Dubai: Saudi Arabia’s first mortgage-refinancing firm is set to debut in the bond market with a plan to raise as much as 8.5 billion riyals ($2.3 billion) this year as the kingdom seeks to expand home ownership.

The Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. will tap domestic and international debt buyers with Islamic bonds, Chief Executive Officer Fabrice Susini said in an interview in Riyadh on Wednesday. The refinance firm aims to fund around 80 per cent of its assets with debt or loans, he added.

Saudi Arabia has taken a number of measures to increase home construction and lending as it seeks to overcome one of the world’s lowest mortgage penetration rates. For years, the absence of financing firms like SRC limited the ability of banks to expand their mortgage books amid central-bank limits on loans to any one sector.

The refinancing firm, which started in end of 2017, has been operating for one year. It was started with 5 billion riyals in capital and has been working closely with the government’s Real Estate Development Fund. The fund also provides interest-free loans to middle and low-income citizens through commercial banks.

The SRC plans to sell sukuk domestically in the next two quarters and will tap international investors by the end of the year, the CEO said.

Public Offering

“We may look at a public offering rather than purely private placement,” Susini said. The plan then would be to issue around 1 billion riyals, which “would be a decent size for a first international issuance.”

Some of the funds raised will be funnelled to commercial lenders to be given as mortgages to citizens complying with state-set criteria to help provide affordable housing to citizens often ignored by banks, the CEO said.

The refinancing firm expects to buy 7 billion riyals to 10 billion riyals in mortgage portfolios held by banks and mortgage providers this year, Housing Minister Majed Al Hogail told Bloomberg in an interview in Riyadh on Wednesday. Susini said most of those portfolio purchases will likely come from mortgage finance companies not banks.

“The mortgage finance companies, up until the creation of SRC, were very much dependent on the banks in terms of refinancing,” he said. “As we come with a new offer that is competitive, they will be more incentivised to work with us.”