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Saturday, 4 July 2009

Australian companies hit by downturn in Dubai

The resort Palm_Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab E...Image via Wikipedia

KYLIE Minogue took to the stage for a $5 million performance for the opening of Dubai's Atlantis Palm Jumeirah hotel on a man-made palm-shaped island last November.

At the time, it seemed the party would last forever.

While the rest of the world was already feeling the chills of economic downturn, business was still running hot in this city created from the desert.

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More bidders interested in Porsche stake

Porsche SEImage via Wikipedia

Three more bidders are interested in taking a stake in German sports car maker Porsche, rivalling investment plans by Qatar, German magazine Focus reported on Saturday.

In an advance release of remarks due to be published on Monday, Focus said without citing sources that a Chinese and a Russian sovereign wealth fund as well as a hedge fund were interested.

A Porsche spokesman declined to comment on the report.

Porsche, which owns 51 percent in Volkswagen, is seeking an outside investor after amassing 9 billion euros ($12.6 billion) in debt during a bungled attempt to dominate VW.

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Dubai's Emaar shuts Algeria office as projects stall

Dubai's Emaar Properties has closed its office in Algeria due to a lack of progress on its projects in the North African country, the company said on Saturday.

"Emaar created designs for key developments in the country and the master plans were submitted to the authorities for necessary approval," Emaar said in a statement.

"Due to a lack of progress which is beyond the company's control, the office set up to drive these projects forward has now been closed," the company said.

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Saudi defaulters hit with employment ban

Banks and investment companies in Saudi Arabia recently took a decision not to employ individuals defaulting on the repayment of financial obligations to banks, telecommunications companies or other firms that grant credit, Abha-based Al-Watan daily reported on Saturday.

The new hiring policy by telecommunications companies and automobile distributors will be implemented soon, the paper reported citing bankers.

The aim of the move is to reduce defaulting debts on the local market in addition to insuring the future "good" behavior of new employees, the bankers told the daily.

All Saudi banks, in addition to telecommunications companies and some automobile distributors and installment companies get their information about the credit history of potential employees from the Saudi Credit Bureau (Simah) in which they are members, Al-Watan reported.END

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Saudi defaulters owe local banks $40 bln

Location of RiyadhImage via Wikipedia

Saudi businessmen's defaulting debts to local banks are estimated at 150 billion Saudi riyals ($40 billion), Saudi-based Al-Riyadh daily reported on Saturday citing economists who blamed flawed lending procedures and the kingdom's central bank for the problem.

The banks' lending to these businessmen was based on the businessmen's "reputation" and this is a point of weakness, economist Khalid al-Humaidan told the paper.

About 70 percent of the banks' employees dealing with lending operations are foreign expatriates whose first concern is to achieve the highest volume of lending regardless of the creditworthiness of the loan seekers, Humaidan added.

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, the country's central bank, has turned a blind eye to loans in billions of riyals by some banks to real estate projects although these banks are not licensed to finance the real estate sector, Humaidan said, according to the daily.END

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Plan to advance second auction and offer undeveloped reserves

Iraq plans to bring forward a second bidding round for major energy contracts and may give foreign firms another run at oilfields that were left over after last week's sale, which clinched only one deal.

The country's second bidding round of energy deals "was supposed to be at the end of the year but we have moved it up. We will announce the new date. It could be in the next few months", Oil Ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said on Thursday.

That auction will follow on from Tuesday's tender for eight major oil and gas fields, Iraq's first energy sale since the 2003 US invasion and the first open run oil firms have had at the world's third largest reserves since Iraq nationalised the industry in 1972.

Debts of two big Saudi groups exceed estimates

Affiliates of Saad Group and Al Gosaibi Group - two family-owned Saudi companies that are restructuring their debts - owe at least $860 million (Dh3.1 billion) more than what were previously reported.

The two groups have borrowed a total of $7.43 billion (Dh27.2 trillion) through syndicated loans from 88 international banks, including BNP Paribas SA, Citigroup Inc. and Arab Bank Plc, according to a document provided by one lender.

An earlier list showed $6.62 billion (Dh24.3 billion) of loans to the two closely held groups.

Iran plans huge gas investment

Iran plans to invest around $70 billion (Dh257 billion) in two major offshore natural gas fields in the 2010-15 period, a senior official said in comments broadcast on Friday.

Seifollah Jashnsaz, managing director of the state National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), said Iran would invest $40 billion to complete remaining projects in the South Pars field during the fifth five-year economic plan, which runs until 2015.

He did not say how Iran, which is also the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, would finance the investments.

Sahara pipeline plan to feed west African gas to Europe

Nigeria, Algeria and Niger have signed an agreement to build a pipeline across the Sahara that would link Europe to big west African gas reserves.

The Trans-Sahara Pipeline project, which would cost at least US$10 billion (Dh37.7bn) for the pipeline and another $3bn for gas-gathering centres, could make up to 3 billion cubic feet per day of new gas supplies available to Europe while providing an outlet for African gas that is currently wasted.

The landmark development, which could be in service between by 2015, would send Nigerian gas more than 4,000km across the desert through Niger to Algeria, which already exports gas to Europe through two pipelines under the Mediterranean to Spain.

Iran cancels talks with Kuwait’s Zain on mobile phone licence

Iran has cancelled negotiations with the Kuwaiti mobile operator, Zain, to become the country’s third mobile network, just months after withdrawing the licence from Etisalat.

In a new blow to the country’s reputation among foreign investors, Iran’s telecommunications minister was quoted in the local press as saying Zain had “failed to fulfil its obligations”, the same language that was used when Etisalat’s US$400 million (Dh1.47bn) licence was cancelled in May.

Zain was invited to become the country’s third operator after the UAE’s Etisalat, which won the initial tender, was stripped of its licence. Zain officials have not publicly commented on the status of the company’s negotiations with Iran.

Market snap-back

The clues were there for those not dizzy with the sound of their retirement pots quickly filling up again. Even so, Thursday’s US payrolls number was a shocker. For the first time since the turning point in early March, investors are openly worried again that the darkest days may be ahead, not behind them. If trillions of dollars of stimulus spending and half a year of zero interest rates do not help, what will?

Confidence has been ebbing away since mid-June when most equity markets hit their 2009 peaks and bonds slumped to year lows. Some perspective is needed. The S&P 500 and the FTSE 100 indices are only 5 per cent off their highs. Emerging markets such as Brazil are down a tad more, Japan slightly less. The move in bonds is more telling. Given the feverish talk of inflation and sovereign downgrades in America for example, the 50 basis point fall in 10-year yields since June 10 must be a relief to policymakers. Yields on UK gilts of the same duration have dropped even further.

The third quarter will be a battleground. On one side, the “underlying” strength of the global economy remains weak. On the other, the full force of many stimulus measures are only now kicking in. Global banks will report another dazzling quarter. Even if economies stabilise and earnings do not disappoint, however, this could already be discounted. It is more likely to be disappointments, rather than positive surprises, that drive markets from here.

Finally, the decoupling theory has reignited. Chinese stocks hit their year’s high this week without a wobble. In fact, anything linked to China – from commodities to the Australian dollar – barely moved following the poor payrolls report. Another bubble may be building. It would be great if a billion Chinese all bought washing machines now that US consumers are burnt out. But the same promise was made two years ago, when Chinese equities were twice as high as they are today.