July 5 (UPI) -- The ongoing dispute between Qatar and its Persian Gulf allies poses a real threat to the country's sovereign credit rating, Moody's Investors Service said.
Moody's said it changed its outlook on Qatar from stable to negative, but kept the overall debt rating at Aa3, because of the row with its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and some members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
"In Moody's view, the likelihood of a prolonged period of uncertainty extending into 2018 has increased and a quick resolution of the dispute is unlikely over the next few months, which carries the risk that Qatar's sovereign credit fundamentals could be negatively affected," the ratings agency said in a profile published Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia in June led a coalition of Middle East countries in severing ties with Qatar and later submitted a list of a handful of demands that would need to be met to restore relations. Qatar was accused of supporting terrorist groups, among other issues.
The dispute has added a layer of geopolitical risk to the global energy market because of the involvement of OPEC members, Qatar's role in the natural gas market and because the Persian Gulf is a choke point for the flow of energy supplies from the region.
Moody's in its ratings action said that, so far, hydrocarbon exports were largely spared, though a report last week from RBC Capital Markets said it couldn't write up the potential for a disruption. On the broader energy front, the Persian Gulf dust-up has raised questions about unity among OPEC members coordinating to ease the supply-side strains that brought crude oil prices to historic lows last year with managed production declines.
Moody's listed Qatar's "exceptionally high levels of wealth" and its leading role in the global market for liquefied natural gas as credit strengths.
"The negative outlook reflects Moody's view that risks to Qatar's credit profile are skewed to the downside," its report read. "Having said that, a swift resolution of the ongoing political dispute, accompanied by a quick lifting of sanctions, would potentially support a return to a stable outlook."