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Exclusive: UAE's Dana Gas won't pay bond on maturity - sources

By Dinesh Nair and Amran Abocar

DUBAI (Reuters) - Dana Gas is set to become the first United Arab Emirates (UAE) company to fail payment of an Islamic bond on maturity, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

The UAE's largest listed natural gas firm, hit by payment delays from Egypt and Iraq's Kurdistan region, will not repay a $920 million convertible Islamic bond, or sukuk, when it matures on Wednesday, the sources said.

However, Sharjah-based Dana has won more time to hammer out a deal with bondholders, they added.

Dana Gas declined to comment.

Although indebted firms in the Gulf Arab state have extended maturities on billions of dollars in bank loans since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008-09, no sukuk have been restructured or unpaid on maturity so far.

Dana has a $1 billion sukuk maturing on October 31. It repurchased about $80 million of the sukuk in 2008, leaving $920 million outstanding.

The five-year sukuk, which was issued with a 7.5 percent coupon, has gained international interest as a large chunk of the debt is owned by large investment firms including BlackRock Inc , Ashmore Group and Spinnaker Capital.

There is "absolutely no chance" of a white knight swooping in to repay the bond by the due date, a source close to the talks said. In 2009, the Abu Dhabi government stepped in at the eleventh hour to help Dubai repay developer Nakheel's $4.1 billion Islamic bond.

The sources said Dana, in which Crescent Petroleum owns a 20-percent stake, reached a so-called standstill agreement with creditors in early October giving it more time to repay the bond and that this was effective for up to six months.

However, some creditors are preparing for a potential "post-default scenario", one source familiar with the discussions said, in which no deal would be reached at all.

Dana is to issue a statement on Wednesday or early Thursday detailing its plans on restructuring the bond, two sources said. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity as the matter is not public.

Shares in Dana fell 8.5 percent to 0.43 dirhams on the Abu Dhabi bourse after the Reuters report. The stock closed down 4.26 percent. The shares have been battered by concerns over how Dana will find funds to repay the bond and limited communication from the company on the matter. The sukuk has a conversion price of 1.926 dirhams.

Dana, which is privately-owned, is not seen as a strategic entity for the UAE and so any government support is unlikely.

PAYMENT PROBLEMS

In May, Dana said it wanted to find a consensual deal with sukukholders to repay the bond, and said it had hired Blackstone Group , Deutsche Bank and law firm Latham & Watkins as advisers.

Investors have hired Moelis and law firm Linklaters as advisers.

The sukuk, which is lightly traded, was quoted at a bid price of 77 to 78 cents on the dollar on Tuesday, up from lows of about 68 cents in mid-September, indicating investors were hopeful of some sort of resolution.

Natural gas producer Dana, which has operations in the UAE, Egypt and Iraq's Kurdistan region, says its cash flow has been affected by global economic conditions and regional events, including Egyptian unrest last year which delayed payments.

The company had a cash balance of 601 million dirhams ($164 million) as of June 30, 2012. Outstanding receivables on Egypt gas deliveries stood at 729 million dirhams and 1.2 billion dirhams in the Kurdistan region at that time.

In a recent interview, Dana board member and Crescent Chief Executive Majid Jafar said Egypt was paying the company for all fuel it was receiving from its operations and was optimistic outstanding payments would be settled.

Jafar said last week talks between the company and creditors were still ongoing, and have been "amicable and friendly."

(Additional reporting by Mirna Sleiman, Rachna Uppal, David French and Daniel Fineren; Editing by Andrew Torchia and Mark Potter)

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