Saudi central bank boss to visit NTMA for bond talks
THE head of Saudi Arabia's central bank will visit Dublin for talks with the NTMA about potential investment in Irish government bonds, following discussions in the Saudi capital with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
However, Mr Kenny admitted that the oil-rich nation is unlikely to invest in the Irish debt until credit rating agencies lift their rating for Ireland to a less risky level.
Like many central banks, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) holds government bonds in its investment portfolio -- and held Irish paper before the economic crisis.
The governor of SAMA, Dr Fahad bin Abdullah Al-Mubarak, described the successful exit from the EU/IMF bailout as "truly remarkable", at the start of a lengthy meeting with a delegation led by Mr Kenny, and congratulated the visiting Irish for the "great achievement" in terms of economic recovery.
Following the meeting, Mr Kenny said Dr Al-Mubarak will visit Ireland in the coming weeks when he will meet with his opposite number, Professor Patrick Honohan, and with the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), which sells Irish government bonds to investors.
However, while the Saudi authorities will be briefed on the Irish financial situation, they, like many other international investors, will shy away from lending to the Government -- by buying bonds -- until Ireland's credit rating returns to its historic "investment grade" level.
"Clearly, if Ireland's credit rating is reviewed positively by rating agencies, this will allow for change from SAMA's perspective in again being able to invest in Irish bonds if they so wish," Mr Kenny said.
Mr Kenny, who was on the first day of a five-day trade mission to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, also met the head of the Saudi Department of Higher Education -- which finances the studies of 1.2 million students in Saudi Arabia and 150,000 students studying abroad.
There are currently around 2,700 Saudi students studying in Ireland, mostly at Athlone, Waterford and Galway Mayo Institutes of Technology, and that may increase by an additional 500.
Mr Kenny is due to meet today with Crown Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia, who is also the country's deputy prime minister and minister for defence, before flying on to the Qatari capital, Doha, later this evening.