Sunday, 13 June 2010
As Saudi Arabian investors accelerate efforts to farm land overseas, a group of leading businessmen said on Saturday that they were launching an agricultural company to grow rice under contract with growers in Asia.
The Far East Agricultural Investment Co, an SR100m ($26.6m) investment vehicle, has already arranged leases in Cambodia, Vietnam, Pakistan and the Philippines for aromatic and long grain basmati rice, both intended to export to Saudi Arabia at market prices, said Mohammed Abdulla al-Rajhi, chairman of the new company. The first harvest of rice, about 60,000 tons, is due to arrive to Saudi Arabia early next year, he said.
“We will start with rice, but we will expand to cover all other strategic foods the kingdom needs,” Mr Rajhi told Financial Times. Mr Rajhi, who also heads the Tabuk Agricultural Development Company, said that the new company would grow tropical fruits and contract land suitable for wheat and corn in central Asia.
United Gulf Bank BSC, a Bahrain- based investment bank, plans to sell a stake in Tunis International Bank to Burgan Bank SAK of Kuwait as part of a plan to dispose its stakes in four banks for $725 million.
The sale of its holding in Algeria Gulf Bank, Bank of Baghdad and Jordan Kuwait Bank has been completed and the disposal of its stake in Tunis International will be completed once regulatory approval has been received, United Gulf Bank said in a statement to the Bahrain Stock Exchange today.
Dubai International Capital LLC, the fund owned by Dubai’s ruler, had its board dissolved in January by its parent company, Dubai Holding.
“Dubai International Capital confirms that its board was dissolved in January 2010 by its parent company, Dubai Holding, in order to implement a new governance structure,” Dubai International Capital said in an e-mailed statement today. “DIC is currently under the direct supervision of Dubai Holding. All sub-committees of the DIC board including investment and audit committees remain in place.”
Sameer Al Ansari, the non-executive chairman of DIC, has resigned, The Sunday Times reported today without citing anyone. Ansari quit because of “the poor performance” of the company’s investments, the newspaper said. Ansari also left DIC’s investment committee, and the boards of Travelodge Ltd. and Doncasters Plc, according to the report.
Egypt shares helped lead Middle East markets higher after global stocks rallied as concerns about Europe’s debt crisis eased and the U.S. Federal Reserve said the economic recovery is intact.
Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, the largest mobile-phone company in the Middle East by the number of subscribers, gained 2.3 percent on media reports it’s in talks to sell its African units, excluding Algeria. Egypt’s EGX 30 Index gained 1.9 percent, the most since June 3, to 6,360.37 as of 11:15 a.m. in Cairo. Israel’s TA-25 Index increased 1.4 percent and Abu Dhabi’s ADX General Index rose 1.1 percent.
“Local markets tend to follow global trends,” said Ziad Dabbas, financial analyst at National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC, the United Arab Emirates’ second-largest lender by assets. “Today’s movements are following positive global closes toward the end of last week, as they improved investor sentiment.”
Wealth funds of gas-rich Qatar are likely to make further global real estate investments as prices in countries such as Germany decline, Jones Lang LaSalle said in a report today.
The funds "are likely to be emerging as the new powerhouse in terms of global real estate capital flows in 2010," Fadi Moussalli, regional director at Jones Lang LaSalle MENA said in the e-mailed report.
"Cash-rich and with a strong appetite for splashy overseas assets, Qatari vehicles have lately outshined their counterparts from the region and are projected to carry on with their rapid expansion across the real estate world," Moussalli said.
Many publicly listed companies are still working towards compliance with the UAE’s new corporate governance regulations even after the May 1 deadline.
The new rules, which were announced three years ago, require the companies to create an internal control system to safeguard shareholder rights, improve transparency and specify the duties of boards of directors.
The rules are enforced by the Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA), which is working with companies and allowing a grace period to help them comply, said Tarik el Bakri, a partner at Hadef and Partners, a law firm in Abu Dhabi.
Dubai and other regional financial centres need legal systems that protect Islamic bond investors in the event of a default, a top Islamic scholar says.
“What good is it in the event of a default if you can’t have access to the underlying assets?” said Rifaat Abdel Karim, the secretary general of the Islamic Financial Services Board, a body based in Kuala Lumpur that sets standards for Sharia compliance. “As an investor you need to know what you get.”
Several defaults on Sharia-compliant bonds, or sukuk, during the global financial crisis have tested their young legal structures for the first time. The Investment Dar, a Kuwaiti company that owns half of the British luxury car maker Aston Martin, was first in the Gulf to default after it missed a regular payment on a US$100 million (Dh367.3m) sukuk last May. Saad Trading, Contracting and Financial Services, part of Saudi Arabia’s Saad Group, defaulted on a $650m sukuk last November.
An Abu Dhabi investment company’s acquisition of the senior debt of the largest property development in Oman is likely to boost the country’s property economy, analysts say.
Blue City was envisioned as a US$20 billion (Dh73.46bn) tourism centre about an hour from Muscat on the Indian Ocean. The project slowed when the financial crisis hit in 2008 and is now effectively controlled by Essdar Capital, a company backed by two members of the Abu Dhabi Royal Family.
“Now that there is a new company in control, it will allow for a lot quicker decision making about moving the project forward,” said Ian Gladwin, the Oman-based regional director of the property consultancy Cluttons. “It’s vitally important that the project is seen to progress. It can only be good for the real estate market of Oman.”
Sameer Al Ansari has resigned from Dubai International Capital (DIC), the private equity firm that owns Travelodge, the hotel chain, and engineer Doncasters.
Al Ansari, who spearheaded an attempted takeover of Liverpool Football Club, has relinquished his post as non-executive chairman of DIC after the poor performance of its portfolio. He has left DIC’s investment committee, and the boards of Travelodge and Doncasters.
Al Ansari helped set up DIC in 2004 as a cornerstone of Dubai’s attempts to build an overseas investment empire. He was previously finance chief at the executive office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s ruler.
Qatar with its huge natural resources and thrust on infrastructure development feels like a “very vibrant” place, State Street president and CEO Jay Hooley has said.
“In the last one and a half years since we have been here, I have seen the emergence of buildings and new infrastructure in Qatar. This feels like a very vibrant place. It looks like an attractive place to do business – for both investing in and servicing assets.
“And we are here not just to do business, but to be an integral part of the community. That’s why we have taken up place and put people on the ground,” said Hooley in an interview with Gulf Times.