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Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Neda Agha Soltan (Persian: ندا آقا سلطان), born 1982, died 20 June 2009

Neda Agha Soltan is buried at Behesht Zahra Her lot is 32 41 257 Put a flower on her grave #iranelection #gr88 #neda

Dubai Banking Group issues statement regarding SHUAA Capital

Emirates of the UAEImage via Wikipedia

Dubai Banking Group (DBG), which is involved in a very public spat with one of the UAE’s best known investment banks Shuaa Capital, has announced it will pursue legal proceedings to recover a loan amount issued to Shuaa Capital in 2007. Shuaa Capital last week attempted to convert the amount into 250 million shares, which was promptly rejected by DBG. Registration of the shares has been indefinitely blocked by regulators, pending a resolution.

“Dubai Banking Group has made several attempts to amicably resolve the matter of SHUAA Capital’s bond issue. We believe that our proposals were in the best interest of both parties.

Since it has become clear that a resolution is not possible at this time, we have no choice but to pursue litigation in order to redeem our original investment in the company and other amounts outstanding including interest, in accordance with the terms of the Note, ancillary documents and the UAE Companies Law No 8 for 1984,” said Fadel Al Ali, Chairman of Dubai Banking Group, in a statement emailed to the press earlier Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, credit ratings agency Moody’s announced it was downgrading Shuaa Capital by three levels, because of the uncertainty surrounding the dispute with DBG. Shuaa Capital’s share price plunged 9.22 per cent to close on Dh 1.29. Moody’s new rating for Shuaa Capital is now B1, down from Ba1subject to high credit risk, and poor credit quality and has placed the company on review for further downgrade.

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Dubai's $3.4B Metro 'Billions Of Dirhams' Over Budget-RTA Chmn

This is a photo showing an interchange in Duba...Image via Wikipedia

The first phase of the $3.4 billion Dubai metro project, which includes two lines, is running "billions of dirhams" over budget, but the Roads & Transport Authority hopes to recoup up to half of its cost by 2014, the transport body's chairman said Monday.

"The cost has gone up for so many reasons," Matter Al Tayer told Zawya Dow Jones on the sidelines of press conference to announce the fare structure of the transit system.

"We're still calculating and negotiating with the contractor on the final amount so I can't give you an exact figure, but its some billions of dirhams over the original AED15 billion," he said, adding it was less than double the original budget.

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Bahrain cbank starts investigation at TIBC

Bahrain's bank regulator has launched an investigation at The International Banking Corp (TIBC) after its Saudi owner said it had discovered substantial irregularities in its financial services arm.

The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) is investigating TIBC after its owner, Saudi-based Al-Gosaibi Group (AHAB), plus rival Awal Bank and its owner, the Saudi-based Saad Group, defaulted on some obligations in one of the biggest casualties yet from the credit crisis in the Gulf Arab region.

"The CBB has exercised its statutory powers to commission a report on TIBC from an internationally recognised accounting firm. We are unable to comment further on an on-going investigation," it said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

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Bahrain growth in 2009 (PDF)

•Central bank governor of Bahrain sees growth at 3% in 2009

•Local currency denominated Islamic bond to be issued at appropriate time

•We expect growth to reach 2% in 2009

Conservative lending helps UAB maintain earnings momentum

While most banks in the UAE focused on unrestricted growth during the past four or five years, there were few banks such as United Arab Bank (UAB), that chose to tread a conservative path serving its loyal clients and adding quality to its offerings. This has paid off, according to Paul Trowbridge, Chief Executive of UAB.

"We do not have any toxic assets on our books and we have been able to improve our earnings quarter after quarter," he said. Trowbridge took over the reins of this Sharjah-headquartered bank in December, at the peak of the financial crisi. Following are excerpts:

The results of UAB were good for the first quarter. But assets have come down during this period. Can you explain this?

We have always been conservative on lending; we have not been lending heavily in the property market. This has been the reason why our results have always been good quarter after quarter. Historically, we have a strong concentration on trade and manufacturing in the UAE. Since these sectors have taken a hit due to the recession, it is quite natural for our businesses to go slow during this time. When the economy shrunk, some of our clients reduced their working capital and other debts. Many of our clients have faced less demand for their products, and this has reflected in the volume of lending to them.

Having said this, we don't see any deterioration in our customer base. UAB maintained its earnings momentum recording net profit growth of 21 per cent to Dh66 million for the first quarter ended March 31, 2009, compared with Dh55m achieved during the same period last year. This improved performance is due to a combination of factors, specifically the efficient utilisation of our financial resources, adaptable marketing strategies, continued policy of diversification, renewed focus on getting closer to our customers, lowering the cost of funding, and close monitoring of our operating costs and processes.

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Ex-Mizin CEO misused his position, court told

The former chief executive of Mizin exploited his position by giving special facilities to a Lebanese businessman who bought apartments from the developer, Dubai Criminal Court was told yesterday.

The ex-CEO, SH, extended the payment settlement period for the businessman, JH, at no additional cost and sold properties to him with discounts of up to 30 per cent when other buyers were given discounts of only 10 per cent, said Dubai Police investigation officer Hamad Bousim.

In addition, JH allegedly made a 10 per cent down payment, even though the company's policy stipulated that down payments should be no less than 15 per cent.

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Shuaa Capital downgraded from Ba1 to B1

Moody's Investors Service, a global rating agency, yesterday downgraded Dubai-based investment bank Shuaa Capital by three notches and placed it on review for possible further rating cut due to increasing uncertainly on deal with Dubai Banking Group.

The long-term foreign and local currency issuer ratings were downgraded from Ba1 to B1.

The rating downgrade represents a one-notch reduction in the standalone rating of Shuaa and the elimination of the two-notch uplift previously given because of potential parental support considerations. However, Shuaa's prime short-term ratings are not affected.

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Arab states urged to defend their foreign assets

Gulf oil producers and other Arab countries should work for defending their investments abroad in any new post-crisis arrangements in the global financial system, according to a senior Arab League economist.

The crisis should also prompt regional nations to embark on reforms in their banking and financial sectors to ensure long-term stability in their markets, said Hazim Biblawi, an advisor to the Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), one of the main Arab League financial organisations.

In a 25-page study on the impact of the crisis on Arab economies, Biblawi urged regional governments to actively participate in any future global discussions on the new shape of the international financial order.

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Dubai initiative to introduce Islamic products in Australia

Dubai's Export Development Corporation (EDC), in association with the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade), has started a new initiative of introducing Islamic financial products and services from the UAE to Australia.

Islamic banking, one of the recent segments in global financial services with the first bank being established in 1975, has grown remarkably fast and today accounts for over $700 billion (Dh3.55 trillion) assets provided by more than 300 financial institutions across 75 countries.

The growing importance of this sector has brought a number of countries considering of changing their regulatory system to incorporate Islamic financial institutions treating them at par with conventional financial firms.

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ICD Galadari stakes transferred to ICD

Dubai government stakes in Galadari Group have been transferred to the Investments Corporation of Dubai (ICD) as stated in decree No 18 of 2009, issued by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The ICD is the investment arm of Dubai government and has a portfolio ranging across all spheres of the economy, including finance, transportation, utilities and energy, industrial, real estate and leisure.

Under the decree, all stakes were transferred to the ICD which replaces Dubai government in all rights and liabilities.

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Iraqi oil field begins production

Iraq has started pumping from a giant oilfield it discovered in 1975, with the aim of quickly boosting the country’s crude exports.

The field, in southern Iraq, is thought to contain 4.3 billion barrels of reserves, but was undeveloped for more than three decades due to war, economic sanctions and lack of funds.

“We have started experimental production from Nassiriyah oilfield at a rate of 10,000 barrels per day (bpd),” Fayad al Nema, the director general of the Iraqi state-owned South Oil Company (SOC), told Dow Jones.

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Forgotten victims of the slump

Layoffs and consolidations in the property sector have not been limited to developers and contractors. Property agents and brokers have had an equally torrid time, leading to reduced sales, widespread sackings and mergers.

There are 1,973 registered brokerages in Dubai and many have had to lay off sales agents. Better Homes, the emirate’s largest property brokerage and services company, has reduced its staff from 700 to 500 in the past six months.

It is not a unique example. With few transactions around until recently, some companies have even been reduced to trying to sell the business.

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Dubai Metro banks on low fares for success

Passengers on the Dubai Metro will be able to glide from one end of the city to the other for as little as Dh5.80 (US$1.60), officials said yesterday.

That would make the public transit system one of the most affordable to ride in the world, according to the Roads and Transport Authority, comparable to those of Cairo and Singapore, and several times cheaper than Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York City.

“The price will make it attractive to use buses and the Metro, and it is also a very luxurious and comfortable way to travel,” said Mattar Mohammed al Tayer, the authority’s executive director and chairman of the board.

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World Bank expects recession to deepen

The recession will be deeper than expected, but Gulf economies will fare better than the global average, the World Bank said yesterday.

The expected contraction in global economic output will threaten the fragile economies of developing countries and increase the numbers of the world’s poor and unemployed, the bank said in its Global Development Finance report.

“Prospects for recovery in the developing countries in the Middle East and North Africa will depend importantly on the strength of the eventual revival of growth in Europe and in the GCC countries,” the bank said.

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Is there a doctor in the house? Answer carefully

Last year after writing We have our own heroes, we don't need other people's in The National I received an e-mail from a director in the Watani programme that began: "Dear Dr Sultan". I must admit that I thought it was a nice compliment, but the thought stopped there and I promptly emailed him back, thanked him and pointed out that I do not have a PhD.

More recently, one of my students from the Dubai Men's College invited me to lecture at a young professionals network he is part of at a real estate development firm. I decided to focus on ethical and moral dilemmas in life and in the business world such as the "Trolley Dilemma" - look it up on Wikipedia.

The truth is there are plenty of moral dilemmas that confront us in the UAE, many of them dealing with education and credentials. For instance, an acquaintance of mine had casually purchased his degree from a foreign university and is currently running a branch of a major financial institution. Should I inform the authorities and "do the right thing" and potentially harm his young family's interests? There is no easy answer.

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Comment: Families must adopt governance

Such is the breadth of family businesses around the world that giants such as Fiat, Wal-Mart and Michelin can be bracketed alongside the small neighbourhood bakery or cycle repair shop.

And their economic importance cannot be doubted. In the Gulf, Tharawat, a non-profit organisation, estimates that family businesses control over 90 per cent of commercial activity, and in Dubai alone there are more than 30,000 registered family concerns.

They come in all shapes and sizes: from the humble father-and-son shop to blue-chips that trace their roots back over decades, often have connections to high office and have spread themselves over a wide range of sectors.

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Valve maker grows to ‘jewel in the crown’

Kef Holdings’ modernist and plush headquarters look out of place amid the smoke-spewing refineries and tatty warehouses of Sharjah’s Hamriyah industrial free zone.

But inside the complex, not far from a well-equipped community centre built for the workers, Kef has constructed a huge forge that churns out juggernaut metal valves for the oil and gas industry.

“We are trying to bring a whole new concept to the foundry business,” says Faizal Kottikollon, the founder and chairman of Kef. “The cliché of it is as a dark and shabby industry, and I wanted to change this.”

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Qatar ratchets up pressure in financial race

Qatar bade farewell to the 12-year-old Doha Securities Market on Sunday when it launched Qatar Exchange in partnership with NYSE Euronext, an international exchanges operator.

Qatar Exchange plans to offer derivatives and commodities products beyond the DSM’s existing cash equities business and is already in talks with regional partners to launch overseas. As part of the deal, the new exchange will adopt NYSE Euronext’s technology.

The new bourse, in which the transatlantic operator has taken a 20 per cent stake for $200m, ratchets up the race for dominance as the region’s leading trading hub and primary financial centre. Doha, flush on hydrocarbons resources that are set to increase dramatically this year, is moving to position itself as an alternative to Dubai, the region’s established financial and trading hub.

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