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Thursday, 22 October 2009

TREND: Saudi Arabia and UAE will not be able to alienate China from Iran: expert

TREND: Saudi Arabia and UAE will not be able to alienate China from Iran: expert

A Saudi Family Feud Roils World Banks

When Ma'an al Sanea married into one of Saudi Arabia's richest families some 30 years ago, he raised eyebrows among his in-laws by rolling up to the traditional wedding tent in a Rolls Royce.

Today, Mr. Sanea and his wife are battling it out with his in-laws -- the Gosaibi clan -- over fraud accusations and a multibillion-dollar pile of bad debt. In court documents, the Gosaibis allege Mr. Sanea bilked them out of billions of dollars and forced the family business, Ahmad Hamad al Gosaibi & Bros., or Ahab, into default. Mr. Sanea's lawyers have denied wrongdoing.

family feud -- which is rippling through the world banking industry and is widely seen as a major drag on the Saudi economy -- offers an uncommon look inside the region's intensely private business clans, where empires are built on bloodlines and trust.

At least 110 local and foreign banks loaned the two sides more than $15 billion in recent years. Some Arab lenders are writing off hundreds of millions of dollars. Deutsche Bank AG and others are suing Ahab subsidiaries and Mr. Sanea's company, Saad Group, as well as their board members, in New York, London, Dubai and the Cayman Islands.

The Gosaibi-Sanea soap opera is roiling the wealthy enclave here in Khobar, where the two families live in side-by-side estates.

In one sign of the tension: For about two months, a cardboard box has been sitting in front of Mr. Sanea's estate, near a palm tree. It holds a court summons and documents from his in-laws that he has declined to accept, say lawyers who tried to serve the papers.

On the local social scene, it's been a summer of gossip and consternation. Khobar's ladies who lunch were torn about how the feud might disrupt invitation lists for the massive late-evening parties that are traditional during Ramadan, the month when Muslims fast during the day.

Nibbling canap├ęs and homemade date pastries earlier this summer, the wives of two local businessmen fretted over whom to invite to their Ramadan parties -- Mr. Sanea's wife, or her sisters. "We don't know if it's OK to invite both," said one.

Ahab claims it was the victim of a $9.2 billion fraud from 2005 to 2009, perpetrated by Mr. Sanea, according to a filing this summer in New York State Supreme Court. In that filing -- part of Ahab's defense against a case brought by a creditor -- Ahab alleges Mr. Sanea forged family members' signatures to receive loans, falsified the books of family companies, and siphoned Ahab funds into Mr. Sanea's Saad Group companies.

Mr. Sanea, through a London public-relations firm, declined several requests to comment or to answer written questions.

Saudi Arabia's central bank has frozen some domestic bank accounts of both families. A Saudi royal commission has been set up to help restructure debt owed to Saudi lenders. Two Bahraini banks, one controlled by Ahab and another by Saad Group, are in administration, a form of bankruptcy protection.

Saad Group has said it has defaulted on debt, although it doesn't specify the amount. A statement by Mr. Sanea's representatives over the summer said Saad was experiencing "liquidity problems."

Meanwhile, the Gosaibis have won court orders in London, the Cayman Islands and Geneva to freeze some of Mr. Sanea's assets. On Oct. 5, Mr. Sanea's lawyers gave a London High Court a written statement from Mr. Sanea saying he denied forgery and all the other allegations.

"There is simply no truth in them whatsoever," Mr. Sanea's lawyer said, according to a court transcript.

In the middle of the feud is Sana'a al Gosaibi, whom Mr. Sanea married in 1980. She is a major stakeholder in both Saad Group and Ahab. She owns 10% of Saad, according to a Moody's Investors Service rating report issued in 2008, and is one of 20 family members who are Ahab's principal investors.

In a London High Court hearing Oct. 5, a judge froze £989,000 ($1.6 million) that had been wired to an HSBC account in the names of Mrs. Gosaibi and her daughter from Saad National Schools, a Khobar-based educational company.

Mrs. Gosaibi declined to comment. A representative for the family said the school isn't owned by Saad Group or by Mrs. Gosaibi and that the transfer wasn't improper.

Saad Group's Web site lists Saad National Schools as one of its affiliates.

In more than a dozen hours of interviews this summer with seven top Gosaibi shareholders, all of whom are family members, they discussed the family's predicament.

Four immediate family members say Mrs. Gosaibi no longer speaks with her only brother, Saud al Gosaibi, who now runs Ahab. Her interaction with other relatives has become limited mainly to phone calls and weekly visits with her sisters and elderly mother, according to several family members.

The Gosaibis and Saneas are each others' closest neighbors, although the size of their properties means they're still about a mile apart.

The Gosaibi estate has two separate mansions: a bigger one built by a previous generation, and a smaller one built by Saud, the current patriarch. Inside his home, Impressionist paintings hang on the walls, and elaborate dinners are sometimes served with cans of Pepsi. (The family, among other things, owns the local Pepsi bottler.)

Mr. Sanea lives down the road with his wife, Sana'a al Gosaibi, behind an ornate iron gate with a grand domed entryway with painted arabesque trim. The walled compound is staffed with uniformed security.

On an August visit to the front gate, the cardboard box containing the summons was sitting on the left side of the entry. An attempt to get a closer look at the box was thwarted by guards.

The box has contributed to the public spectacle. Because the summons sat uncollected for so long, the Cayman court told the Gosaibis to publish it in a national Saudi newspaper. They did so in August.

The financial mess has roots earlier in the decade, when international banks rushed in to finance Saudi Arabia's powerful family businesses as oil prices soared. Ahab and Saad seemed like good bets.

An old Bedouin family that once scratched out an existence diving for pearls, the Gosaibis gravitated to Eastern Province -- Saudi Arabia's oil patch -- in the 1940s. Family patriarch Hamad Ahmad started a canteen catering to oil workers.

The Gosaibis diversified into pipe-making and Pepsi, stevedoring and finance. Two extended family members are now in the Saudi cabinet.

By 1980, the family's next generation, Abdulaziz al Gosaibi, was being groomed to run the empire. When Abdulaziz set out to find a husband for his eldest daughter, he chose a young fighter pilot -- Mr. Sanea.

The young Mr. Sanea was an up-and-comer in the Gulf. He had grown up in Kuwait, then considered more cosmopolitan than Saudi Arabia. His panache seemed to impress his future father-in-law, family members say.

Not everyone was won over. Mr. Sanea's Rolls Royce wedding entrance rankled some of the more button-downed family members, according to two who attended the ceremony. It was "a bit unseemly," says a senior member of the Gosaibi clan.

After the wedding, in 1981, Mr. Sanea was named managing director of the Gosaibi family's currency-exchange business, Money Exchange, according to the Gosaibis. The business helped foreign oil workers in Khobar send money home.

Soon after, Mr. Sanea founded his own company, Saad Group, focused on real estate. He appeared driven to succeed in his own right, associates say. "He didn't want anyone saying that he got his money from his father-in-law," says the head of a Saudi petrochemical company who knows Mr. Sanea from the local chamber of commerce.

Earlier this decade, Mr. Sanea's personal empire took off. By 2005, Saad Group had moved beyond home building and into financial activities and investment. Promotional material from the time described it as the seventh-largest diversified company in Saudi Arabia.

A sign of his financial might: In 2007, Mr. Sanea bought a 3.1% stake in HSBC Holding PLC for $6.6 billion, making him one of the bank's biggest shareholders.

By 2008, Forbes listed Mr. Sanea as the 62nd-richest person in the world. He owned an Airbus A-320 Prestige private jet and tooled around Khobar in a gold-colored Maybach.

As Saad Group expanded, Ahab faced a transition. In 2003, the family patriarch, Abdulaziz al Gosaibi, died. Hewing to tradition, the family named the new patriarch, his elderly brother, Sulaiman al Gosaibi, as chairman.

Sulaiman, family members and employees say, divvied up responsibility among three prominent male family members: Saud al Gosaibi controlled the industrial division, a cousin of his oversaw food and retail, and Mr. Sanea, they say, oversaw the family's financial units until this spring. Today, however, Mr. Sanea's responsibilities, and their timing, are key to the dispute.

The bulk of Ahab's debt trouble stems from its financial operations, according to the Gosaibis and their creditors. Gosaibi board members say Mr. Sanea was in charge of the group's financial units as recently as May.

In a June 2 statement, the London-based spokesman for Mr. Sanea said he previously was managing director of Money Exchange but "has not acted in such capacity for many years." His recent ties to Ahab have been on "an arm's-length commercial basis," the spokesman said.

It's difficult to determine Mr. Sanea's previous job titles or specific roles in Ahab. According to internal corporate documents provided by Ahab forensic accountants and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Sanea appears to have signed documents as "managing director" of Money Exchange. He also appears to have signed documents at other Ahab financial units, without including a job title.

Ahab's chairman, Sulaiman al Gosaibi, died in February. Soon after, things started to fall apart, Saud al Gosaibi said in an interview. Sometime in April, Saudi bankers started calling to demand payment on about $1.6 billion owed by Money Exchange, say two Ahab executives.

Gosaibi family members say they met privately with Mr. Sanea on May 10 to assess the financial situation at the unit. By late May, however, the bankers' phone calls were still coming, says Mr. Gosaibi. So he ordered auditors to examine Money Exchange's books.

"What they discovered was that things had gone very wrong," Mr. Gosaibi says. "The annual reports didn't reflect the reality of the business."

About the same time, Mr. Sanea's empire also began to crumble. Credit agencies dropped ratings from investment grade to "selective default."

The Gosaibis' legal filing in the New York court alleges that Mr. Sanea took out loans and opened credit facilities at Ahab financial divisions without proper approval from Ahab's board. Mr. Sanea then diverted funds to firms under his control, according to court documents.

Gosaibi auditors say in interviews and court papers that they found "hundreds" of documents containing forged signatures of Ahab top brass. In court documents, an auditor from Deloitte Corporate Finance Ltd. said Mr. Sanea procured loans in Ahab's name through the alleged forgeries. Mr. Sanea has denied all allegations of forgeries.

One such document, reviewed by the Journal, appears to be an Ahab board resolution, dated Feb. 21, 2009, and signed by Sulaiman al Gosaibi, the ailing chairman of Ahab at the time. The document approves a new credit facility with a Kuwaiti bank for an unspecified Ahab financial unit. Gosaibi lawyers attribute the signature to Mr. Sanea.

Hospital records reviewed by the Journal indicate that on that day, Sulaiman al Gosaibi was in a medically induced coma after surgery in a Zurich hospital. He died on Feb. 22.

Saud al Gosaibi called a creditors meeting for June 24 to explain his findings to lenders. At a second meeting, in August, he told bankers that Ahab wouldn't honor debts from its financial units until the courts decide who is responsible for them.

Some international banks, frustrated by the lack of transparency, went to court. At least six bank are suing Ahab for recovery of funds, including Commerzbank AG. At least three regional banks are suing Saad for the same reason.

Still, amid the court actions, details trickle out. At the London High Court hearing earlier this month, Mr. Sanea's lawyers failed to overturn an asset freeze in the U.K. But his lawyers did manage to boost the level of spending allowed their client -- to $1 million per quarter from a previous $10,000 a month. Among Mr. Sanea's expenses cited by the lawyers: maintenance of a private zoo, according to a court transcript.

"This is all so embarrassing," says one family member on the Gosaibi side. "In the end, there will be no winner."

—Nour Malas in Dubai contributed to this article.
Write to Margaret Coker at

Morgan Stanley positive on Saudi Arabia economy

Saudi Arabia has managed to weather the global economic downturn and its near-term outlook for economic growth is positive, according to a Morgan Stanley economic report on the country published today.

In the report, “Saudi Arabia Economics: Unlocking the Kingdom’s Potential”, Morgan Stanley’s senior GCC economist, Mohamed Jaber, believes that the country’s real output will recover in 2010, catalyzed by higher oil production levels; stronger domestic demand on the back of the government’s expansionary fiscal and monetary stance; and a gradual resumption of credit growth. As a result, Morgan Stanley expects Saudi Arabia’s total output to grow by 3.6% in 2010 and 4.7% in 2011.

“The near-term economic outlook for Saudi Arabia is positive. In addition to strong growth in real overall output, we also project headline inflation to continue trending downward as the tightness in the housing market is gradually eased over time. Based on our assumption of higher oil prices over the near term, the country’s fiscal and external balances are likely to improve.” says Mr. Jaber.

Dubai's Emaar 3Q Net At AED655M, Beats Expectations

Dubai's Emaar Properties PSJC (EMAAR.AI), the Middle East's largest home builder, Thursday said it returned to profit in the third quarter and flagged signs of recovery in the emirate, in results that beat most analyst expectations.

Profit for the period was 655 million U.A.E. dirhams ($178.3 million), or 11 fils a share, compared with a restated net loss of AED417 million, or 7 fils a share, a year earlier, largely due to higher margins on property delivered during the period, the developer said in a statement on the Dubai Financial Market Web site.

Cairo-based investment bank EFG-Hermes had expected Emaar to post a third-quarter profit of AED181.2 million, while Dubai's Shuaa Capital forecast AED425.6 million.

Revenue rose 12% to AED1.95 billion, from AED1.75 billion in the third quarter of 2008.

"These results are better than our expectations and our full year estimates now look shy, especially if the same strong top line performance carries on into the final quarter," said Sana Kapadia, real estate analyst at EFG-Hermes.

In April, the developer, which is building the world's tallest tower in Dubai, changed its accounting methods to the complete contract method, which means the developer can only book profit when completed units are handed over.

Emaar's third-quarter 2008 net profit was AED1.51 billion before it introduced the new method. It posted a AED1.29 billion loss during the second quarter of 2009 after it wrote down the complete book value, or AED1.72 billion, of its U.S. housing unit JL Homes.

Emaar, like other U.A.E. developers, has been hit by a regional property downturn brought on by the wider global financial crisis. In Dubai, home prices have slumped up to 50% from peaks, lending has slowed and by some estimates close to $300 billion worth of construction is either delayed or canceled.

However, Emaar Chairman Mohamed Alabbar, who also helps oversee a committee evaluating the impact of the global credit crisis on Dubai, said there were "clear signals of real estate prices gaining momentum in premium areas."

"The city remains on track for sustained growth, despite the impact of the global financial crisis, which will further boost the property sector," he said.

Emaar said its merger with three of Dubai Holding's property units is progressing, but didn't give any further details about the consolidation plans.

The developer said it will enter a "new phase" of growth during the fourth quarter, focusing on project delivery and diversification as it moves closer to opening the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building, in December.

"With the opening of global icons like Burj Dubai, Emaar will once again put the world's spotlight on the city, highlighting its can-do spirit and strength to dream," Alabbar said.

Emaar shares closed trading Thursday 0.2% higher at AED4.61 in a broadly negative market.

-By Stefania Bianchi, Dow Jones Newswires; +971 4 3644967;

Dubai Govt Says To Decide On Bond Sale Over 1-2 Wks-Investors

The Dubai government told investors Thursday it will decide whether to launch a global bond sale in the next two weeks once it has gauged the interest of a broad range of investors, according to two investors who met with top officials from Dubai's Department of Finance.

The bond offering would be part of Dubai's effort to tackle its $80 billion debt pile, most of which was incurred during the emirate's property, tourism and logistics boom. It has used half of a planned $20 billion bond program and is considering tapping the remainder.

If it goes ahead with a deal, it would be Dubai's first public offshore bond in more than a year.

The Dubai officials met fixed-income and Islamic finance investors in Hong Kong earlier Thursday. They are also slated to meet investors in Singapore, Dubai, London and Frankfurt on their roadshow that wraps up next Tuesday.

"They (the government officials) said it's now too early to gauge investor interests. They said they will decide to go ahead or not after the roadshow," one of the investors said.

"They want to see if there is enough investor appetite before making any decision," the other investor said.

At the height of the global financial crisis, the Abu Dhabi-based central bank of the United Arab Emirates supported Dubai by underwriting the first half of its planned $20 billion bond program to bail out the sheikdom's struggling companies and economy.

Recently, Dubai officials including Omar bin Sulaiman, the head of the Dubai International Financial Center, have said they expect strong interest from private investors for a second bond.

Mohamed Alabbar, who helps oversee a committee evaluating the impact of the global credit crisis on Dubai, told CNN earlier this month that the emirate may raise the additional $10 billion by November.

According to Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, Dubai has almost $5 billion worth of debt maturing between September and the end of the year. The biggest share of this debt is held by Nakheel, a unit of government-owned Dubai World.

The company has a $3.5 billion Islamic bond maturing December. The bond, which will be pumped into Dubai's Financial Support Fund, is seen as a critical test of Dubai's credit worthiness.

Dubai Shares Fall to Two-Week Low on Valuations; Oman Declines

Dubai shares declined to the lowest in almost three weeks, leading Gulf benchmarks lower, on investor concern that stock prices have outpaced the prospects for earnings growth.

Emaar Properties PJSC, the biggest developer in the United Arab Emirates, fell to its lowest in two weeks and Emirates NBD PJSC, the country’s biggest bank, lost as much as 2.9 percent. The Dubai Financial Market General Index, up 16 percent since the beginning of September, fell for a third day, losing 1.7 percent to 2,220.47 at 1 p.m. in the emirate.

The rally left the 32 companies in Dubai’s benchmark index valued at 28 times earnings as of Oct. 14, the highest ratio since at least February 2007, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The measure has lost 6.4 percent since and yesterday closed at 26 times earnings. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index, down 1.2 percent today, trades at 21 times earnings.

Sainsbury Bid From Qatar ‘Unlikely,’ Says Bofa Merrill Lynch

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is “unlilkely” to bid for J Sainsbury Plc, BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research said.

Qatar “may be more flush with cash having crystallized 1.4 billion pounds of its Barclays” stake, analysts wrote in a report. “But we see speculation that it may bid for the rest of Sainsbury as non-credible.”

BofA Merrill Lynch reiterated its 335 pence price estimate on Sainsbury.END

Emirates NBD Started With ‘Overweight’ at JPMorgan on Valuation

Emirates NBD PJSC, the United Arab Emirates’ biggest bank by assets, was initiated with an “overweight” recommendation and a price target of 6.25 dirhams at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“Emirates NBD’s valuation discount in the current market scenario looks significantly overdone to us, notwithstanding the reasonable investor concerns on the Dubai property sector and debt refinancing of Dubai government entities,” analysts including Naresh Bilandani and Christian Kern wrote in a research note today.END

Dubai CDS falls to year's lowest ahead of bond roadshow

Dubai is likely to offer a new bond/sukuk to investors at a global roadshow that begins today.

Investors in the UAE will be briefed about the "fixed-income instrument" at a meeting on Sunday followed by London on Monday.

A Dubai Government official has clarified that the roadshow is not linked to the government's second $10 billion (Dh36.7bn) tranche of the $20bn bond programme.

Invest AD to buy stakes with fund

Invest AD, an investment firm owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, plans to launch a US$400 million (Dh1.47 billion) private equity fund to take stakes in companies across the region.

The Invest AD Private Equity Partners II fund will acquire stakes in as many as 12 firms in countries potentially including Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, said Samir Assaad, the head of private equity at Invest AD.

The fund’s launch comes as welcome news to an industry that has seen deal-making in the region grind to a virtual standstill. While more than $3bn worth of private equity deals were done in the Middle East in 2007, according to one estimate, that total declined to about $500m last year. Only a few deals have been announced so far this year.

Dubai investor borrows $550m

Dubai International Capital (DIC) has managed to borrow US$550 million (Dh2.02 billion) from international banks, providing the latest evidence that a growing appetite for risk among global investors may be easing the cash crunch facing Dubai.

Bankers in Dubai and London confirmed that DIC had clinched the roughly two-year loan from a syndicate of lenders. DIC is an investment arm of Dubai Holding, and owns a number of well-known assets abroad, including a majority stake in Travelodge hotel chain of the UK. DIC executives could not be immediately reached to comment on the deal.

At the height of the financial crisis early this year, doubts about Dubai’s ability to service its estimated $85bn in debt led the emirate to seek $10bn in federal funding to support its companies. But low interest rates and signs of a global economic recovery have sparked a rally in financial markets that has revived funding to emerging markets.

Bonds are as good as the gentlemen offering them

“Gentlemen prefer bonds”, according to a quip attributed to Andrew Mellon, but which was almost certainly taken from Anita Loos’s 1925 novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Mr Mellon was an industrialist, financier and philanthropist who served as US Treasury secretary under three presidents until his tenure ended ignominiously at the height of the Great Depression.

Mr Mellon’s mistake was trying to keep the federal budget balanced as tax revenues dwindled. His boss, then president Herbert Hoover, said Mr Mellon’s strategy was to maintain strict discipline over the economy, to “liquidate labour, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate … it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life.” He also advocated letting banks fail.

Needless to say, Mr Mellon’s austerity measures made matters worse, helping to turn the crash of 1929 into the Great Depression. Nobody much liked him after that.

Speaker seeks more FNC authority

Abdul Aziz al Ghurair, the Speaker of the Federal National Council, called yesterday for reforms that would allow the national assembly greater authority to hold officials accountable.

“We express our aspiration over continuing support with regard to enabling of the legislative and monitoring powers of the council in a way that allows the council to carry out full and outstanding parliamentary duties,” Mr al Ghurair said during the council’s opening session.

The session was attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

U.S. firms set up shop in United Arab Emirates for major nuclear project

U.S. companies are opening up offices in the United Arab Emirates to compete for a $40 billion nuclear project.

A range of U.S. suppliers have established a presence in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi as part of efforts to win a slice of the huge nuclear energy program, Middle East Newsline reported. The UAE has been deemed the biggest opportunity in years for the global nuclear market.

"Once the government is ready, the awards will be issued rapidly," a Gulf industry source said. "This is clearly a UAE priority."


Are Turkmenistan’s energy reserve figures fudged or not? Just over a week after allegations first surfaced that the Turkmen government’s claims are grossly hyped, the controversy over Ashgabat’s export capacity is still flaring. Representatives of the firm that conducted the original audit are vigorously defending their reputation for thoroughness. Meanwhile, a whistleblower says he remains confident in the accuracy of his sources’ information.

The results of an audit performed by the British energy consultancy firm Gaffney Cline & Associates, released just over a year ago, concluded that the South Yolotan-Osman natural gas field contains between 4 trillion and 14 trillion cubic meters (TCM) of gas. The most likely total is around 6/tcm. Such volumes would make the field one of the world’s largest and enable Turkmenistan to increase its annual production capacity by 70 billion cubic meters per year, roughly double the current level.

On October 12, two separate sources -- Russian journalist Arkady Dubnov, writing for the Russian newspaper Vremya Novostei, and a Germany-based non-governmental organization called the Eurasian Transition Group (ETG) -- alleged that the Turkmen government misled the independent auditors by providing them with inaccurate, hyped data. The end result was that Turkmenistan’s actual reserves are probably far lower than the estimate contained in the 2008 Gaffney Cline report.

Dubai World has no comment on $2.5 bln loan from Nakheel

State-owned Dubai World on Wednesday declined comment on Wednesday on whether it had repaid about 9.3 billion dirhams ($2.53 billion) in loans it took from its property unit Nakheel in 2008.

According to its 2008 financial statements, Nakheel lent conglomerate Dubai World short-term, unsecured loans carrying an interest rate of 3 percent.

As of Dec. 31, Nakheel was still owed 9.28 billion dirhams after lending its parent company 11.01 billion dirhams during the year, the financial statement showed.

Tunisian bourse rises above crisis

The Tunisian bourse has risen 42 per cent since the beginning of the year, making it one of the best performers in the Middle East.

This is a reflection, analysts say, of the fact that more than half of its $10bn market capitalisation is made up of local banks that have not been affected by the global financial crisis. Another chunk comprises companies that are geared towards consumption at home or which export to the regional market, particularly to hydrocarbon-rich Algeria and Libya .

Tunisian exporters to Europe had a hard time during the first six months of the year, but government officials say that July and August have seen a return to previous levels of exports.

Bank digs away at its debt mountain

The United Arab Emirates has a reputation as an environmentally wasteful country but Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank has recently become a conscientious conservationist.

At its headquarters, the lights are switched off at the end of every day, the air-conditioning is turned down and the bank keeps only one of its lifts operating during the evenings and weekends.

It is part of an extensive cost-cutting exercise at the UAE capital’s second-largest bank. Over the past two years, ADCB has been at the centre of the financial storm in the UAE – often for the wrong reasons.