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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Guest post: the dismal outlook for Egypt’s currency | beyondbrics –

Over the past twelve months the Egyptian pound has depreciated steadily against the currencies of its trade partners. This has been a policy driven move. In order to partly compensate for the loss in competitiveness resulting from high domestic inflation, the Egyptian central bank sought to push the currency modestly weaker by keeping interest rates low and accumulating foreign exchange reserves.

Amid ongoing political turmoil, the central bank said on Tuesday that it had intervened to halt a steeper weakening of the pound. Whether it can succeed or whether the weakening morphs into an exponential decline will depend partly on how long both the protests last and if the country’s foreign exchange reserves run out.

The Egyptian central bank’s reserves currently stand at $36bn. Commercial banks in Egypt also have net foreign assets that I estimate are worth another $18bn. The central bank will need all that forex ammunition to support the pound.

UAE lender ADCB eyes 150 mln Swiss franc bond | Reuters

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB.AD) has mandated banks for a bond issue in Swiss francs, due to price on Tuesday, the third Gulf lender to test the Swiss market to diversify and access cheaper funding in recent months.

ADCB picked RBS (RBS.L) and UBS (UBSN.VX) for the 150 million Swiss franc ($157.3 million) bond which matures in 2015 with an expected coupon of 3 percent, reported IFR Markets, a unit of Thomson Reuters.

"Swiss franc bonds allow Gulf issuers to tap cheaper funding due to an attractive swap rate with U.S. dollars, and the most attractive maturity is five-year as that is where you are getting the biggest pick-up", said Thomas Christie, fixed income sales trader at Wallich & Matthes in Dubai.

UPDATE 1-UAE developer Aldar deeper in red, Q4 loss $3 bln | Reuters

Aldar Properties ALDR.AD, the struggling developer rescued by Abu Dhabi last month, reported a full year loss of 12.7 billion dirhams ($3.46 billion) on Tuesday after taking massive impairments and provisions.

The property developer, which got a $5.2 billion Abu Dhabi government bailout, said it took writedowns of 11.3 billion last year with most of it -- 10.8 billion dirhams -- booked in the fourth quarter.

The developer said its 2010 loss before impairments was 1.35 billion dirhams. That compares with 2009 profit of 1.01 billion dirhams.

Egypt pound rises on intervention | beyondbrics –

Egypt’s central bank has waded into the currency market to stop the Egyptian pound’s decline against the dollar. Even as the country remains wracked by political uncertainty, the currency strengthened by its biggest daily margin since November on Tuesday after the central bank intervened to buy pounds.

“We saw excessive speculative activity so we intervened to stabilize the market,” Hisham Ramez, deputy central bank governor, told Bloomberg. He declined to provide further details.

The pound was up 1.3 percent to 5.878 against the US currency mid-afternoon in Cairo on Tuesday. In the previous session it fell 1.6 per cent, hitting a new six-year low as foreign investors unnerved by days of violence and uncertainty continued to pull capital out of the country.

UPDATE:Moody's Cuts Jordan Outlook To Negative As Political Risks Rise -

Moody's Investors Service Inc. cut its outlook on Jordan's debt rating to negative from stable Tuesday, citing increased political tensions that could pose risks to the country's fiscal and economic position.

The ratings agency said it would downgrade Jordan's Ba2 rating if the political unrest, similar to recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, causes a decline in its foreign exchange reserves or a jump in public debt.

"There have been a number of anti-government protests in Jordan in recent weeks," Moody's said in a statement. "Demonstrators have been demanding political reform and an improvement to poor living standards. King Abdullah's recent dismissal of the government and promise to accelerate reform was a reaction to these escalating political pressures."

QNB, Doha Bank Gain as QIB May Buy Islamic Bank Units - Bloomberg

Qatari banks with Islamic units rose, sending Qatar National Bank up the most this year, after Qatar Islamic Bank SAQ said it may be interested in buying the Shariah-compliant units of the banks.

Qatar National, the Persian Gulf country’s biggest bank, jumped 3.4 percent, the most since Dec. 5, to 141 riyals at the 1:10 p.m. close in Doha. The shares lost 4.8 percent on Feb. 6. Doha Bank QSC, Qatar’s third-largest bank by assets, rose 2.5 percent, the most this month, to 61 riyals. Commercial Bank of Qatar gained 2.3 percent to 89.5 riyals, the highest since Jan. 24.

Qatar’s central bank in a statement to lenders on Feb. 1 called for non-Shariah compliant banks to close Islamic branches by year-end and stop taking deposits in those units immediately.

Abu Dhabi firms to test Gulf IPO appetite | Reuters

Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest of the seven emirates which make up the UAE, is leading the way in relieving the country's IPO drought, with at least three ready to launch in the first half. No company has been able to raise capital through an initial public offering (IPO) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in two years and Dubai-based Axiom Telecom cancelled its planned IPO just days before an expected listing. [ID:nLDE6B51YK] Now, Abu Dhabi property firm Eshraq and Insurance House, a unit of Finance House FH.AD, are set to test investor demand with listings on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) expected in the first quarter. [ID:nLDE70419J]

Abu Dhabi National Insurance Co (ADNIC) is also planning to partner up with three other entities to launch an IPO for a still-to-be-created Islamic insurance company, two bankers said.

"At least three companies are ready to go public and talks are also going on about companies in Abu Dhabi's health sector to go public," a senior Abu Dhabi-based banker advising two firms told Reuters.

Chart of the week: the “Arab moment” | beyondbrics –

What are the economic trends behind the wave of political unrest currently sweeping the Arab world? And what are the implications of the turmoil for the regional – and indeed global – economy?
This week’s beyondbrics chart (after the break) contains a feast of information about the economies of North Africa and the Middle East – from recent growth levels to shares of world oil production – offering some important, and often surprising, answers to these questions.

MENA stock markets - February 8, 2011

ExchangeStatus IndexChange
TASI (Saudi Stock Market)
DFM (Dubai Financial Market)
ADX (Abudhabi Securities Exchange)
KSE (Kuwait Stock Exchange)
BSE (Bahrain Stock Exchange)
MSM (Muscat Securities Market)
QE (Qatar Exchange)
LSE (Beirut Stock Exchange)
EGX 30 (Egypt Exchange)
ASE (Amman Stock Exchange)
TUNINDEX (Tunisia Stock Exchange)
CB (Casablanca Stock Exchange)
PSE (Palestine Securities Exchange)

Remember TID? « Alpha Dinar

Two weeks ago news circulated that banks were reducing their exposure to Kuwait’s Investment Dar (TID) by selling syndicated loans at distressed levels, at 33 cents on the dollar of a $25 million piece of TID’s loan. Following an earlier trade that was picked up by some traders in the low 20s around three months ago.

While both trades are only a small piece of TID’s $3.55 billion in liabilities, it still buys way for activist investors into the creditor negotiations. Do debt traders see real value in Investment Dar? Probably yes.

Today, TID and the newly appointment coordinating committee of its creditors agreed to a revised plan to restructure the company’s $3.55 billion debt. Under the plan TID will pay KD 405 million of debt in three to four years with an 11 percent profit rate a year, according to the statement. Of that 11 percent, five percent will be paid in cash and the rest ‘‘payment in kind.’’ The remaining KD 600 million will be paid between years four to eight, the statement said.

The plan converts part of the creditors’ debt claims on the company into equity in Investment Dar, the statement said. Investment Dar ‘‘shareholders can reclaim part of this equity if debt repayments are honored in full,” it said. Under the plan, 10 percent of the company’s shares “will be passed to the banks and investors as part of the restructuring package.

CityCenter cutting labor by not filling vacant jobs - Las Vegas Sun

MGM Resorts International is aiming to boost the flagging fortunes of its $8.5 billion CityCenter development on the Strip, in part by reducing its biggest expense: labor.

Aria had about 5,300 “full-time equivalents” as of Dec. 31, down from about 8,800 a year earlier, according to a document sent to investors last month. The 5,300 figure doesn’t represent the number of people working there. Full-time equivalents is a human resources term that quantifies labor expenses by adding up the hours of all employees and dividing that by 40, which represents a full-time workweek.

MGM Resorts doesn’t have an official employee head count for Aria, a figure that’s in flux as the company adjusts staffing to meet demand, company spokeswoman Yvette Monet said. According to the company’s initial figures, CityCenter began operations in December 2009 with about 10,000 employees, but that includes people employed by third parties such as retailers.

FT Alphaville » In Pharaoh’s currency markets

Noted at pixel time — direct (and rather impressive) intervention by Egypt’s central bank in the Egyptian pound, just two days after banks reopened:

Not a wholly great sign for capital flows, is it?

Qatar's QIB may buy Islamic units of conventional banks | Reuters

Qatar Islamic Bank (QISB.QA) (QIB) may snap up the Islamic banking assets of conventional lenders in Qatar, who are facing a central bank order to shut their Islamic operations, a top executive said on Tuesday.

Qatar's central bank this week told conventional banks to close their Islamic operations by year-end, amid worries of overlap between the two, in a surprise move that lifted shares of Islamic lenders. [ID:nLDE71503A]

The central bank gave no direction on whether banks can apply for separate Islamic banking licenses and analysts have said conventional banks may need to sell their Islamic units.

Banking shares in UAE take a hit as investors withdraw - The National

Banking shares took a hit on trading at the open after a combination of bad news from the sector was being digested by investors.

Shuaa Capital declined as much as 3.2 per cent at 10:10am, after the UAE investment bank announced that its loss widened in the fourth quarter. Shares of Shuaa were trading at Dh1.19 after the company disclosed a net loss of Dh186.7m in the fourth quarter from Dh154.3m in the year earlier period, according to a statement to the Dubai bourse.

The investment bank's chief financial officer, David Deards, who joined in March 2010 left the company as the results were released. “Our CFO is currently on unpaid leave and we are seeking to identify a replacement for his position. In the interim, his role has been taken up by other senior members of the firm,” Shuaa Capital said in a statement.

[snap] Turkey’s IP soars 16.9 per cent | beyondbrics –

Turkey’s hot economy just got hotter, increasing fears that the authorities may struggle to keep control of inflation risks.

As Reuters reports, the country’s industrial output rose 16.9 percent year-on-year on December, far exceeding forecasts for a rise of 11 percent. On a seasonal and calendar adjusted basis output soared 5.7 percent on the month, after contracting slightly in November.

This puts Turkey on target for a 7-8 per cent GDP increase for 2010, the highest for any big economy in Europe and among the highest in the world. But it may not last.

Kuwait's Global Investment says wins appeal vs Madina - Maktoob News

Kuwait's Global Investment House said it won an arbitration appeal against Al Madina for Finance and Investment Co over a disputed share repurchase agreement.

In April, Madina won an arbitration against Global over an 11.57 million dinars ($41.28 million) which Global appealed and won. The funds will now be paid to Global, the firm said in a statement on the Kuwaiti bourse website on Tuesday.

Global said it cannot specify how the ruling would reflect on its financials because it depends on when the firm receives the amount from Madina.

Aston Martin Holder, Creditors Agree on $4.9 Billion Debt Plan - Bloomberg

Investment Dar Co., the Kuwait-based owner of half of Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd., and the coordinating committee of its creditors agreed to a revised plan to restructure the company’s debt.

“The Enhanced Supplementary Plan contains revised facilities under which full repayment with profit will take place over a 6- to 8-year period," Investment Dar and the committee said in an e-mailed statement today.

Investment Dar will pay 405 million dinars of debt in three to four years with an 11 percent profit rate a year, according to the statement. Of that 11 percent, 5 percent will be paid in cash and the rest ‘‘payment in kind.’’ The remaining 600 million dinars will be paid between years 4 to 8, the statement said.

Abu Dhabi's Royal Capital plans fixed income, hedge funds - Maktoob News

Royal Capital, an Abu Dhabi-based investment firm, plans to focus on fixed income funds as it taps growing investor demand for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), its head of asset management said.

The two-year-old firm, capitalized at 300 million dirhams ($81.7 million), has already launched two small funds totaling 50 million dirhams.

"We will develop the funds business because it is business of scale. Investor appetite is increasing for certain funds like fixed income," Ahmed Talhaoui told Reuters.

Bank provisions across the Emirates at all-time high - The National

UAE bank provisions for bad loans hit a record high in December.

Provisioning rose 7.5 per cent for the month compared with November to reach Dh44.3 billion (US$12.06bn), according to data from the Central Bank. Compared with December 2009, provisions were up more than 35 per cent.

"It's typical for the year-end that you get some sort of surprise, but this is a big increase," said Raj Madha, a Mena region analyst at Rasmala Investment Bank.

Buyout executives remain upbeat on Egypt interests - The National

Political turmoil in Egypt is likely to hit revenues at companies owned by buyout firms based in the Gulf. But executives say they remain optimistic about the prospects for the country as a destination for investment.

"There are bumps along the road, and this is definitely affecting the short-term performance of our companies in Egypt in terms of productivity and revenues," said Dr Karim el Solh, the chief executive of Gulf Capital in Abu Dhabi. "So we'll definitely miss one or two quarters."

At the same time, Dr el Solh said private equity players - companies that raise funds from investors and buy stakes in private companies - had the luxury of taking a long-term view on the rapidly evolving situation in Egypt.

gulfnews : UAE growth expected to exceed 3% as tourism, services rebound

The UAE economy should grow by more than 3 per cent this year and its banking sector is able to weather difficulties in the foreseeable future, a Central Bank official said on Monday.

The country's economy was hit by some debt woes last year and the Central Bank's growth forecast for this year would be below rates seen before the global financial crisis.

However, the economic outlook has been boosted by rising oil prices and after Dubai World, Dubai's flagship conglomerate, sealed a deal to restructure $25 billion in debt in September.

Egypt Credit Risk Falls to Lowest Since Start of Protests as Crisis Eases - Bloomberg

Egypt’s credit risk is falling to the lowest level since anti-government protests began two weeks ago and international borrowing costs are dropping as the nation’s biggest political crisis in three decades eases.

The cost of insuring Egyptian sovereign debt retreated 32 basis points, or 0.32 percentage point, yesterday to 334, the lowest level since Jan. 25, according to CMA prices in London. The yield on Egypt’s 5.75 percent bond due in April 2020 slumped 39 basis points to 6.21 percent after climbing to a record 7.2 percent on Jan. 31, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The government raised most of the 15 billion Egyptian pounds ($2.5 billion) sought at a debt auction yesterday as negotiations between opposition leaders and Vice President Omar Suleiman on constitutional changes needed to end the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak made “big progress,” Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, a participant in the talks, said on Bloomberg Television.

Islamic banking order has customers worried

Conventional banks, in keeping with Qatar Central Bank’s directive, have stopped opening new accounts and dispensing loans at their Islamic banking units ahead of closing down these operations by the year-end.

But customers of these units, whose numbers run into thousands, are worried, wondering what would happen to their accounts and debt-servicing.

The possibility of the affected units being converted into commercial bank branches is not ruled out, reliable sources point out.

Egypt’s Funding Costs Soar Amid Political Unrest - MarketBeat - WSJ

Egypt’s short-term funding costs surged Monday amid ongoing political unrest in the country, with the yield on its latest treasury bills auction seen sharply higher than the month earlier.

Egyptian central bank treasury bills auctioned Monday will likely be priced in the 11% to 12% range, substantially higher than the weighted average of about 9.5% to 10.6% in the January auctions, two traders familiar with the sale said Monday.

“The three-month maturity t-bill is likely to be priced in the 11% area (average 10.972%), the six-month t-bill average was at 11.484%, and the nine-month average stood at 11.657%,” a dealer with a Cairo-based bank involved in the auction, who declined to be named, told Zawya Dow Jones. “We are waiting for more details.”

Egypt's loss is Dubai's tourism gain - The National

Dubai's hotels and tour operators are welcoming more winter sun-seekers as tourists avoid Egypt in favour of safer destinations.

Hotel occupancy levels in Dubai are 20 per cent higher than this time last year, with the instability of parts of the Mena region playing a role in the increase.

"Dubai is a good refuge, in a way, for tourists," said Samir Hamadeh, the director of sales and marketing at Alpha Tours Dubai. "Being one of the safest destinations in the world, Dubai is always the first option for tourists to divert to and seek as an alternative."