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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Bahrain Islamic rapped over Q2 disclosure

Bahrain's central bank issued a formal warning to Bahrain Islamic Bank for not disclosing its quarterly net loss in a press release this month, it said in a letter to the bank published on Tuesday.

The central bank said it had ordered the lender to reissue its July 15 earnings release - which disclosed six month operating profits but not its second quarter net loss - but Bahrain Islamic had failed to comply with the order.

The lender posted a net loss of 3.83 million dinars ($10.16 million) in the quarter ended June 30 as it booked provisions against bad loans and its income from investments slumped.

In its letter published on the Bahrain stock exchange, the central bank said that should Bahrain Islamic fail to disclose its earnings in line with regulations in future, it might take further regulatory action, without elaborating.

Bahrain Islamic could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Etisalat eyes bid for Gulf rival Zain

Emirates Telecommunication Establishment EtisalatImage via Wikipedia

Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) is interested in buying a 51 percent stake in Kuwait's Zain Group at the right price, the chief executive of its international unit said on Tuesday.

"We are interested in Zain as a whole, given the right values," Jamal al-Jarwan told Reuters in a telephone interview. "We're looking at a 51 percent stake in Zain," he added.

Etisalat, which operates in 18 countries, including Egypt and India, is one of a number of Gulf Arab telecom operators that have expanded overseas after losing their monopolies at home.

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Kingdom earnings tank 82.8 pct in Q2

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Saudi's Kingdom Holding Co (KHC), run by the billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, said Tuesday net profit plunged 82.8 percent in the second quarter as the income from its global investment portfolio continues to cramp its performance.

The company said net profit fell to 92.1 million Saudi riyals ($22.1 million) in the second-quarter of 2009 compared with 534.7 million riyals a year ago.

The fall in profit was due to the decline in dividend payments on the company's local and international investment portfolio and the lower operating profits from the hotels it owns and manages, the Riyadh-based conglomerate in a statement on the Saudi bourse website.

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Mighty Pompey power on as Scummers flounder

Portsmouth Football Club CrestImage via Wikipedia

More footie M&A. UAE shrewdie Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim said on Tuesday that he had clinched a takeover of Portsmouth FC. A full announcement was due later in the day.

Unsurprisingly, Dr Al-Fahim - just 31 and already a billionaire, reportedly - sailed through a fit-and-proper test and can now complete the £60m deal. The Middle Eastern real estate magnate already owns Manchester City, of course. He acquired his honorific with a Ph.D in real estate investment from the Kogod School of Business at the University in Washington. Although this claim has been questioned by a few sceptics.

Sadly, the news was not so upbeat from further along the south coast. At Southampton FC new owner Markus Liebherr has vowed to run the club along what he calls a “business philosophy…”

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ADCB buys back, re-issues Dh1 billion worth of bonds

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) has bought back and re-issued about Dh1 billion worth of bonds that were to mature in November, people close to the deal told Emirates Business. The bank declined to confirm or deny the news.

The Abu Dhabi-based lender issued Dh2.1bn of bonds in 2007 with a maturity of two years and a coupon rate of 52 basis points above the Emirates Inter-bank Offer rate, or Eibor. Standard Chartered bank was the sole manager of the issue.

Instead of making a fresh offering to raise more cash, ADCB has opted to extend the maturity of the "2007 bond" by buying back half the paper worth about Dh1bn and issuing fresh debt maturing in 2011. The spread this time is about four times higher at 250 basis points above Eibor, in line with the market trend, the source said.

Dubai - FT Special Report (PDF 3 page) Re-posted from yesterday.

Headlines include:

City-state forced to rein in ambitions

Economy: Recession exposes need for reform

Trade: Jebel Ali is weathering economic storm so far

Financial services: Buffeting for banks from credit crisis

Real estate: Are prices at the bottom?

Property profile: Dubai takes a battering in the property downturn

Employment: Expatriates scurry home as jobs evaporate

Education: Lessons to be learnt as schools face scrutiny

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OPEC official warns of more cuts in output

OPEC may need to cut output again if there is insufficient demand for its crude, a senior official for the group controlling 40 per cent of global oil supplies said.

The warning came less than a week after the group’s secretariat forecast that demand for OPEC crude would fall next year for the third year in a row.

“I think OPEC’s objective is to satisfy demand in the world market and to meet any real demand,” the Algerian energy minister, Chakib Khelil, told reporters in Milan.

Banks put more aside to cushion against bad debt

UAE lenders are setting aside money at a brisk rate to cushion themselves from bad loans, according to figures released yesterday by the Central Bank.

Overall provisioning, or the practice of retaining funds as protection against loan defaults that would otherwise have been booked as profits, grew by 11 per cent between May and last month, the data revealed. The rise, from Dh30.2 billion (US$8.2bn) to Dh33.5bn, was the quickest month-on-month increase in provisioning in the past year. Provisioning at the nation’s banks has increased 50 per cent since last August.

Such a spike in provisioning is common during recessions, analysts said yesterday. With more people losing their jobs and more companies falling on to hard times financially, banks were more likely to be hit by defaults from customers who could not pay back their loans, they said.

Facts show Twitter yet to lure Middle East users

Which website has been the focus of more than 100 stories in the UAE’s English-language media in the past 12 months?

It isn’t Ikbis, the Jordanian video-sharing site that dishes up nine million videos to Middle-Eastern viewers every month. And it is not Darrb, the brainchild of an Emirati entrepreneur, which could shake up the logistics industry as Craigslist has done to classified advertising.

It is instead the mini-blogging site Twitter, which according to figures released yesterday has almost 5,000 UAE users. That is not a typing error; no missing zeros. The most promoted website in the country has as many customers as the average corner store.

Game changers spell end for old petroleum age

Every few years, the engineers toiling to supply energy to the world achieve advances that qualify as game changers. But often, the breakthroughs go unnoticed.

That may be because energy companies hate to broadcast details of their cutting-edge technology to rival firms. Or the key improvements may be too subtle to impress outsiders.

It is only years later that their profound impact on energy supplies and patterns of use become clear.

Land prices hit developers

Land banks held by developers have lost as much as 30 per cent of their value from their peak last year, as projects across the Emirates fall victim to the global property downturn.

Developers have been slow to write down the losses, meaning that the real value of land on the books of publicly traded developers may be overstated, according to analysts.

“I have seen nobody take a negative impairment charge on land,” said Bobby Sarkar, a property analyst at Al Mal Capital. “None of these guys put their land banks through some kind of stress test every quarter.”


July has seen a sudden reversal of fortune in Caspian and Black Sea Basin pipeline politics. The Nabucco pipeline project has staged a noteworthy comeback, while a competing Russian-backed route, dubbed South Stream, now seems to be losing steam. Uncertainty surrounding future demand, however, raises the possibility that neither pipeline ever becomes a reality.

Two recent events have helped reshuffle the regional energy game -- the July 13 signing of a Nabucco transit deal, and the early July elections in Bulgaria. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. The Nabucco signing ceremony -- involving Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria -- signaled that after a long period of hesitation, the US- and European Union-backed project is at last gaining traction. Meanwhile, the Bulgarian election brought to power a man, former Sofia mayor Boyko Borisov, who is already on record as wanting to take Bulgaria out of the Russia-led South Stream consortium. Without Bulgaria on board, the South Stream project may well be dead. Russian officials have downplayed Borisov’s comments, however, attributing them to post-election "euphoria," Russia’s Kommersant business daily has reported.

A major factor that will likely determine which of the two pipelines gets built is connected with natural gas demand. The requirements for either project are daunting. Central Asian producers must be able to ship large quantities of natural gas through multiple countries before energy reaches its final destination. The more countries involved, the greater the degree of difficulty in realizing any given project. Projects like Nabucco and South Stream are doubly challenging, given the environmental concerns involved with constructing energy pipelines. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].