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Monday, 7 March 2011

Saudi Shares Advance to Two-Week High on Reforms; Dubai Drops - Businessweek

Saudi stocks rose to a two-week high on optimism the kingdom may escape the political unrest sweeping the region as the government introduces economic reforms and on speculation government-back funds bought local assets.

Saudi Basic Industries Corp., the world’s biggest petrochemicals maker, gained 2.7 percent, and Al Rajhi Bank, the kingdom’s biggest lender, jumped to the highest level this month. The Tadawul All Share Index climbed 3.3 percent to 5,950.74 at the 3:30 p.m. close in Riyadh, the highest since Feb. 23. The gauge has gained 12 percent in the past three days, following a 15 percent decline last week. The Tadawul All Share Bank Index rallied 5.5 percent.

“Investors are feeling more confident that the kingdom is less vulnerable to what is happening in the region,” said Amro Halwani, a senior trader at Shuaa Capital PSC in Riyadh. “The government is taking fast steps to introduce reforms, and government-backed funds intervention in the market has put a floor on prices, at least in the short term, and helped widen risk appetite amongst retail investors.”

FT Tilt - S&P, Barclays join the no-revolt-in-Saudi camp(Registration)

While investors in the Saudi stock market have begun pricing in the possibility of significant domestic unrest, plenty of analysts have said such an event is highly unlikely. On Monday, Standard & Poor's joined that chorus.

The rating agency has kept the Kingdom's sovereign credit rating stable, reflecting what analysts on a conference call said was "our view that [civil unrest] is not going to happen in Saudi Arabia".

The rationale was largely economic: with more than $400bn of reserves, the country has ample leeway to spend its way out of trouble, with King Abdullah's announcement of a new $36bn spending program an early sign of how the government plans to deal with unhappy citizens.

Dubai Shares Retreat, Leading Decline in Gulf, on Widening Political Risk - Bloomberg

Dubai’s shares retreated for a third day in four as escalating conflict in Libya and concern regional political unrest may spread to Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, sparked demand for safer assets. Tunisia’s benchmark index rallied as trading resumed.

Emaar Properties PJSC (EMAAR), builder of the world’s tallest skyscraper, fell 1.2 percent and Dubai Islamic Bank PJSC (DIB) dropped the most since March 2. The DFM General Index (DFMGI) declined 1 percent, the most since March 3, to 1,375.13 at the 2 p.m. close in Dubai. The gauge has lost 15 percent since Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in January. Qatar’s QE Index gained 2.6 percent. Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index (SASEIDX) dropped 0.3 percent at 1:53 p.m. in Riyadh.

Investors are shunning assets in the region as the political turmoil, which started in Tunisia more than two months ago, expanded to Oman, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Iran. Websites have called for a nationwide Saudi “Day of Rage” on March 11 and March 20, Human Rights Watch said in a statement posted on its website Feb. 28.

Kuwait’s Capital Market Regulator to Start Operations This Month - Bloomberg

Kuwait’s Capital Markets Authority is likely to start operating this month after its bylaws are published in the weekly Official Gazette, an official at the authority said today.

The bylaws were approved March 3 by the authority’s five- member board and sent to the gazette for publication, Yousuf al- Ali, a board member, said in a telephone interview.

Kuwait’s parliament in February 2010 approved a bill to create the authority, the country’s first stock market regulator.

Bahrain files money laundering charges against executives from Saudi-controlled Awal Bank -

Bahraini authorities have filed money laundering charges against several executives with a bank controlled by a Saudi billionaire embroiled in a massive cross-border fraud dispute.

The charges issued against Awal Bank executives by the country's public prosecutor's office did not identify the defendants, in line with Bahraini law. Authorities said the case was referred to the Lower Criminal Court for a March 14 hearing.

Nawaf Hamza, the public prosecutor, declined to comment further on Monday or to provide details of who was charged.

Moody's analyst sees Mideast growth hit by turmoil - Business Wire -

Economic growth across the Middle East could take a significant hit because of the political upheaval roiling the region, a senior analyst at credit agency Moody's Investors Service said Monday.

Tristan Cooper, the firm's head analyst for regional sovereign ratings, said as much as 2 percentage points of economic growth could be wiped out this year.

"Now that we've seen this political turmoil erupt in the region, it's likely that the economic growth trajectory will have been altered quite significantly," he said at a conference in Dubai.

MENA stock markets close - March 7, 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)

Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi Raise Oil Prices: Persian Gulf Oil - Bloomberg

Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil exporter, raised its official selling prices for all crude grades to customers in Asia and Northwest Europe for April shipments and cut prices to buyers in the U.S.

Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., the state-run producer in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, lifted official prices to 30-month highs for crude sold in February and increased the amount of oil it will supply in April.

Aldar sets Mubadala bond coupon at 4 pct - Maktoob News

Aldar Properties will pay 4 percent interest on 2.8 billion dirhams ($762.5 million) of convertible bonds to be sold as part of its rescue package, a much higher rate than analysts had expected.

Abu Dhabi developer Aldar, which is selling the bonds to state-owned fund Mubadala, announced the coupon in a statement to the bourse on Monday.

Analysts said the market was expecting the interest charged by Mubadala to be notional in view of the government's rescue of the struggling property firm.

Oil: another turn of the screw | beyondbrics –

With Libya lurching closer towards civil war, the markets are getting more and more nervous – not least the oil market.
Brent crude rose another 1.8 per cent on Monday, taking the April contract to a new 2011 high of $118.11 a barrel. That’s a cumulative increase of nearly 20 per cent since the unrest started in mid-January in Tunisia.
As Charles Robertson, the chief economist at Renaissance Capital, said in a note:
Right now economists are trying to work out whether to revise all of their forecasts on the back of higher oil prices, while hoping that an easing of tension in the Middle East will make this unnecessary. Post-Libya, we are no longer confident that oil prices will fall back towards $90/bbl in the coming weeks and, if unrest spreads to Saudi Arabia or Iran, we could see oil prices surging past $130/bbl.

China approves $9 bln Sinopec-Kuwait project -sources | Energy & Oil | Reuters

China's top economic planning body, the National Development & Reform Commission granted final approval for the $9 billion refinery, petrochemical joint venture between Sinopec and Kuwait, two sources told Reuters.

The venture, including a 300,000 barrel-per-day refinery and a 1 million tonne-per-year ethylene complex, would make Kuwait the second OPEC nation after Saudi Arabia to have a major refining presence in the world's fastest growing major oil market.

The project, to be built in the southern coastal city of Zhanjiang and potentially one of the country's largest foreign investments, would be 50-50 owned by Sinopec Group, parent of top Asian refiner Sinopec Corp (0386.HK: Quote).

Bahrain Islamic Bank postpones capital hike | Reuters

Bahrain Islamic Bank BISB.BH postponed a planned $143 million rights issue on Monday citing market conditions, after Bahrain was hit by clashes between its Shi'ite population and the Sunni-led government. Bahrain Islamic is a small retail bank that said last July it planned to raise about 54 million dinars ($143.2 million) in additional capital.

It posted a 2010 net loss of 39 million dinars as it wrote down some property investments and booked impairment provisions.

"Due to market conditions that are beyond the bank's control...the bank's board of directors has resolved in its meeting on Sunday 6 March 2011 to postpone the rights issue," it said in the statement.

Exclusive dealerships likely to go

If the government has its way, exclusive dealerships might not remain a preserve of Qatari companies any more.

Plans are afoot to open up protected dealership trade to foreign competition to ensure that the prices of durables (including, perhaps, automobiles) and other key imports come down to rational levels. Exclusive dealerships are so far a monopoly of Qatari companies and the law (Number 13 of 2000) regulating the trade forbids non-Qatari investment in the sector.

But the Ministry of Business and Trade is quite enthusiastic to permit non-Qatari investment in the sector and has, thus, proposed amendments to some key articles of the above law.

FT Tilt - Moody's likes Abu Dhabi's bailout resolve, worries about Dubai Inc(Registration)

While investors are currently skeptical of pretty much any Middle East corporate, Moody's has stressed the Abu Dhabi government's "pervasive influence and positive interventionist nature on Abu Dhabi's development".

This year alone, the Abu Dhabi government has bailed out the state-owned property developer, Aldar, and the district cooling company, Tabreed (district cooling companies build centralised infrastructure that provides air conditioning to entire neighbourhoods.) Its strategic investment company, Mubadala, fully incorporated ATIC, the semiconductor business established by the government in 2008, giving it access to an almost-sovereign credit profile; another sovereign-guaranteed investment vehicle, IPIC, bought out Cepsa, Spain's second-largest oil company, in which it had previously acquired a minority stake.

From Moody's:

Moody's Investors Service considers support by Abu Dhabi for its strategic state-owned companies as being highly probable. Additionally, Moody's expects that support may from time to time also be provided on a case-by-case basis to other private companies, which, in the government's view, have a strong and strategic linkage either to the Emirate's economic development or the pursuit of its other broader strategic policy mandates.

Iran’s Opportunity In The Persian Gulf - Energy Source - How we power the world - Forbes

For many observers, the instability in North Africa bodes ill for the oil-rich Persian Gulf states, which constitute the world’s primary oil-producing region — and what bodes ill for the Persian Gulf would also be a grave concern for the global economy. But it is important to keep in mind that North African states are quite poor as a rule, while the Arab states of the Persian Gulf are among the richest locations on the planet, largely due to their petroleum wealth. Moreover, while Arab leaders in the Persian Gulf certainly take a large slice of the national wealth for themselves, they do not hoard all of the wealth as the regimes of Egypt and Libya traditionally have done.

In many of the Persian Gulf states, the elite realize full well that the groups they represent do not form a plurality, much less a majority, of the populations of their states. The ruling family of Saudi Arabia is only 100,000 (at the most) out of a population of roughly 20 million. More than 80 percent of the inhabitants of the United Arab Emirates are imported labor without citizenship. At least two-thirds of Bahraini citizens are Shiite while the ruling family is Sunni.

The Arab elite’s solution to this demographic mismatch is to mix an authoritarian political setup with an aggressive sharing of the petroleum largess. Subsidy rates — whether for food, electricity, housing or gasoline — are lavish. The rulers of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf essentially purchase political quietude.

The real reason STRATFOR sees the Persian Gulf’s Arab states as being threatened has less to do with spontaneous protests and more to do with foreign-instigated unrest — and this would-be instigator is Iran. Iran has struggled to increase its sway on the western shores of the Gulf since long before the mullahs rose to power in 1979, and in this new viral-protest age, Tehran sees an opportunity.

FT Tilt - Adam Smith, Francis Fukuyama and MENA equities(Registration)

"What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government," Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man, 1992.

"No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members are poor and miserable," Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776.

The decades-long democratic deficit in the MENA region -- before regional revolts gathered pace -- was unique in the modern political world order. Every other region in the world, according to Freedom House, enjoyed a degree of political pluralism, while the MENA region stood still.

Tunisian Stocks May Gain When Suspended Bourse Opens Monday After 20% Drop - Bloomberg

Tunisia’s stock exchange said it will resume trading today, a week after it shut down for the second time since a popular revolt ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January.

The announcement was posted on the bourse’s website yesterday.

Tunisia’s benchmark index has plunged more than 20 percent this year as the North African country’s uprising ended Ben Ali’s 23-year rule and inspired demonstrations across the region. Renewed protests to remove from power those linked to Ben Ali forced Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi to resign on Feb. 27. Interim President Fouad Mebazaa named former Foreign Minister Beji Caid Essebsi as premier and called last week for the election of a national council to write a new constitution.

AGAINST Forgiving Loans « Alpha Dinar- talking Gulf finance

Members of the Kuwaiti parliament are, yet again, working on a proposal that forces the government to pay all outstanding interest on consumer loans. Some even want the government to write-down the loans in their entirety. Another proposal, in the works, asks the government to write-off all outstanding utility bills. Mind you: utility bills already mostly subsidized by the government!

Both laws are unfair, unrealistic, unnecessary, reckless, destructive, and morally hazardous. Yet, regardless of all the scary adjectives describing the consequences of such proposals, both could actually pass.

Unfair: Some people simply did not take loans. Thus, a portion of Kuwaitis will benefit, while others get left out. What about future generations? Instead of wisely investing their depleting oil resources, we spend it on paying for perishable consumer goods.

Unrealistic and unnecessary: It just does not make sense! According to official figures, only 3.3% of consumers are defaulting on their loans and only 2.5% of all outstanding loans are in default. Is it a significant problem? No. However, it could definitely turn into one if we forgive loans since it will encourage reckless and morally hazardous behavior.

Reckless & morally hazardous: Forgiving loans now will set a precedent for the future. The first thing someone whose loan has been forgiven would do is take on more debt simply because they assume it will be forgiven yet again.

Destructive: It further enhances the consuming vs. producing mentality of citizens. Oil will eventually deplete and future Kuwaiti generations will suffer.

Instead of forgiving loans, Kuwait should invest in infrastructure and human resources. The well-articulated picture above is from a 2008 proposal for the “City of Silk”. More than three years have passed, and we did not hear of any updates whatsoever. If our government cannot wisely invest in infrastructure and human resources, then it would be more prudent to invest the additional portions of our surplus money through the Kuwait Investment Authority.

Moody's cautious on Gulf corporates as unrest looms - Maktoob News

Credit rating agency Moody's is still cautious on Gulf Arab corporates as political turmoil weighs on the region despite a broader recovery underway currently, it said in a report on Monday.

Moody's said the wave of ratings downgrade seen during the peak of the financial crisis in the Gulf markets has abated even though moderate pressure is likely to be seen in 2011.

"The risk of downgrades remains highest for lower-rated issuers, typically in the non-investment-grade spectrum, due to their need to refinance upcoming debt maturities and in some cases continue restructuring their real estate exposures," David Staples, managing director for corporate finance for Moody's said in the report.

gulfnews : Emaar gets Dh214.4m repayment from Amlak

Emaar Properties, the developer of the world's tallest tower in Dubai, said it received Dh214.4 million from Amlak Finance as part of loan repayments in 2010.

Emaar's loans to Amlak, the Islamic mortgage company being reorganised by the UAE government, amounted to Dh712 million at the end of last year, the company said in its reviewed earnings statement on the Dubai bourse yesterday.

The amount owed by Amlak is "unsecured" and earns an average return ranging from 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent a year, it said.

gulfnews : Opening of passenger terminal at Dubai's new airport delayed

The opening of the passenger terminal at Dubai's new airport will be further delayed to 2012, but the emirate's air industry should benefit from unrest in the Arab world, the chief executive of Dubai Airports said.

"Over the next year or so, we are adding larger aircraft and higher passenger numbers," Paul Griffiths said yesterday. "It [Al Maktoum airport] will become a scheduled passenger and cargo airport during 2012."

The opening of the Al Maktoum airport, estimated to cost around $34 billion (Dh124.8 billion), to passengers had been already delayed to the last quarter of 2011 from March.

Deyaar decides again not to pay a dividend - The National

Deyaar Development is a tough sell to investors these days. The Dubai developer's stock's price is down 36 per cent from November, when it posted a Dh525 million loss for the first nine months of last year.

While many UAE property and construction companies have struggled in recent months, Deyaar faces some special long-term challenges. Its board yesterday recommended a dividend should not be issued for last year, which was hardly a surprise. The company did not pay a dividend in the previous two years.

Deyaar is about to realise revenue from a wave of projects started in 2007, before the global property downturn. But it is unclear how the company is going to raise capital for future development, said Chet Riley, an analyst with Nomura Securities, which has a negative rating on the company's stock.

Mubadala to buy out partner - The National

Mubadala Development is taking full control of a property joint venture it formed two years ago with the US developer John Buck to build commercial projects in Abu Dhabi.

Mubadala, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, said yesterday it would buy the remaining 51 per cent stake in John Buck International, the joint venture, for an undisclosed amount this month. Peter Wilding, the executive director of Mubadala Real Estate and Hospitality, said the decision was based on a "realignment" of the company's structures.

"It helps in the sense that we now have absolute control of what we're doing going forward," he said. "This isn't a divorce. This is just an opportunity for both partners to realign."

Middle East unrest could boost oil to US$150, says Nouriel Roubini - Business Intelligence Middle East - - News, analysis, reports

Nouriel Roubini, an economist who predicted the credit-market collapse, said an expansion of troubles in the Mideast could push oil prices as high as US$140-US$150 per barrel, triggering a double-dip recession in parts of Europe.

“If troubles spread to other countries such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, this could push oil prices up to US$140 to US$150 per barrel, which could trigger a double-dip recession in the periphery of Europe and the U.K.,” Roubini said at a conference in Paris.

“We need to worry about inflation” because of the rise in commodity prices and large parts of public deficits being monetized in some countries, Roubini said. The “slack in labor and goods markets will not lead to a significant rise in core inflation or to second-round effects.”

Gulf stock markets track Saudi gains |

Gulf markets rose Sunday, with the Dubai and Kuwait benchmarks pulling away from six-year lows to track gains a day earlier on Saudi Arabias bourse.

Saudi Arabias stock benchmark Tadawul All Share Index (TASI) ended higher for a second day since tumbling to a 22-month low.

TASI traded in a 3.9 percent range, ending 0.92 percent higher at 5,762.50 points to advance for a second day since Saudis finance minister said the economy was in “”excellent”" shape and a rise in oil prices would boost its already-strong financial position, also confirming state pensions had been buying local shares.

34 listed Qatari firms declare QR11bn dividend

Qatari stocks continue to be known for high dividend yield as listed companies remain robust and reported record net profits in 2010.

Estimates suggest that 34 of the 43 entities listed on the Qatari bourse (Qatar Exchange) collectively declared an astronomical QR11bn worth of dividend payout to their shareholders for 2010.

These companies collectively reported net profits to the tune of QR27.8bn, up 13.4 percent over 2009. The dividend payouts work out to more than 45 percent of their (34 listed companies’) collective net profits—a handsome proportion. - Confusion clouds Libya’s investment fund

Standing on the roof of a truck, machinegun in hand, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi was encouraging supporters to confront the people rising up against his father, Muammer Gaddafi. “You have the weapons to fight the terrorists,” he says in a scene captured on camera. “You will be victorious.”

This was the same 38-year-old, self-styled refor­mer until recently seen as offering the best chance of a more rational Libya. He was also the man who held the key to the country’s oil wealth and its $65bn Libyan Investment Authority.

But as the Gaddafi regime comes under intensifying pressure, people who have dealt with the LIA now describe an organisation that was as two-faced as Seif Gaddafi.