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Monday, 9 August 2010

Dubai exodus on hold as expats feel heat

Dubai’s wealthy expatriates have traditionally rushed for the airports in early summer, escaping the oppressive Gulf heat for extended breaks in their home countries.

This year, some Muslims have chosen not to holiday abroad as the holy month of Ramadan starts later this week, and others have cut short vacation time to return to Dubai to fast with friends and family.

This summer, however, it is economic, not only religious, values that are dictating the summer holidays."

Qatari banks face shake-up despite strength

Qatar National Bank's head office building

When the global financial system buckled, few countries acted as swiftly and aggressively in propping up their banks as Qatar, the small but wealthy Gulf emirate.

Although Qatar’s banks looked relatively healthy at the time, thanks to a buoyant local economy, the government took no chances. In October 2008 the authorities announced that they would inject additional capital and increase the government’s equity stakes in all commercial banks to at least 10 per cent.

In early 2009 the government followed this by buying the entire domestic stock market and real estate portfolios of all banks at par, to ward off any mark-to-market losses.

Dubai bank's deal resurrects securitisation

Abandoned cars may have become a potent symbol of Dubai’s shift from boom to bust, but Emirates NBD has successfully sold a bundle of auto loans to Japanese investors, a move that could have significance well beyond the Middle East.

The Y24bn ($280m) asset-backed security (ABS) issued by Emirates NBD, based on about 22,000 car loans in the emirate, will formally close on Tuesday, and will be one of the first securitisation deals in emerging markets since the financial crisis.

Analysts say it could encourage more securitisation in the region, which has not seen any transactions since the $1.1bn Sun Finance vehicle issued by Sorouh Real Estate in Abu Dhabi in August 2008.

Zain Reports First-Half Profit of $3.1 Billion After Asset Sales in Africa - Bloomberg

Mobile Telecommunications Co., the Kuwaiti phone operator known as Zain, reported a first-half profit of $3.1 billion as it gained from asset sales in Africa.

Net income for the six months ended June included $2.65 billion from the sale of assets in Africa, the company said in an e-mailed statement today. Consolidated revenue in Zain’s Middle East operations rose 10 percent from a year-earlier to $2.33 billion, it said.

“With the sale of the Zain Africa assets now concluded, coupled with a healthy cash balance and reduced debt levels, the company is now well positioned to focus on, and further grow, its profitable Middle East operations,” Chairman Asaad al-Banwan said in the statement.

Abu Dhabi Shares Decline Most in Six Weeks on Aldar Cuts and Aabar Falls - Bloomberg

Abu Dhabi stocks fell the most in almost six weeks after EFG-Hermes Holding SAE cut Aldar Properties PJSC, the emirate’s biggest developer, to “sell” and a purchase offer for Aabar Investments PJSC shares expired.

Aldar slumped to the lowest since February 2009 as EFG joined banks cutting its recommendation on the shares. Aabar, the investor de-listing from the bourse, tumbled 6.7 percent. Abu Dhabi’s ADX General Index lost 0.6 percent, the most since June 30, to 2,511.45, at the 2 p.m. close in the capital. Dubai’s benchmark rose 0.5 percent and the Bloomberg GCC 200 Index gained 0.2 percent at 2:52 p.m. in Abu Dhabi.

“The Aldar downgrades and fears of dilution have contributed to negative sentiment,” said Ziad Dabbas, a financial analyst at National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC, the United Arab Emirates’ second-largest lender by assets. “Confidence in the market is low as second-quarter earnings failed to impress and as volumes continue to fall.”

Dubai's DIFC Investments in $1 bln revamp,

DIFC Investments, part of the group which operates Dubai's tax-free business hub, has begun a $1 billion-plus restructuring plan to divest non-core investments by the end of 2011, ratings agency Standard & Poor's said on Monday.

S&P assigned a negative outlook for the real estate and financial investments group but removed it from its CreditWatch status where it placed the company on November 25.

"Although we view this (restructuring) as a positive step with respect to DIFCI's creditworthiness, we think it involves execution risk," S&P said in a statement.

Abu Dhabi eyes Nabucco pipeline stake

Abu Dhabi's investment fund IPIC is considering taking a stake in the planned Nabucco pipeline that is supposed to deliver gas from the Caspian region to Europe, an Austrian newspaper reported on Monday.

IPIC, which owns a stake of Nabucco leader, Austrian oil and gas group OMV, was interested in becoming Nabucco's seventh shareholder, Salzburger Nachrichten reported, without saying where it got the information.

A spokeswoman for OMV declined to comment on the report but added that Nabucco was in principle open for new shareholders."

Abu Dhabi's Taqa Second-Quarter Profit Rises 26% on Foreign Exchange Gains - Bloomberg

Abu Dhabi National Energy Co., the state-run utility known as Taqa, reported a 26 percent increase in second-quarter profit as it gained from foreign exchange transactions and higher commodity prices.

Net income rose to 171 million dirhams ($46.6 million) from 136 million dirhams a year earlier, Taqa said today in a statement to the Abu Dhabi bourse. The company made foreign exchange gains of 116 million dirhams in the quarter after a loss of 112 million dirhams in the year-earlier period.

“Total revenues have continued the upward trend which commenced at the end of 2009, benefiting from a more positive commodity pricing environment,” Chief Executive Officer Abdulla Saif al-Nuaimi said in the statement. “We remain opportunistic and open to bolt-on acquisitions which consolidate our geographic footprint, fit naturally with our core competencies and offer the potential to increase our financial returns.”

Rough flight for Air Arabia - The National Newspaper

Air Arabia, the Middle East’s largest low-cost airline, has ended a turbulent second quarter with profits falling 44 per cent and fuel costs rising from a year earlier.

But the airline saw strong growth in passenger numbers, which rose 11 per cent from the second quarter last year to 1,108,310 as its new centre opened in Alexandria.

“Air Arabia continues to post sustained quarterly profits with a high seat-load factor and rising passenger traffic,” said Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Thani, the group’s chairman."

Iran Sanctions Make China, Russia Winners While Reliance Loses - Bloomberg

Sanctions punishing Iran for its nuclear program are deepening the country’s ties with China and handing Russia opportunities to sell more gasoline while hurting suppliers in Europe and India.

Iranian Oil Minister Masoud Mir-Kazemi and Chinese officials pledged for their countries to cooperate more closely in the energy industry during talks in Beijing on Aug. 6, Iran’s government-run Press TV reported. Russia’s state-controlled OAO Rosneft and OAO Gazprom Neft may step up fuel shipments to the Islamic republic this month, the Iran Commission of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in July.

“These countries have long-term interests in the region,” said Gary Sick, a member of the U.S. National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan and the principal White House aide for Iran during the 1979-81 hostage crisis. China wants “to maintain relations with Iran for the sake of maintaining some access to the oil,” he said.

Dubai Brokerages Shutter as Stock Trading Tumbles to 4-Year Low - Bloomberg

Stock brokers in the United Arab Emirates are struggling to make ends meet as trading volumes tumble to the lowest in four years, forcing some to close.

The number of brokerages in the country may drop to as low as 55 from 81, according to Shuaa Securities LLC, the brokerage unit of the U.A.E.’s biggest investment bank. Twelve firms, from Abu Dhabi-based Makaseb Islamic Financial Services to Dubai- based IFA Securities LLC, filed requests to the Securities and Commodities Authority to halt operations this year as costs rose and revenue fell. Seven shut or suspended operations last year and three in 2008.

Brokerages are closing after a surge in share prices fueled by declining borrowing costs and rising oil prices faltered in 2006. Dubai amassed more than $100 billion of debt as it transformed itself into a financial hub and triggered a credit crisis last year after real-estate prices slumped. The average daily volume of shares traded in Dubai has slumped to 173 million so far this year from 477 million in the year-earlier period.