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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Gulf Shares Rise as Oil Trades Above $80 and Foreigners Return

Gulf shares gained, led by Saudi Basic Industries Corp. and Aramex PJSC, as oil traded near a 14- month high and foreign investors returned.

Saudi Basic, the world’s largest petrochemicals maker known as Sabic, closed at its highest in more than a year. Aramex, the transportation-service provider, advanced for a second day. Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index added for a fifth day, climbing 0.4 percent to 6,260.9. The DFM General Index rose less than 0.1 percent and Qatar’s DSM 20 Index increased 0.4 percent.

“Saudi went into a bit of a drift in December and now investors are stepping in given stronger oil and the continued strong macro backdrop,” said Ali Khan, head of cash-equity trading at Dubai-based Arqaam Capital Ltd. “International investors were generally under-invested in the fourth quarter” in Dubai.

Exxon signs petchem plant deal with Qatar

Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) signed a deal with state-run Qatar Petroleum to develop a multi-billion dollar petrochemical complex to supply Asian markets, the two companies said in a statement on Wednesday.

Qatar is the world's largest producer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and Exxon is the largest foreign investor in the Gulf Arab state. Exxon has stakes in several of Qatar's LNG projects.

The petrochemical plant in the industrial city of Ras Laffan was expected to start in the fourth quarter of 2015, the statement said. That was a three-year delay on the previous schedule, after years of studies and negotiations between the two companies following an initial deal in 2005.

DP World to Seek London Listing to Improve Valuation

DP World Ltd., the port operator whose parent Dubai World is restructuring debt, said it will seek a listing on the London Stock Exchange as the company tries to boost investor perception of its value.

“We will seek admission for listing in the second quarter of 2010,” the company said today in a statement. DP World said it conducted an “extensive” review with advisers and shareholders before making the decision.

The Middle East’s largest port operator said in March that it would evaluate options to address “continued disappointment” with its valuation on the Dubai market. DP World advanced 4.3 percent to 0.44 cents as of 4:44 p.m., giving it a valuation of $7.34 billion. The stock rose 10 percent last year after falling 68 percent in 2008.

UPDATE: UAE Ctrl Bk Governor: UAE Not Out Of Economic Crisis

The central bank governor of the United Arab Emirates said Wednesday the Mideast's second-largest economy was still suffering from the impact of the global financial crisis and that growth will be limited this year.

"We are still in a crisis, though it's less intense now," Sultan bin Nasser Al Suwaidi told reporters on the sidelines of an Islamic banking event in Sharjah, one of the sheikdoms making up the U.A.E. "Banks may need to take further provisions this year."

Economic growth in the U.A.E. last year was hit by a sharp downturn in Dubai real estate prices and lower revenue from oil. According to Zawya Dow Jones calculations, Abu Dhabi, which pumps most of the U.A.E.'s oil, earned about $43 billion for exports of crude last year.

"There won't be big growth in the economy. The rates won't be high. Markets have started to stabilize worldwide and this will be reflected in the U.A.E. We should not talk about inflation," he said.

The U.A.E.'s economy minister Sultan Mansouri said in December that the economy was expected to grow by 1.3% last year and and 3.2% in 2010. On Wednesday, Al Suwaidi, who is one of the most experienced and senior officials in the emirate, added that home prices in the U.A.E. were once again affordable after the average cost of property in hot spots like Dubai fell 50% last year.

The emirates, which last year exited a plan to create a unified currency amongst the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, said the country won't rejoin in the future.END

Kuwait passes $23bn bail-out bill

Kuwait’s parliament on Wednesday approved a bill that could force the government to buy all $23.3bn of consumer loans in the country, write off the interest and reschedule the payments, despite government opposition to the plan.

The government plans to ask the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Jaber al-Sabah, to reject the law, and the central bank has said that the bill includes legal and technical violations and cannot be applied, according to Kuna, the state newswire.

Nonetheless, the Kuwaiti parliament, which has been locked in a long-standing conflict with the Sabah-dominated government, passed the bill on Wednesday to help indebted nationals.

Thanks to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and soaring oil prices, Kuwait’s economy has surged for much of the last decade and spurred locals to go on a borrowing spree. While the government has run a series of healthy budget surpluses thanks to oil exports, the global recession has hurt many Kuwaitis, who borrowed to invest in wilting real estate and stock markets.

This has led to a populist clamour for the government to bail out its indebted citizens, as it did on at least two previous occasions – after the Souk al-Manakh stock market crash in 1982 and following the Iraqi occupation in 1991.

“It’s good news for Kuwaiti consumers, who are highly leveraged, and anything that helps them is good from a macro perspective. But as an economist it’s difficult to be positive on something like this,” a Kuwait-based economist said on Wednesday.

“There’s a question of moral hazard, and how this will affect consumer behaviour in the future,” he added.

The law – which stipulates that the government use KD8.5bn ($29.5bn) in state deposits at local banks to bail out all consumer loans – can be rejected by the government, but the assembly can overrule that with a two-thirds majority.

If the bill is implemented the Kuwait Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, would incur a loss on returns of KD2.9bn ($9.9bn), Mustafa al-Shimali, the finance minister, told parliament last month. This would cost the government up to KD3.7bn ($12.8bn), he said.

As a compromise, the government had proposed expanding a KD500m “defaulters fund” already set up to help Kuwaitis unable to repay loans. But the passing of the bill ratchets up the heat in a drawn-out conflict between the executive and legislative branches in one of the Gulf’s few near-democracies.

Sheikh Nasser al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti premier, survived a non-co-operation vote in parliament on December 16, but a political stand-off between the government and parliament in recent years has stymied economic development and halted important projects, experts say.

A joint venture between Kuwait and Dow Chemical was scrapped in December 2008 due to opposition from parliament, and a planned fourth oil refinery was put on hold in March.

An economic stimulus bill had to be passed by the government when parliament was out of session due to an election last year, the third in as many years. Following elections in May last year, Sheikh Nasser was re-appointed prime minister by his uncle the emir, to head his sixth government since 2006.END

UAE still not out of economic crisis -cbank, UAE More Economy, Economy - Maktoob Business

UAE still not out of economic crisis -cbank, UAE More Economy, Economy - Maktoob Business

Gulf may launch single currency in 2015, Saudi Arabia Monetary Policy, Economy - Maktoob Business

Gulf may launch single currency in 2015, Saudi Arabia Monetary Policy, Economy - Maktoob Business

Dhabi Group gets approval for Bangladesh sale

A bid by Indian telecoms giant Bharti Airtel to purchase Bangladesh’s fourth largest mobile phone operator Warid has been approved, regulators have said.

The Abu Dhabi-based Dhabi Group, which fully owns Warid Telecom, last month sought approval from the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission for the sale of a 70 per cent stake in Warid.

“The commission has given the go-ahead to transfer (Dhabi Group’s) Warid telecom shares to Bharti Airtel,” the director general of BTRC, Ahsan Habib, said today.

Saudi on track for 4.5% growth

Saudi Arabia’s economy will expand 4.5 per cent this year as increased public expenditure paves the way for sustained economic recovery, the US investment bank Goldman Sachs forecasts.

Strong balance sheets in the banking and household sectors should also help to ensure that the kingdom outperforms most other GCC members, Goldman said in a research note.

“Saudi authorities currently have considerable fiscal resources at hand, which would enable them to support the economy and ensure that recovery is sustained through 2010,” said Ahmet Akarli, an economist at Goldman Sachs.

Still hungry for a complete merger of exchanges

I made a wager about this time last year with a friend in the Dubai International Financial Centre that the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) and NASDAQ Dubai would be merged to produce a single, unified stock exchange in the emirate before the year was out.

I forgot about it until, boarding a plane for London for the season’s jollifications a couple of weeks ago, I got a mobile alert to the effect that DFM and NASDAQ Dubai had signed a deal that appeared to do just that.

For US$120 million (Dh439.5m), DFM was to buy out the 33 per cent NASDAQ Dubai stake held by New York’s NASDAQ.

U.A.E., Bahrain Among Crisis-Prone Emerging Markets, RBS Says

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were added to a group of developing economies considered most at risk of a debt crisis, according to a report by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

“Large-scale” external borrowing by sovereign-linked companies in the U.A.E and “modest” foreign-exchange reserves in Bahrain pushed the countries into RBS’s so-called crisis- prone list, which ranks economies on their ability to repay debt, Timothy Ash, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa research at the bank in London, wrote in a research note.

The global economic slowdown and seizure of credit markets following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008 triggered contractions in emerging economies from Russia to Brazil. Developing countries at risk of a debt crisis increased to 15 from 13 in 2009, suggesting a “more lasting” impact from the global recession, particularly in eastern Europe, Ash wrote in the note dated Jan. 4.

Assembly delays vote on debt bill

Heated arguments between MPs yesterday brought a premature end to the National Assembly session that was due to hold the second and final vote on the multibillion-dinar debt relief plan. The session was first delayed for more than two hours when MPs presented about 10 amendments to the law and asked the financial and economic affairs committee to study them and bring a new report. When the session was resumed, more amendments were presented and its debate created chaotic scenes and heated exchanges between supporters and opponents of the bill.

At this point, speaker Jassem Al-Khorafi adjourned the session for the day when his repeated calls for calm went in vain. Khorafi later told reporters that he was forced to end the session due to chaos and when MPs refused to end their arguments. The arguments were mainly focused on technical details of the controversial bill which calls on the government to purchase around KD 6.7 billion of personal and consumer debts taken by Kuwaiti citizens from banks and investment companies. Under the bill, the government is required to scrap interest estimated at KD 1.5 billion and reschedule the repayment of the principal debt over an extended duration without any interest.

The amendments were technical in nature, the most important of which was not setting a fixed period for rescheduling the debt. The bill only stipulates that the new monthly installment should not exceed 35 percent of the debtors' monthly income. Central Bank governor Sheikh Salem Abdulaziz Al-Sabah later said in a statement that failure to set a fixed duration for repayment would mean that some debts will have to be repaid over periods exceeding 15 years.

Echoes Of Dubai As Saudi Prince Shifts Citi Shares To Prop Up Kingdom Holdings

Prince Al-Waleed of Saudi Arabia has shifted 180 million of his Citigroup shares to Kingdom Holdings in an effort to provide more solid financial footing for the investment company.

Described as an "Unprecedented Move" in its very own press release, the shift effectively puts $600 million into the holding company, which is 94 percent owned by the Prince Al-Waleed himself.

Prince Al-Waleed labeled the difficult economic climate as the cause for this move and said, "We are also confident that these measures will ensure the continuous development of KHC and helps it to withstand the negative repercussions of the global economic crisis.”

Kingdom Holdings invests in a broad set of stocks, bonds, and real estate. Its real estate investments include both Saudi and international assets. Of particular interest, as noted in the press release and at FT Alphaville, is Kingdom Holdings two massive real estate projects in Saudi Arabia, Kingdom City Riyadh and Kingdom City Jeddah. The latter includes a tower which will rise over 3280 ft.

That makes it slightly larger than its key regional competitor, the Burj Khalifa tower recently opened with much fanfare in Dubai. That tower was renamed for the man who orchestrated its bailout, President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Dubai's Mark of Dependence

Just five days before the opening of the world's tallest skyscraper in Dubai, organizers were informed of the shock decision to rename the building after the ruler of Abu Dhabi. For five years, as the project climbed toward its ultimate height of 2,732 feet, it was known as the Burj Dubai. But Dubai's ruler, who took a personal interest in what was to be the ultimate symbol of the city-state's independence, has made the very public sacrifice of naming the tower after his cousin, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The newly named Burj Khalifa is now a symbol of Dubai's loss of independence. But by swallowing his pride, Dubai's Sheik Mohammed may have guaranteed his emirate's economic future, and given anxious investors owed more than $80 billion by the city-state reason to breathe easier. Dubai came close to default last month until Abu Dhabi stepped in with a $10 billion bailout. Bankers are being asked to agree to a standstill on $22 billion of debt owed by government-owned conglomerate Dubai World.

Now, Dubai seems to have acknowledged reality: The United Arab Emirates is one country, dependent on Abu Dhabi and its vast oil wealth. Investors must hope that Sheik Khalifa, in allowing his name to be attached to the new tower, also has acknowledged Abu Dhabi's new reality, and that his support for his troubled neighbor is now nailed down.END

United Arab Emirates Interested In Hynix Stake - Report

The United Arab Emirates government has shown an interest in buying a stake in South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor Inc. (000660.SE), the Electronic Times reported, quoting a Korean government official.

"(The UAE government) showed an interest in acquiring (at least) a part of the stake, if it proves difficult to acquire the entire stake," said the official.

Hynix, the world's second largest maker of computer memory chips by revenue, nearly collapsed under the weight of its debt after chip prices plunged in the previous downturn in 2001.

It was bailed out by creditor banks which became the company's shareholders via several debt-for-equity swaps. Creditors, including Korea Exchange Bank and Korea Development Bank, are now looking to sell their entire or part of their 28% stake in the chip maker.

How much trouble is Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding actually in?

There’s an other-worldly aspect to the news release issued by Kingdom Holding on Tuesday. Let’s start with the title:

In an Unprecedented Move, Prince Alwaleed Grants 180 million from his Citigroup Shares to Kingdom Holding Shareholders at no Cost, With Current Value of SR2.24 billion.
Hmm. So does Kingdom have a capital deficit problem and/or does it have an emergency need for spare assets to pledge as collateral? We (mistakenly) thought that all of HRH’s stake in Citi was held through Kingdom, which the Saudi prince chairs and owns 94 per cent. This Citi stock must be from the funds HRH pumped into the ailing US bank just as the credit crunch was getting going.

Further extracts from the release:

The Company also announced that will call for an Extraordinary General Meeting of its shareholders to approve the reduction of the Company’s capital from SR63 billion to SR37.5 billion (a share for every 1.7 share).

The initiative made by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and the decision made by Kingdom Holding Company will lead the Company to profitability and enable KHC to distribute dividends to the Company’s shareholders once approved by KHC’s Board of Directors. Moreover, this move will allow Kingdom Holding to enhance its position and increase future borrowing capacity.

That raises more questions than it answers. Gifting shares does not, in itself, make a company “profitable.” And why the sudden need to “increase future borrowing capacity”?

Aside from Citi, Kingdom owns some serious assets – stakes in companies like Apple, Pepsico, Proctor & Gamble, News Corporation – as well as genuine trophy assets like the Hotel George V in Paris. HRH, himself, has a pretty pristine reputation in financial circles.

Prince Alwaleed commented: “I personally re-affirm my full and continuous support to Kingdom Holding Company and my initiative to transfer part of my own Citigroup shares is an example of that. We are also confident that these measures will ensure the continuous development of KHC and helps it to withstand the negative repercussions of the global economic crisis.”

Okay, yeah, it’s in trouble. Or at least it was.


We should remind ourselves at this point that HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud is considered to be the wealthiest individual in the Middle East recently put his worth at $18bn – a figure which the magazine says was verified by HRH’s private office.

Of that $18bn total, HRH’s holding in Kingdom spoke for $7.9bn.


Back to the release…

Moreover, Kingdom Holding Company will continue to pursue the development of its two mega real estate projects in Kingdom City Riyadh and Kingdom City Jeddah.

Kingdom City Riyadh is a unique city within a city, located on the Dammam highway North East of Riyadh on an area of 16.8 million square meters. The project will consist of residential, commercial, offices and retail facilities. The city will also include a sports club, leisure, horse riding and education facilities, and open parks that meet international standards of quality and that are environmentally friendly.

Kingdom Tower Jeddah, the world’s tallest tower exceeding 1000 m in height, will be the centerpiece of Kingdom City Jeddah, the largest, most comprehensive real estate development to be built on the Red sea coast of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The project will include offices, villas, apartments, hotels, malls, marina, recreational areas, connecting bridges and much more. It is expected to become a world-leading tourist, business and residential centre and offer the best investment opportunity in the Middle East.

Here’s what that tower is supposed to look like. We’re promised something about 40 per cent higher than Dubai’s new Babel.