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Wednesday, 4 November 2009

UPDATE:Ex-Istithmar Exec Chris Turner Says Innocent Of Dubai Charges

Today's earlier posting here.
Chris Turner, a former senior executive at Dubai investment firm Istithmar World, hit back Wednesday after a judge sentenced him in absentia to five years in jail and fined him $2.6 million in total for embezzlement.

"I'm innocent of the charges and I'm not in the country," said Chris Turner, a British national, in a phone interview with Zawya Dow Jones from Europe. "I'm reviewing my legal options."

Turner was previously Istithmar's chief risk manager. The company, part of Dubai World, owns assets including New York department store Barneys.

"This is a matter for the appropriate authorities," said a spokesman at Istithmar World in an emailed statement to Zawya Dow Jones.

Dubai has been rocked over the past two years by a series of damaging corporate corruption probes involving some of its largest state-controlled companies including real-estate developers Nakheel and Dubai Properties.END

Saudi Stock Market Weekly Report - 4-November-2009

Dubai Shares Bounce Back, Led by Emaar, DFM, as Crude Advances

Dubai shares gained for the second time this week, led by Emaar Properties PJSC and Dubai Financial Market PJSC, as oil rose and investors speculated yesterday’s drop was overdone given the prospects for economic growth.

Emaar, the United Arab Emirates’ biggest developer, surged 6.2 percent, recovering most of yesterday’s losses. Dubai Financial Market, the region’s only stock exchange to sell shares to the public, also climbed. The Dubai Financial Market General Index rose 3 percent, bouncing back from yesterday’s 5 percent drop, to 2,137.8.

Crude oil rose for a third day, bringing the increase this week to 4.3 percent and climbing above $80 a barrel. Dubai’s market has fluctuated this week, dropping or gaining at least 5 percent each day, until now. Asian stocks fell in the first two trading days of the week on concern the withdrawal of stimulus measures will cause the global recovery to falter.

International Finance Corporation lists its first Sukuk on NASDAQ Dubai - Business Intelligence Middle East - - News, analysis, reports

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, today listed its first Sukuk on NASDAQ Dubai, the international exchange serving the Middle East.

Jeff Singer, Chief Executive of NASDAQ Dubai, said: "The launch of the IFC's and the World Bank's first Sukuk and its listing on NASDAQ Dubai are a significant step in the continuing integration of Islamic finance into the global financial system.

“We are delighted to support the Sukuk as its primary listing venue, providing a regulatory structure that promotes transparency for investors and visibility for the issuer."

petroleumworld: Arabian oil vs Argus Index


Commercial Bank of Qatar to list bond on UK's LSE | Industries | Financial Services & Real Estate | Reuters

Commercial Bank of Qatar to list bond on UK's LSE
| Industries
| Financial Services & Real Estate
| Reuters

Foreign firms eye Oman power plant plans | Markets | Markets News | Reuters

Foreign firms eye Oman power plant plans
| Markets
| Markets News
| Reuters | Arena | Is there a place for morals in finance? | Arena | Is there a place for morals in finance?

DP World, Dewa Among Five Dubai Firms Cut at Moody’s

DP World Ltd., the Middle East’s biggest port operator, and Dubai Electricity & Water Authority were among five companies that had their credit ratings cut at Moody’s Investors Service, citing tightened government criteria for supporting state-controlled entities.

“The downgrades reflect recent disclosures that reveal the increasing conditionality under which support may be provided,” Dubai-based Philipp Lotter and London-based David Staples wrote in a report today. The criteria include whether the government- owned companies “are able to demonstrate sustainable business plans, the on-going support of their existing financial creditors, and realistic prospects of fulfilling their repayment obligations.”

Dubai and its government-owned companies borrowed $80 billion to finance its transformation into a regional financial and tourist hub before the global credit crisis left companies struggling to attract investors to refinance debt. Dubai, which set up a $20 billion support fund, will probably complete raising a second $10 billion by the end of November, Mohammed Alabbar, who headed the government committee evaluating the impact of the global credit on the emirate, said last month.

DP World, Dubai Electricity, and DIFC Investments had their ratings cut to A3 from A1. Jebel Ali Free Zone, a government- owned industrial park, was downgraded to Baa1 from A3, while Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group LLC, the state- controlled entity that’s in talks to merge some of its units with Emaar Properties PJSC, had its ratings lowered to Baa1 from A3, the report said. Emaar’s rating was unchanged.

Chartered Semi Shareholders Approve Abu Dhabi Deal

Shareholders of Singapore’s state- controlled Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Ltd. approved an offer by Abu Dhabi to buy the world’s third-biggest maker of customized chips for S$2.5 billion ($1.8 billion), Jim Norling, chairman of the Singaporean company, said today.

Advanced Technology Investment Co., an investment company owned by Abu Dhabi, will pay S$2.68 ($1.86) a share in cash for Chartered Semiconductor, ATIC said on Sept. 7. That compares with the closing price of S$2.66 on Sept. 4, and is 14 percent more than the company’s 30 trading-day volume weighted average price.

Abu Dhabi plans to combine the maker of chips used in Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360 game console with Globalfoundries Inc., a venture ATIC created with Advanced Micro Devices Inc. last year, to create a challenger to United Microelectronics Corp., the world’s second-biggest maker of customized chips.

Original story here.

Istithmar former anti-corruption official sentenced in absentia

A British national, CT, was yesterday sentenced in absentia by the Dubai Criminal Court to five years in prison followed by deportation and a fine of $1.340 million (Dh4.9m) for embezzling the same amount from Istithmar, which he was also ordered to return.

Sources from Istithmar said the company will initiate legal procedures against the fugitive to implement the sentence issued against him, taking the help of Dubai Police and Interpol.

The case had witnessed a lot of delays, as the address of the indicted could not be found to issue him summons to attend the proceedings. Istithmar's lawyer, Taiba Safar, took recourse to publishing advertisements in several newspapers informing CT to attend.

US investors seek closer links with Borse Dubai

Borse Dubai Limited chairman Eisa Kazim with Nasdaq Dubai chief executive Jeff Singer 
and an official in New York.

The Borse Dubai International Investor Conference New York 2009, co-hosted by the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) and Nasdaq Dubai, in cooperation with Citigroup Global Markets and Goldman Sachs, came to a close on Tuesday.

Dozens of meetings took place between companies listed on the two exchanges and international investors. DFM and Nasdaq Dubai will replicate this successful event across other financial centres in the near future.

The conference was the latest of DFM's annual series of international roadshows that have taken its listed companies to leading financial centres such as London and New York.

Dubai travel agents stay close to home

Significantly fewer Dubai hotels and travel agents are going to the World Travel Market in London next week despite reduced costs and the fact that the UK is the emirate’s largest single source of visitors, says the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).

Seventy-seven hotels and tour operators would take part this year, down from the 102 at last year’s event, the DTCM said. The department had halved its rental rates for space at the market to encourage participation.

A source at the DTCM said a number of hotels and tour operators did not have the budgets for the event this year and were not convinced that attending the event would boost visitors, given the economic downturn in the UK.

Banks face another year of weak profits, loan defaults

Banks are in for another year of weak profits and high provisions for bad debts – including loans to two struggling Saudi conglomerates – before business picks up again, according to the chief executive of Mashreqbank.

“I think we probably still need next year for the banks to make some provisions for accounts,” Abdul Aziz al Ghurair, who is also speaker of the Federal National Council, said. “I think 2011 will probably be a good year when banks will be back and kicking.”Banks across the region have been grappling with a rise in bad loans since the onset of the financial crisis late last year, with virtually all lenders setting aside profits in the form of provisions to cover the rise. In the first half of this year, publicly listed banks in the region reported over $3 billion in provisions, far outstripping totals for last year.

Lenders have also been hit hard by defaults this summer at two Saudi family-owned conglomerates, the Saad Group and Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi and Brothers (AHAB). Those firms, which are estimated to owe tens of billions of dollars to over 100 banks in the GCC and abroad, are locked in a bitter dispute in which AHAB has alleged that Maan al Sanea, the billionaire founder of the Saad Group, defrauded it in an elaborate Ponzi scheme to the tune of $10bn.

Fraud: more diligence is due

It is more than a year since Dubai launched a highly publicised clampdown on corruption, which led to the arrest of several executives from some of the emirate’s top property developers and financial institutions.

But while Dubai grabbed the international headlines, it represented just the tip of the iceberg in a region that has been identified as a hot spot of corruption.

Kroll, an international risk consultancy, said last week the Middle East was the world’s only region to see a rise in fraud in the past year. It singled out corruption and bribery as the single largest threats.

Las Vegas Strip braces for CityCenter impact

CityCenter's glittering high rises have forever altered the Las Vegas skyline, but there is concern about the project's impact on already-discounted hotel room rates along the world's most famous gambling corridor.

The nearly 6,000-room, $8.5 billion signature project for MGM Mirage (MGM.N) opens in December with rates up and down the Strip slashed during a recession that has forced consumers and businesses to cut spending and hold out for bargains.

A night at one of CityCenter's luxury towers can be had for as little as $129 in mid-December. The average daily room rate in Las Vegas had fallen 25 percent through August.

Commentary: U.A.E.'s sky-high office vacancy rates and empty apartments

Eighteen months ago, I was standing by a window in the Marina Mall, looking out toward Lulu Island's sandy beaches. A new acquaintance was standing by my side. He said, "A year from now you won't recognize it."

Behind us, work was still going on in the enclosed space that would eventually house a bunny slope, maybe about a third the size of the ski hill at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.

Christian himself had been in Abu Dhabi less than a year at that point, working on a sewage-treatment plant. He pointed out road and housing construction behind the mall. "All of this is new from when I arrived."

Venezuela Reviews Oil Pricing Change

Venezuela's oil minister applauded Saudi Arabia's decision to move away from West Texas Intermediate crude benchmark pricing for oil sold in the U.S., and said his country may do something similar.

"We support (Saudi Arabia) in its decision ... a very important decision," Rafael Ramirez said on the sidelines of an oil conference.

Argus Media said last week that Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company, would in January switch to using its Argus Sour Crude Index as a pricing benchmark for oil sold in the U.S., instead of West Texas Intermediate. The abandonment of WTI, the longtime standard, for Argus's five-month-old index by the world's biggest oil exporter instantly sparked speculation that other major producers would follow.

Qatari deal could turn US Embassy into luxury hotel

The United States has agreed to sell its embassy building in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, to a Qatari sovereign wealth-backed developer for an undisclosed sum.

The US State Department said yesterday that it would sell the Chancery building, home to the US Embassy in Britain for almost half a century, to Qatari Diar, a real estate investment company owned by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA).

The Qatari investment group has not yet given full details of its plans for the site, but it is thought to be planning a luxury hotel and residential apartments. Chelsfield Partners, run by Sir Stuart Lipton and Elliott Bernerd and 20 per cent-owned by QIA, will be development partners on the project.


For most of 2009, a pipeline deal involving Iran, Pakistan and India, has been stalled. But recent indicators suggest that a new version of the pipeline could get moving again.

The so-called IPI route envisioned shipping Iranian gas eastward to Pakistan and India. From the concept’s inception it has faced hurdles and experienced setbacks. The United States, for example, has invariably discouraged Pakistan and India from dealing with Iran. Tehran, meanwhile, has rankled Islamabad and New Dehli by proving hard to pin down on a pricing scheme.

It appears that India is now ready to bow out of the project, leaving Iran to deal solely with Pakistan. India’s diminished interest in IPI is the result of several factors, the most signficant being the continuing Indian-Pakistani tension over the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai. The sense of urgency in New Dehli to get the deal done has also eased due to domestic gas discoveries from the Krishna-Godavari field. In addition, India may be responding to its own cost concerns about Iranian imports, and to US pressure regarding doing business with Iran.

Malaysian PM warns Islamic financial sector

The fast-growing Islamic financial sector needs strong regulation to ensure it never faces the damage suffered by the global system as a result of the financial crisis, Malaysia’s prime minister said yesterday.

Najib Razak, whose government oversees one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive Islamic financial sectors, said it was “imperative for the industry to draw upon the lessons learnt to ensure that we avoid any such financial instability in the future”.

Mr Najib said the Islamic financial system was attracting growing global attention as conventional financial institutions continued to reel from huge losses.