Fitch Ratings on Wednesday upgraded Saudi Arabia's long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating (IDR) to 'A+' from 'A,' citing the Kingdom's strong fiscal position and "formidable" foreign reserves.
The outlook on the rating is "stable," said Fitch, which noted that the world's top crude oil exporter has a much stronger debt-to-GDP ratio than many other sovereigns, as well as significant fiscal buffers in the form of deposits and other public sector assets.
"Saudi Arabia has one of the highest reserve coverage ratios among Fitch-rated sovereigns at 18 months of current external payments," the rating agency said.
Dependence on oil remains high, although it has fallen in the past decade. The high oil dependence remains a rating weakness for Saudi Arabia's economy, in addition to weak World Bank governance indicators and vulnerability to geopolitical shocks, Fitch noted.
Oil revenue is expected to account for around 60% of Saudi Arabia's total budget revenue in 2023-2024, but this share has dropped from 90% a decade ago. Oil GDP represents as much as 30% of total nominal GDP in the Kingdom, according to Fitch.
Last year, Saudi Arabia received as much as $326 billion in oil revenues, its biggest oil sales haul in the era of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, although monthly revenues have been lower in recent months after oil prices slid to around $80 per barrel at the end of last year.
According to Fitch, a $10 per barrel move in oil prices would change the rating agency's budget forecast by just over 2% of GDP.
Saudi Arabia's budget is set to be close to balance this year, compared to a surplus of 2.5% last year, due to lower expected average oil price in 2023 ($85 a barrel per Fitch projections) and lower oil production. Those are expected to offset increased revenues from the non-oil sector.
Saudi Arabia led a group of several major OPEC+ producers who announced on Sunday a surprise 1.66 million bpd cut in production between May and December this year as "a precautionary measure aimed at supporting the stability of the oil market."
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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