr. Jennings from S&P Global stated that "we are seeing more avenues open up for other investors coming into the market who are comfortable taking on longer terms asset risk. Indeed, there is much interest, particularly in the GCC, for debt capital market and institutional investors and we have seen different pockets of liquidity open up in that regard.

Market bonds' bounce

There are much-needed work and procedures to be implemented before alternative financing mechanisms reach a meaningful scale. Across the GCC region, local currency debt markets are mostly undeveloped. Also, research shows that bank loans accounted for about 90% of total corporate and infrastructure financing over the first eight months of 2016, up from about 74% in 2013.

In order to address some of the challenges, regional banks are turning to samurai or kangaroo bonds to raise debt at a lower rate and to diversify their liabilities. These funds were lent back to corporates involved in project finance deals.

Although the immediate financing gap may be severe, the new trends cumulatively bode well for the region's project finance aspirations. GCC markets are currently adapting to the environment in which they find themselves. If over time, a more extensive range of banking institutions, coupled with a more diverse array of funding sources, begins to address the project finance gap, the outcome can only be positive for all concerned.

Mr. Jennings went on further to state that, "a project finance market of the size and scale of the Middle East does not work with just one or two big lenders. You need a good number of primary banks and also secondary interested parties, including debt and institutional investors."

The Basel III Accord

The Basel iii Accord was formed to strengthen the regulation, supervision, and risk of the banking sector. The Basel Committee is the regulatory body responsible for the Basel iii Accord and is the primal global standard-setter for the prudential regulation of banks and provides a forum for cooperation on banking supervisory matters.

GCC Banks position for Basel III

The Basel III aims to absorb financial shocks, enhance risk management and improve banks' transparency. The banks in the GCC region already mostly conform to the Basel II. The new framework requires increased and better-quality capital, liquidity standards, a new leverage ratio, and capital buffers to be absorbed in tumultuous periods. Other drives include:

  1. A greater focus on stress testing;
  2. The analysis of risks related to capital market activities; and
  3. More rigid requirements for systemically important banks.

For regional banks, the higher capital requirements provided for by the Basel III Accord will leave many regional lenders with less room to support project finance deals.

Chiradeep Ghosh from Bahrain's Security and Investment Company stated, "in terms of Basel III implementation, Saudi Arabia is doing quite well. We estimate that the average core Tier 1 capital ratio for Saudi banks in 17.5%. So Saudi lenders are well placed to continue engaging with finance deals. Global standards well capitalize Even UAE banks; we estimate that their average core Tier 1 capital ratio is about 14%."

Reasons why projects fail

Generally, construction projects fail due to lack of proper planning. However, there are other reasons for such failure, the dividing of which can be into causes related to owners and causes related to contractors.

Causes related to owners:

  1. Scope issues;
  2. Communication issues;
  3. Determining load lead items;
  4. An inexperienced or under-qualified project team;
  5. Poor estimates;
  6. The relationship between project budgets and plan;
  7. Incomplete designs;
  8. Lack of risk management;
  9. Unrealistic schedules.

Causes related to contractors:

  1. Scope creep and gold plating;
  2. Poor estimates;
  3. Turnover;
  4. Resource shortages and an inexperienced or unqualified project team;
  5. Unfavorable contracts;
  6. Lack of support from senior management;
  7. Design issues;
  8. Coordination issues;
  9. An overly aggressive schedule; and
  10. Lack of risk management to address unplanned conditions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions