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Tuesday, 6 October 2009

= TAKING STOCK: Cityscape Dubai More A Wake Than A Party

= TAKING STOCK: Cityscape Dubai More A Wake Than A Party

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Greenback grief - The Majlis

Greenback grief - The Majlis

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Gulf region to stay with dollar for oil: UAE central bank source

Gulf Arab oil exporters will stay with the dollar as the currency for trading crude, a source in the United Arab Emirates central bank said on Tuesday.

"They are going to stay with the dollar," the source told Reuters, asking not to be named. "For so long oil pricing is in dollars and it would be difficult for producing countries to change."

Earlier on Tuesday, Britain's The Independent newspaper quoted unidentified sources as saying Gulf Arab states were in secret talks with Russia, China, Japan and France to replace the U.S. dollar with a basket of currencies in the trading of oil.

OPEC member UAE is the world's third-largest exporter of oil.END

Syria mulls liberalising banking sector

The Syrian central bank governor said Tuesday that he intends to allow foreign banks to take majority stakes in local lenders.

"We need to remove obstacles to the banking sector to open up to international banks," Adib Mayaleh told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview.

Currently, foreign banks are allowed to own only up to 49% of a Syrian bank.

"We want to open foreign ownership in Syria's banks to 60%," Mayaleh said on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank annual meetings.END

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Ending dollar oil sales easy; pricing is hard

A report on Tuesday in the Independent newspaper revived the idea of ending a huge volume of trade of the world's most liquid commodity -- oil -- in the U.S. dollar, a potentially major sign of the greenback's fading status. Quoting unnamed sources, including Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources, the paper reported that Gulf Arab states were in secret talks with Russia, China, Japan and France "to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf."

That appeared to suggest the easier of two ways to break the oil/dollar link: ending the use of the dollar as the currency used to settle oil trades between countries or between companies, an important function but essentially a treasury operation, one that Iran, for instance, has already undertaken.

The much more difficult task would be to replace the currency in which oil is priced: the U.S. dollar, the currency that underpins benchmarks from New York to Dubai to Singapore, and which would require a massive effort to change.

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Saudi Bank Governor Denies Talks to Replace Dollar

Saudi Arabia hasn’t held talks with other oil producers and major consuming nations such as China on moving away from the dollar as the currency used to buy and sell oil, Saudi Central Bank Governor Muhammad al-Jasser said.

Al-Jasser, speaking to reporters in Istanbul where he’s attending an International Monetary Fund summit, was denying a report in the London-based Independent newspaper, which said today that Gulf oil producers and customers including China and Brazil had held secret talks on phasing out the dollar in oil pricing.

The Independent report is “absolutely incorrect” and there has been “absolutely nothing” of that nature discussed between Saudi Arabia and other countries, al-Jasser said.

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Abu Dhabi, Malaysia Set Up $600 Million Islamic Finance Company

Malaysia, Brunei and Abu Dhabi’s sovereign funds have set up an Islamic investment company with about $600 million in capital to seek opportunities in financial services.

Fajr Capital Ltd.’s investors include Khazanah Nasional Bhd. of Malaysia, the Brunei Investment Agency, the Abu Dhabi Investment Council and a private Saudi Arabian firm The Mohammad & Abdullah al-Subeaei Investment Co., the company said in a statement today.

Based in the tax-free Dubai International Financial Centre, Fajr also has offices in Kuala Lumpur and London. Its board is headed by Sheikh Ebrahim Bin Khalifa al-Khalifa, chairman of the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions, while Iqbal Khan, founder of HSBC Holding Plc’s Islamic banking unit, is chief executive officer.

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FEAS September Newsletter (PDF)

- ABU DHABI SECURITIES EXCHANGEtoday announced that it will allow Social Security beneficiaries to trade in the shares of Arkan Building Materials Company as from August 26, 2009.There were 100 million shares allocated to Social Security beneficiaries during the Initial Public Offering of the company’s shares at ADX.
- BELARUS An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, led by Mr. Chris Jarvis, visited Minsk during August 18-September 2, 2009 for discussions on the second review under the Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with Belarus.
- EGYPTIAN EXCHANGEIn its continuous efforts to support the Arab markets, the Egyptian Exchange has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Iraqi Stock Exchange regarding mutual cooperation on capital markets' developments. The MOU covers the exchange of information, experts, staff and experiences for the respective benefit of both securities markets, in addition to activating research projects, studies and seminars undertaken jointly by both exchanges to better understand the international exchange industry and the new products introduced to global markets.
- NASDAQ OMX ARMENIA On September 3, 2009, NASDAQ OMX Armenia jointly with the Office of the Armenian Financial System Mediator organized a workshop on a range of topics related to the Financial System Mediator’s activities in respect of the delivery of investment services in Armenia.
- TURKEYThe International Monetary Fund (IMF) posted a report documenting an improvement in the quality of macroeconomic data published by Turkey. At the authorities’ request, IMF staff prepared an Update of the Report on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSC)—Data Module.

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Positive Economic Outlook For Qatar and Saudi « Alpha Dinar

Positive Economic Outlook For Qatar and Saudi « Alpha Dinar

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The demise of the dollar

In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars.

The plans, confirmed to The Independent by both Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong, may help to explain the sudden rise in gold prices, but it also augurs an extraordinary transition from dollar markets within nine years.

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UAE property giant will be world's largest

Emaar Properties, the UAE’s largest property developer, is still finalising the details of its planned merger with Dubai Properties, Sama Dubai and Tatweer, property firms owned by the business conglomerate Dubai Holding.

With combined assets of Dh194 billion (US$52.81bn), the proposed entity would be the largest property developer in the world.

“It will take some time, as it is a big exercise to merge big companies who have got a lot of assets, but we are on time,” said Ahmad al Matrooshi, the managing director of Emaar Properties UAE.

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Regional picture will shine brighter in 2010

Companies across the Middle East should see profits return next year and this, coupled with a recovering global economy, will prove good news for investors.

Next year will be a recovery year for the Middle East and North Africa. Higher oil prices, government spending, stronger banks and a gradual improvement in the global economy will all combine to boost activity across the region.

That’s good news for profit at many regional companies – but not all. Some industries will be quick out of the blocks, while others will take longer to regain momentum. In particular, we expect rapid earnings growth at banks and oil and gas companies next year, while real estate profits will recover more gradually.

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Indian telecoms confirm Zain interest

The largest foreign takeover of a Middle Eastern company appears to be back on track after two major Indian state-owned telecommunications companies confirmed their involvement in the acquisition of Zain.

BSNL and MTNL are expected to provide the bulk of the more than US$10 billion (Dh36.73bn) needed to complete the buyout. Both companies were linked to the purchase when it was announced, but subsequently issued statements saying they were yet to confirm their participation.

But Kuldeep Goyal, the chairman of BSNL, India’s largest telecoms company, was quoted in India’s Business Standard as saying the firm “has started the process of negotiations for acquisition of a controlling stake in Zain”, Kuwait’s largest public company.

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‘Fly now, pay later’ deal aims to lighten load

A new credit system allows Emirates Airline passengers to “travel now, pay later” as the company tries to steer itself out of the financial slump.

Customers who book flights online using selected credit cards can now pay in three monthly instalments without being charged interest.

Yesterday’s launch of the offer follows analysts’ reports that Emirates’ cash flow was being squeezed by rising costs, shrinking cargo volumes and falling numbers of business travellers.

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UK court relaxes curb on Saad cash

A bitter legal dispute involving prominent Saudi Arabian businesses and families opened in the English courts on Monday, with Maan al Sanea failing to overturn a $9.2bn freezing order on his worldwide assets.

The High Court eased the order to allow the embattled billionaire $4m spending money a year after a colourful hearing in which Mr Sanea rejected fraud allegations and outlined living expenses including a private zoo and utility bills of $800,000 a month.

The battle in London is part of the increasingly public falling out between Mr Sanea’s Saad Group and Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi and Brothers (Ahab), also a troubled conglomerate, which between them are estimated to owe dozens of regional and international banks $20bn.

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Strict rules keep Oman’s banks on even keel

Oman’s banks, though small compared with many of their regional counterparts, have thus far had a fairly benign crisis, due in part to what analysts say is one of the strictest regulatory regimes in the Gulf.

They have managed to sidestep international problems, such as investments in complicated US debt-backed securities, and more regional concerns, such as exposure to two troubled Saudi conglomerates whose financial woes have sent shockwaves throughout the Gulf.

The net profit of commercial banks in Oman rose almost 10 per cent last year to OR234.1m ($609m), according to the central bank. While local banks have since felt some pain from last year’s financial meltdown, the authorities’ crisis-fighting efforts have been relatively moderate.

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Oman surges ahead as the Gulf’s odd one out

The Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort (pictured above) on the outskirts of Muscat, the capital of Oman, bustles with visitors even in the midst of the summer heatwave, the white dishdashes of visiting Gulf Arabs complementing the pasty complexions of well-heeled European visitors.

Though global tourism has taken a hit, visitors have continued to flock to Oman. This year they have been joined by a larger-than-usual complement of regional Arabs, deterred from long-haul travel by the recession and concerns over the outbreak of swine flu.

The Omani Tourism Industry estimates that 1.1m tourists visited Oman in the first half of the year, up from 980,000 in the same period last year, according to local media. This has proven a welcome boost to the small Gulf country, where tourism is becoming an increasingly important industry.

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Kuwait's KIA mulls Zain offer as 'good'

Kuwait's sovereign wealth fund considers the price offered to fellow shareholders for a stake in mobile telecom firm Zain as "good", the fund's managing director said in remarks aired on Monday.

Bader al-Saad said the Kuwait Investment Authority was not part of the negotiations between other shareholders and the potential buyers, but said the fund would look into selling its stake at the right price.

"We are not married to our investments. Whenever there is a good return on them, they are for sale," Badr told Al Arabiya television, adding that 2 dinars ($6.98) was a "good price".

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Dubai's Rasmala eyes $133 mln Saudi fund

Dubai-based investment bank Rasmala Investments is setting up a 500 million riyal ($133.3 million) Islamic property fund to tap opportunities in mid-income housing in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has set aside about $100 billion to boost infrastructure over the next five years and is looking to cater to growing demand for new housing from the relatively young population in the world's largest oil exporter.

"We identified high-growth potential," Tamer Bazzari told Reuters. "We signed a (memorandum of understanding) with a Saudi-based property developer."

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Dubai developer MAF turns to Iran for retail growth

A UAE developer with the licence to operate Carrefour SA stores in the Middle East is looking to boost its presence in Iran after opening a new hypermarket in the Islamic republic to tap demand for modern shopping centres.

Yahoo! BuzzMajid Al Futtaim (MAF) Properties, known for building an indoor ski slope in the Gulf's trade and tourism hub Dubai, is turning to Iran as it looks to add as many as 10 malls over five years in the Middle East and north Africa, the group's chief executive told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

Peter Walichnowski said the company was looking to launch a mega-mall project in Iran by 2012 after its latest retail project in the country's capital proved successful.

Previous clip relating to above
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MGM Mirage Cuts CityCenter Condominium Prices by 30%

MGM Mirage and Dubai World, owners of the largest development on the Las Vegas Strip, cut the price of condominiums at the CityCenter project by 30 percent for existing buyers to reflect the collapse in housing prices.

The reductions will be offered at residences at Mandarin Oriental, Veers Towers and Vdara Condo Hotel, Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage said today in a statement.

MGM Mirage and state-owned Dubai World are building 2,400 condos at CityCenter, the $8.5 billion project on the Strip, during the worst gambling and real estate slump in Las Vegas history. Home values in Las Vegas fell 55 percent through July since August 2006, according to the S&P/Case Shiller Single Family Home Price Index.

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UAE Recovery Seen Mid-2010 - Central Bank Governor

The United Arab Emirates will see economic recovery in mid-2010, while a decrease in non-performing loans and bank provisions will take longer, the country's central bank governor told Zawya Dow Jones Monday.

"Like anywhere else, the recovery will start next year, likely by mid-year," the governor, Sultan Bin Nasser Al Suwaidi, said in an exclusive interview.

"Generally speaking, [bank] provisions and non-performing loans go together...and take longer than" economic recovery, he said.

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