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Friday, 11 December 2009

Kuwait to seek UAE, Oman return to FX union

Kuwait will seek the return of the United Arab Emirates and Oman to the Gulf Arab unified currency plan, the official KUNA news agency reported on Friday citing the country's finance minister.

"This would strengthen the economies of the region and turn it into an economic bloc of (importance) that would be taken into consideration globally," said Mustapha al-Shamali.

In May, the UAE broke ranks with four other Gulf Arab states by withdrawing from the single currency plan in protest at a decision to base the joint central bank in Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy.

Mouchel Group to Close Remaining Operations in Dubai (Update1) -

Mouchel Group to Close Remaining Operations in Dubai (Update1) -

Carillion upbeat on Mideast despite Dubai

The collapse of the investment bubble in Dubai will not stop Carillion from increasing revenues from its Middle Eastern business, it said on Friday, as it looks forward to continued growth in construction revenues from Oman and Abu Dhabi, as well as from its core support services division.

The company anticipated that underlying earnings per share for the year ending in December would grow by 10 per cent, after selling off two key investments for £86.9m.

Shares in Carillion rose 1 per cent to 298.3p in early trading.

Nakheel Bond Jumps to 54 Cents Before Dec. 14 Payment Deadline

Nakheel PJSC’s $3.52 billion bond rose to 54 cents on the dollar three days before Dubai’s state- controlled developer is due to repay the debt, according to Citigroup Inc. prices.

The Islamic bond maturing on Dec. 14 advanced 4.6 percent from its closing price of 51.63 cents yesterday, Citigroup prices as of 9:31 a.m. in London showed. The debt, known as sukuk, has dropped 51 percent since the Dubai government said on Nov. 25 that state-run holding company Dubai World, the parent of Nakheel, would seek to delay debt payments.

Nakheel, the developer of palm-tree shaped islands off the Dubai coast, had a first-half loss of 13.4 billion dirhams ($3.65 billion) as real-estate prices crashed in the Gulf business hub. Dubai World began talks last week with banks to restructure $26 billion of debt, including the Nakheel bond. BNP Paribas SA and EFG-Hermes Holding SAE analysts said Nakheel may repay bondholders up to 70 cents on the dollar and restructure the remainder of the debt by issuing new securities.

Shell and Petronas win a third of Iraq's oil reserves

A consortium led by Shell has won the rights to develop the giant Majnoon oil field at the second auction of Iraq's oil rights since the 2003 invasion.

The auction for about a third of the country's known reserves quickly surpassed last summer's sale, with Majnoon the largest field on offer in the current round. A group of oil companies led by China's CNPC struck a deal to develop the Halfaya field.

There are 10 fields being auctioned over two days under tight security at the Iraqi oil ministry's headquarters. Last summer's auction saw a single deal struck despite eight fields being on offer.


Worries over sovereign credit have once again become a hot topic as concerns over Dubai and Greece reignite credit crisis fears. The problem of debt continues to plague the global economy, but not all countries are at risk. In this world of global investing it’s easy to lump countries into regions – Asia, Europe, emerging markets, developed market, etc. But it’s not quite so black and white. Within these regions and markets we’ve recently learned that all emerging markets aren’t the same just as all Asian markets aren’t the same. Credit Suisse recently ranked the riskiest nations based on a number of various factors including government debt, private debt, potential growth, credit ratings and CDS spread. All of these add up to a risk score.

Many of the names at the top of the list are far from shocking, but investors might be surprised to see how poorly the United States ranks in the list.

Of course, there are two ways to view this list. The bullish take and bearish take. Some will say these nations should be avoided. On the other hand, as Goldman says about Ireland, with risk comes potentially great reward. I’ll let the reader decide which approach to take….

Dubai economy to rebound 2-3 pct in 2010

The economy of Dubai is expected to grow 2-3 percent in 2010 after contracting about 2 percent this year due to slowing real estate and construction sectors, a senior government official was quoted as saying on Friday.

Sami al-Qamzi, the head of the economic development department, told the state television the economy shrank 1.47 percent in the first half of 2009, al-Ittihad and al-Khaleej newspapers reported.

This year's slowdown will be partly offset by a 9.1 percent growth in the financial sector and a 5.9 percent expansion in the consumer goods industry, Qamzi added.

The man in demand at Dubai Inc

A western businessman who has been working in the UAE for many years says this: “What we need are more like Sheikh Ahmed.

“He’s spent his business career listening to the advice of top-class international experts and advisers and taking that advice, so long it did not conflict with his own core instincts. Maybe if Dubai did that more … ”

He does not finish the sentence, but the implication is clear, especially in the current climate of economic uncertainty that hangs over the emirate.

The end of the Abu Dhabi put

My column today makes a case for the Dubai Financial Support Fund's decision to bring Nakheel's bondholders to the table. If Nakheel's business developing property is no longer as bright as it was before the crisis struck, and recent evidence suggests that it isn't, what sense does it make for the DFSF to bail out Dubai World and let Nakheel pay off its creditors at par?

The director general of Dubai's Department of Finance, Abdulrahman al Saleh, has been struggling to explain the Government's position, making more media appearances in the last week than in the entire six months since he took over from Nasser al Shaikh. Today he conceded that Dubai has a public relations issue. "Let me admit, in Dubai we are not good in publicising what we are doing as much as we are in doing it," he said in a speech Thursday.

So, just what are they doing? The decision to restructure debts at some of Dubai World's weakest units essentially puts an end to what essentially amounted to an Abu Dhabi put, the ability to borrow, lend and invest in the UAE in the faith that, no matter what happens or how badly those investments might go, Abu Dhabi's oil revenues were on tap to bail everyone out.

Dubai's troubles don't hinder Emirates A380 financing

Despite Dubai's financial troubles, flag carrier Emirates airlines has raised more than $1.13 billion to finance the purchase of six Airbus A380 super-jumbo jets, the company announced Thursday.

"Emirates remains in a secure financial position despite the global financial crisis," Emirates President Tim Clark said in the news release. "We have never encountered difficulties in obtaining finance for our aircraft acquisition programme, with both international and regional banks comfortable with our financial stability.

"As one of the world's most profitable airlines, Emirates has always honoured its financial commitments and we continue to progress with our rigorous fleet and network expansion plans."

Dubai Group Sells Stake in Egyptian Bank

The Dubai Group, one of Dubai’s state-controlled investment firms, has sold part of its stake in the Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes, kicking off what could be a huge sale of the emirate’s assets in an effort to prop up its shaky finances.

The Dubai Group sold 25 million shares in EFG-Hermes on Wednesday for an undisclosed price, the Egyptian stock exchange reported. Two unidentified people familiar with the deal told Bloomberg News that the Dubai Group raised about $114 million.

Dubai has said it would not be selling off assets at fire-sale prices to meet its debt obligations. The state has even distanced itself from its state-owned companies, including Dubai World, saying that their debts rest on the corporate level and won’t be backed by the government.

But exactly how well did Dubai do in its investment in EFG-Hermes? Well, it bought a 25 percent stake in the Arab world’s largest publicly traded investment bank in November of 2007 for $1.1 billion, valuing the bank at $4.4 billion at the time of the sale.

That means a 6.5 percent sale in EFG-Hermes would have been worth $286 million based on Dubai’s original purchase price — so the $114 million it reportedly received on Wednesday would represent a 60 percent discount.

Based on that sale price, Dubai seems willing to sell assets at a major discount to what it originally paid for them at the top of the bubble and forgo the waiting time to recoup its investment. While the sale could be just a one-off discount, the precedent it has set could be enough to send deal makers to Dubai to sniff out some bargains.END

The Next Global Energy Cartel: The Gas Exporting Countries Forum is getting its act together.

On Wednesday, the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) held its ninth ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar. The once informal and disorganized group of major natural gas exporters and producers is becoming a more serious and influential organization. The group has continued formalizing its bureaucratic structure and, on Wednesday, elected its first secretary-general, an energy executive from Russia named Leonid Bokhanovsky. Facing drastically reduced demand and rock-bottom prices, the Forum's 15 member countries have become desperate to work together to drive natural gas prices up to a "fair" level. As Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declared, "The era of cheap natural gas is coming to an end."

GECF members control over 70% of the world's natural gas reserves, 38% of the pipeline trade and 85% of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) production. The three dominant members--Russia, Iran and Qatar--alone hold about 57% of global gas reserves.

This group of gas exporters is in many ways similar to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in its early days. Founded in 1960, OPEC was equally disorganized and ineffective in the beginning, even though its member countries controlled significant shares of oil reserves and production.

Don't disown Dubai: Despite all criticism, in part driven by envy, Dubai is a symbol of Arab renaissance and deserves to be rallied, writes Emad Fawzi Shoeibi*

City-state Dubai is being punished today. It is being punished for straying from the well-trodden path and for thinking the unthinkable. Fired by its own ambition, Dubai rose high, turned the desert into a lively oasis, and never looked back.

Across the world, economies prosper on resources such as water. City-state Dubai thought outside the box and survived on a dream. Its wealth came mostly from ideas, solutions, a removal of red tape, and a defiance of fear.

Dubai has stepped out of the Arab mindset. It tried to speak the language of the capitalist world, without having staged a bourgeois revolution, without engaging in sectarian or religion wars, and without following the usual pattern.

Dubai sprang onto the scene without ideology or theories. It imparted a cosmopolitan identity on a region known for its conservative ideologies. And it wasn't afraid to try new things. In a way, Dubai invoked the cultural diversity of coastal Greek towns.

Success came at a price. The cosmopolitan nature of Dubai was questioned by those who disapproved of openness and diverse identities. The world may have talked a lot about globalisation and how it would change our lives, and yet small cities have a hard time of it without the support of a major country.

Paris is a cosmopolitan city par excellence, and it is at home with its cosmopolitanism. Dubai had to try harder, and take greater risks. In the end, a major global tremor took no time in shaking it to the roots.

One has to respect the Dubai mindset. One has to respect Dubai for surging ahead with no thought for the conventional constraints of development everyone talked about. While the rest of the Arab world dithered, Dubai acted.

Economic development is not a decision for economists to make, but is rather a political affair. Development is governed by domestic decisions. The world economic condition is also a factor to take into account. Development is a question of possibilities, of what is permissible and what is impermissible. Taboos can be skirted, and Dubai skirted a bunch.

There is a difference between development and mere construction. But in the case of Dubai this difference mattered little. Before long, a legend was created, and the good times lasted for nearly three generations. There is nothing wrong with development being led with the construction sector. And Dubai did just that, challenging all the taboos. For that it deserves respect.

Had Dubai waited for others to sanction its growth, it would still be waiting. The theorists wouldn't accept anything less than a huge production-based economy. Dubai's ideas were unconventional to say the least.

Henry Kissinger once wrote an article about the dangers of the United Arab Emirates making $900 billion a year, according to his estimate, because of rising oil prices. He published this article right after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Now the loss of $200 billion seems quite tame.

It is permissible to construct, but impermissible to launch into a full-fledged development scheme. This is the accepted wisdom. This is the equation of permissibility and impermissibility. And many countries, learning from Gamal Abdel-Nasser's fate, now stick to this equation. Some go slow on development because it is the safest way. They may have a point, for countries trying their luck at full-scale development are often ostracised.

The Arabs live in a restricted horizon, their fate restricted by others: the West or the globalised world as a whole. Dubai rebelled against that fate. It acquired its own glass fa├žades, as well as the highest tower in the world. Simon Hendersen, a Baker fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Programme at The Washington Institute, jokes about what happens to the tallest building when all the tenants leave. Does it become the emptiest building?

Arabs with dreams of full-scale development mustn't ridicule Dubai. To mock Dubai is to approve of the restrictions placed upon us. Dubai belongs to all the Arabs. It is a model that deserves support, not indifference.

Dubai should once again rise, like a phoenix from the ashes, helped by its Arab brethren. The risk was worth it, although the ideologues may disagree and the police mentality may be offended.

Dubai was part of our progress. We cannot gloat at it now, or even forget about it. Dubai is not dead yet. We, the Arabs, have a chance to learn from it. A nation that cannot learn is doomed.

We cannot think small utilitarian thoughts when we think Dubai. This city-state is part of the Arab renaissance. It has gone far and it deserves some applause.

Dubai was not a mirage, but a project for prosperity. At one point, it employed nearly one-fourth of the cranes in the world. If the West wants to make fun of Dubai, let them. Let them say that building glass and steel buildings was unrealistic. Let them joke about Little Manhattan on the Gulf. But tourists have spent a lot of money in Dubai's fancy hotels, and may do again.

Dubai may be able to cover its foreign debt, now estimated at $80 billion, as well as the Dubai World debts of $26 billion. It will be hard, but not impossible.

In Washington, analysts have voiced fears about the ability of Dubai to maintain a policy that is relatively independent from the region. This, Hendersen says, is impermissible. For example, Dubai has forged relations with France and gave the latter a base too. Some consider this as an impermissible attempt to achieve international balance.

Despite the disputed islands, the UAE is trying to maintain even-handed relations with Tehran. Iran and the UAE have substantial economic ties and many Iranians own real estate in the UAE. Most of Iran's gasoline imports come from supply stations in Dubai and Fujairah. Of course, the US may put pressure on the UAE to stop shipping gasoline to Iran. And the Americans may rethink of their navy's regular use of Jabal Ali's facilities in the UAE.

Dubai was our chance to get better at functional thinking and historical understanding. We cannot disown it now.

* The writer is director of the Centre of Strategic Information and Studies in Damascus.END

Dubai firms highlight strength amid debt questions

Dubai business leaders voiced support Thursday for some of the emirate's stronger state-linked companies, as the finance chief dismissed media coverage of the sheikdom's debt woes as "blind panic" and the city-state's main stock market snapped out of a three-day downward spiral.

Government-owned Emirates airline, the region's biggest carrier, said its finances were secure and announced it had lined up more than $1 billion in financing for six more Airbus A380 "superjumbo" planes.

Meanwhile, the head of the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority said the utility provider has "unequivocal confirmation" of continued support from creditors after Moody's Investors Service cut its credit rating to junk status earlier in the week.

Dubai Fallout Makes Financing Tougher as Gulf States Compete

The race between Gulf states to build the biggest airport, tallest skyscraper or glitziest hotel is turning into a competition simply to convince banks to keep lending to the oil-rich region.

Emirs, presidents and sheikhs of the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council meet in Kuwait next week with the days of easy credit over following a year of debt defaults and deferred payments. State holding company Dubai World said Dec. 1 it was seeking to restructure $26 billion of borrowing.

“Financing will be harder to attract for all companies in and related to the Gulf in the next few quarters as international banks will be loath to have any association with regional corporates and governments, regardless of their stability,” said Emad Mostaque, who helps manage $100 billion at Pictet Asset Management Ltd. in London.

Emaar blocks Dubai Holding merger

Dubai Holding, the conglomerate owned by the emirate's ruler, received a blow yesterday when Emaar Properties blocked a proposed merger with its real estate arms. Emaar's decision appeared to be a bid to protect itself from the continuing fallout of Dubai's debt problems.

The company's board said there was no economic sense in merging with Dubai Holding, whose interests included real estate, leisure and investment holdings.

This surprise announcement came from the government, which owns 32 per cent of Emaar.

Dubai rebounds after merger called off

The Dubai stock market bounced back on Thursday after Emaar, a leading real estate developer said that it was breaking off talks to merge with three weaker competitors.

Emaar, 32 per cent owned by the government of Dubai and the developer of Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building, is a bellwether stock of the Dubai Financial Market. Its shares surged 15 per cent to hit their maximum daily limit while Arabtec, a major contractor, also gained strongly.

The Dubai market, which has been hard hit by worries over the emirate’s debts, gained 7 per cent to close at 1,641 points.

Bombs fail to deter oil auction bidders

The world’s biggest oil companies will bid on Friday for the rights to Iraq’s largest undeveloped fields, shrugging off the threat of terrorism and fears over political instability.

The live auction comes three days after bomb attacks in Baghdad claimed more than 110 lives and amid growing uncertainty over Iraq’s political future ahead of elections set for March 7.

Despite those concerns, representatives of all the biggest international oil companies are expected to attend the two-day event at Iraq’s oil ministry in ­Baghdad. This will be the second auction. The first was held earlier this year and included Iraq’s already developed fields, which need modernisation following years of war and sanctions.