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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Nakheel sells off range of cars - The National

On a barren, sandy plot wedged between two luxury hotel developments on the Palm Jumeirah, about 50 men scramble in front of a line of 4x4s.

They yell out their bids, hoping to snap up a Nissan Patrol or a Range Rover at bargain-basement prices.

The auctioneer, dressed in a cream-coloured dishdash, bellows the going price of a white H2 Hummer over a megaphone towards the crowd - "43,000! 46,000! 47,000! 50,000!" Five minutes later, the 2003 vehicle is sold for Dh58,000 (US$15,790).

MENA stock markets close - March 15, 2011

Status 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)

Bahrain declares state of emergency | beyondbrics –

Saudi Arabian tanksIn the latest attempt to dampen political unrest, Bahrain has called for a three-month state of emergency. According to state media, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has said Bahrain’s armed forces chief is authorised to take any measure necessary to ”protect the safety of the country and its citizens”. The announcement comes a day after Saudi Arabian troops entered Bahrain amid mass protests calling for a constitutional monarchy.

Saudi Arabia’s main Tadawul index is currently down 2.4 per cent after a rally last week. This is what Bahrain’s currency, the dinar, is doing.

(Bloomberg chart: Bahraini dinar against the US dollar)

UAE oil deal — boon or much ado about nothing

The Korean government was supposed to announce with great fanfare a mega-sized agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) securing stakes in reserves of more than 1 billion barrels of oil.

The strong earthquakes and the resultant tsunami in nearby Japan late last week had Seoul play it down. But bureaucrats here can barely contain their delight in disclosing the deal with an estimated value of $100 billion.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed Sunday by state-run Korea National Oil Corp. (KNOC) and its counterpart Abu Dhabi National Oil will have both parties participate in oil field development beginning in 2014.

Bahrain CDS spike 24 bps to highest since July 2009-Markit | Reuters

The cost of insuring Bahraini sovereign debt against default for five years jumped to its highest since late-July 2009 on Tuesday as investor worries intensified following the arrival of Saudi troops on the strategic island kingdom.

Bahrain five-year credit default swaps (CDS) spiked 24 basis points higher to 333 bps, according to data from Markit.

About 1,000 Saudi troops entered Bahrain on Monday to protect government facilities as part of an effort by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council to help the government cope with pro-democracy demonstrators.

Palm Hills sees challenge to survive in 2011 | Reuters

Palm Hills Developments, Egypt's second-biggest listed developer, said it faced a battle for survival this year, despite a record year for sales in 2010.

"Our message today is mixed: 2010 was the best year for sales in Palm Hill's history," said Yasseen Mansour, chairman and chief executive officer. "That said, this coming year is going to pose challenges for our continuing survival."

Palm Hills, which builds mostly luxury units, posted a 2.1 percent fall in fourth-quarter net profit to 181 million Egyptian pounds.

Mideast Stocks Fall, Led By Saudi Arabia on Gulf Stability Concern, Japan - Bloomberg

Middle East shares fell, with Saudi Arabia’s index dropping the most in two weeks, amid concern about the region’s political stability as Gulf Arab states sent troops to Bahrain to restore security. Oil declined.

Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC), the world’s biggest petrochemicals maker, declined for a third day. The Tadawul All Share Index tumbled 4 percent, the most since March 2, to 5,983.53 at 1:27 p.m. in Riyadh. Dubai’s benchmark DFM General Index (DFMGI) lost 1.9 percent and Israel’s TA-25 retreated 2.2 percent. In Japan stocks plunged on concern of further leaks from a nuclear power plant. The MSCI World Index retreated and oil fell on concern the Japanese crisis may weigh on demand.

“I would put it down to political uncertainty as key given the situation in Bahrain and the risk of it spreading to the rest of the GCC,” said Adnan Haider, head of fixed income and equities at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC. “And then the global uncertainty in Japan.”

Oil down more than $2 on Japan nuclear fears | Reuters

Brent crude fell by as much as 2.2 percent to below $112 as a deepening nuclear crisis in Japan and rising radioactivity levels heightened risk aversion across financial markets.

Japanese authorities warned that radiation levels had become significantly higher around the nuclear power plant on Tuesday after explosions at two reactors, and the French embassy said a low-level radioactive wind could reach Tokyo within hours.

April Brent fell $2.04 to $111.63 a barrel at 0922 GMT after trading as low as $111.19. Prices on Monday touched a two-week low of $111.16, down more than 7 percent from a 2-1/2 year high hit on February 24. U.S. crude for April dropped $2.16 to $99.03.

FT Alphaville » Another market overreaction?

It’s probably not the time to say this, given Tuesday’s sharp sell-off, but are some financial markets overreacting to the Japanese earthquake?

From Nomura:

An annual standard deviation for the Nikkei in just three days! For Nomura’s Owen Job, that seems to be an out sized and over-the-top reaction.

Assessments of the economic impact of the earthquake in Japan vary,but at just over $100bn this would be similar to the cost of Hurricane Katrina to the US. The S&P declined 5% in response to Katrina, but later rebounded 10%. The Nikkei is currently down nearly 20%.

Another major market repricing after earthquake has been the decline in US 2yr rates across major curves, down 16bp, 22bp and 15bp across USD, GBP and EUR curves, respectively (adding to the 16bp and 10bp declines in US and UK 2yr rates since the escalation of the MENA crisis). This is not a rational and data-based repricing, in our view. US economic data has been strong, and the major contagion channel for both crises is likely to be through energy costs. A rise in energy costs is ambiguous for monetary policy – it could simultaneously add to downside growth risks and upside inflation risks.

MENA stock markets 1.30 p.m. snapshot(GMT+4)

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)

Dubai's Default Risk: Better than Portugal, Worse than Egypt — Dubai Analysis — GCC Market Analytics

Sheikh Mohammed believes that Dubai has recovered from the impact of the global economic crisis. However, it seems that finincial markets aren't as convinced.

The table below (via the Think Big blog) ranks sovereign credit deafult swap (CDS) prices. CDS's are like insurance policies against a default with higher CDS prices reflecting a higher chance of default.

As you can see, Dubai has a high risk of default ranking. The fact that Dubai sits between Portugal and Egypt in the rankings says it all.

Of course, markets have been known to be wrong when it comes to pricing risk. On the other hand leaders and politicians are almost never correct when it comes to making economic predictions (Sheikh Mohammed certainly didn't forsee the meltdown that Dubai's economy experienced over the past two or three years).

The problem for Dubai is that, just like Greece and Ireland, it now has a mountain of debt to service and repay. That debt is going to be a serious drag on the economy going forward. And judging by the CDS price some investors are predicting that Dubai, in the end, won't be able to pay those debts back in full.

Arab economies: Throwing money at the street | The Economist

IF YOU don’t own your citizens’ loyalty, perhaps you can rent it for a while. That seems to be the mantra of Arab regimes at the moment. Throughout the Middle East and north Africa, they are showering their citizens with money and gifts, like Hosni Mubarak’s policemen hosing down protesters with water cannon in Tahrir Square.
Governments in the region have long controlled prices of food and fuel. If you fix domestic prices and world prices rise, subsidies will increase even if the regime does nothing. Egypt keeps bread prices at a few cents a loaf. With wheat prices soaring, Mr Mubarak promised that bread would stay cheap, raising subsidies which now run at over $2 billion a year. The new government can hardly break his promise.
Fuel subsidies are bigger. In 2009 they amounted to roughly $150 billion in the Middle East and north Africa. Oil then cost just over $60 a barrel. It is now almost double that, so if prices were to stay at the same level regional fuel subsidies would rise to almost $300 billion this year. That is 7.5% of the area’s GDP, a vast amount. The only way to prevent such a jump would be to increase domestic fuel prices. But no countries have been brave enough to risk that except Qatar and Iran.

UPDATE 1-Dubai World unit nears $2.2 bln loan deal | Reuters

Drydocks World (DDW), a unit of debt-ridden Dubai World [DBWLD.UL], expects to complete the restructuring of a $2.2 billion loan by April 30, its chairman said on Tuesday.

"We are in the final stages of restructuring for the Dubai Drydocks World. The headline terms have been agreed upon," Khamis Juma Buamin told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Dubai.

Dubai Drydocks signed a $2.2 billion loan involving 15 lenders in October 2008, according to Thomson Reuters LPC. The shipbuilding arm of Dubai World has a $1.7 billion loan maturing in November 2011.

A special report on property: Bricks and slaughter | The Economist

THERE are plenty of candidates, from the ghost estates of Ireland to the foreclosure signs on American homes. But as a symbol of the property cycle that still distorts the world economy, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (pictured above) takes some beating. The world’s tallest building is literally built on sand. Its height, at half a mile (838 metres), violates a basic rule of commercial property: when land is plentiful, build outward to use up as much of it as possible. The building opened in January 2010, just weeks after the emirate announced a standstill on debts largely incurred on glitzy property projects. Its name was hastily changed from Burj Dubai to Burj Khalifa to honour the ruler of Abu Dhabi for sending bail-out funds to its fellow emirate. A year on, tourists cluster at its base to take photos or to visit the observation deck; inside, many of the flats lie empty.
Dubai’s record-breaker is also a powerful emblem of forgetfulness. According to Andrew Lawrence of Barclays Capital, the construction of exceptionally tall buildings is a reliable indicator of economic crises in the making. From the time the first skyscraper went up—the Equitable Life Building in New York, in 1870—to the completion of the Empire State Building (1931) and the World Trade Centre (1972) in the same city and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur (1998), great height has usually coincided with big trouble.
Mr Lawrence’s theory is not perfect, but it feels right. Property moves in cycles, and the more ambitious the scale of construction on the way up, the steeper the drop on the way down. A sharp turn in the property cycle is a serious matter. The five big banking blow-ups in the rich world before the latest crisis (Spain in the 1970s, Norway in the 1980s and Sweden, Finland and Japan in the 1990s) had property at their heart. Banking crises in the developing world have also tended to happen at the peak of housing booms or just after a bust in prices.

Gulf debt issuers eye local markets

Looming refinancing needs and investors’ hefty appetite for high-quality debt is prompting Gulf issuers to look at tapping local currency markets in Asia to raise capital, an executive at Standard Chartered said.

Deepak Kohli, head of capital markets for Middle East at the UK lender, said discussions were ongoing with clients for potential issuances in Asia, including the fledgling offshore yuan market in Hong Kong.

“Many of the local currency markets in Asia are becoming stronger and more open to issuers from outside the country. There’s an interest and we are obviously discussing with a lot of our clients,” Kohli said in an interview last week.

Dubai Property Prices Fall in February as Supply Grows, Deutsche Bank Says - Bloomberg

Dubai property prices declined at a monthly rate of 1.7 percent in February, driven mainly by new supply, Deutsche Bank AG said.

Real-estate prices in the Persian Gulf emirate may face “further downward pressure” this year, the bank said in a research report dated yesterday.

“Although the pace of decline has reduced lately, we still do not see any improvement in fundamentals that could trigger a recovery,” the bank said.

Asian markets: the shock spreads | beyondbrics –

It hasn’t taken long for the financial impact of Japan’s earthquake/nuclear disaster to spread from Tokyo to other Asian markets.

On Monday, Asia ex-Japan was resilient in the face of the 6.2 per cent plunge in the Nikkei. On Tuesday a 10.5 per cent drop in Tokyo, driven by the worsening news from the Fukushima atomic power plant, prompted a widespread Asian sell-off. Investors have decided – as beyondbrics predicted on Monday – that such a crisis is bound to have region-wide economic impact.

Shares in Seoul closed closed down by 2.4 per cent, in Shanghai by 1.4 per cent and in Taiwan by 3.35 per cent. In Singapore, stocks were trading 2.57 per cent, having earlier been over 3 per cent down, and in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was 2.9 per cent lower.

Blackouts in Japan pose danger to chip supplies | beyondbrics –

In the immediate aftermath of the disastrous earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan last Friday, assumptions on the impact for the global manufacturing value chain were mostly guesswork. But that is changing now.

Spot prices of certain semiconductors have started soaring on fears of shortagescaused by supply disruptions of certain components from Japan. Prices of NAND flash chips – used in smartphones, cameras and a range of other electronics – were up 20 per cent on Monday, according to iSuppli, the electronics research firm.

“While there are few reports of actual damage at electronics production facilities, impacts on the transportation and power infrastructure will result in disruptions of supply, resulting in the short supply and rising prices,” it said.

gulfnews : Underwriters staying away from region's political risk

Global underwriters are declining to extend political risk insurance for the Gulf states, with the notable exception of the UAE and Qatar. This could have far reaching consequences for the Gulf when it comes to attracting overseas funds in the short- to medium-term, insurance industry sources said.

This is a direct fallout from the recent political and social turmoil in Bahrain and to a lesser extent in Oman.

The curtailment of political risk coverage has happened only "over the last 10 to 15 days", according to a highly placed insurance industry source. "It's stopped altogether, and there's little appetite among underwriters to absorb such risks even at a high premium," he added.

It's time to be bold in developing Middle East gas - The National

Conventional wisdom is usually right - but nothing beats an unconventional idea whose time has come.

The Algerian oil minister Youcef Yousfi, speaking at the high profile CERAWeek energy conference in Houston last Wednesday, gave the first hints of a revolution in the region's gas industry. But unless policymakers can adapt, this opportunity will be missed.

Mr Yousfi estimated Algeria has a resource of 1,000 trillion cubic feet locked in shale rocks, six times its conventional reserves and of a similar size to Qatar's North Field, the world's largest gas accumulation.

Qatar plans to invest up to $170bn in 10 years

Qatar’s 2011-2012 budget which starts on April 1 is expected to exceed the 2010-2011 target with 40 percent allocated to infrastructure projects, Minister of Finance and Economy H E Yousuf Hussein Kamal said yesterday.

Yousuf Hussein would not put a figure on this increase, saying it was still undecided as discussions were still going on between the Ministry of Economy and Finance and other ministries.

Qatar’s real gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to record 18 percent growth in 2011 if oil prices stand at between $70 and $75 per barrel, but if oil prices exceed $75 per barrel then this growth will be even stronger.

gulfnews : Dubai trade up despite unrest, Iran concerns

Unrest across the Middle East and increased scrutiny over exports to Iran are unlikely to impact trade through the regional hub Dubai, and volumes are expected to rise 16 per cent in 2011, the emirate's customs head said.

Trade volumes in Dubai, a key trade and tourism gateway to the UAE and wider Gulf region, climbed last year on easing concerns about Dubai's restructuring and the global recovery.

"We expect non-oil direct trade to reach Dh1.2 trillion ($327 billion) in 2015. That is an average growth of 16 per cent per year," Ahmad Butti, director general of Dubai Customs, told Reuters in an interview on Sunday.

Joint venture to take stake in Iraqi telecoms firm Korek - The National

France Telecom and Agility, a Kuwaiti logistics company, have bought a minority stake in the Iraqi telecommunications operator Korek Telecom.

The two companies will form a joint venture to take a 44 per cent stake in Korek with an option to take majority control in 2014.

The deal will expand France Telecom's presence in the Middle East while providing Korek with the boost in capital it needs to build its wireless network throughout Iraq. Korek is Iraq's third mobile company after buying a licence from the government in 2008 for US$1.25 billion (Dh4.59bn) and has spent $900 million building a mobile network across the country.

Dubai-owned Emirates Airline set for record results - The National

Emirates Airline is expected to post record results next month despite regional political turbulence and the rising price of oil.

The Dubai Government-owned carrier is expected to achieve a net profit of about US$2 billion (Dh7.34bn), analysts say.

The airline recorded a first-half result of $925 million in earnings after a 19.4 per cent jump in passenger traffic during the period, running from April to September, compared with the same period in 2009. Its fiscal year closes at the end of this month.

Weak trading and global crisis hit DFM profits - The National

Persistently weak trading volumes, compounded by the global financial crisis, sent profits at Dubai Financial Market (DFM) Company down by more than 75 per cent last year.

Similarly weak trading patterns have continued this year, despite improvements in the world's economy, as political unrest has worried investors across the Mena region.

Analysts said the lack of substantial trading volumes on the Dubai market, which are equally weak on Abu Dhabi's stock exchange, could be helped by a merger of the emirates' bourses. - Bahrain tensions push oil near 30-month highs

Oil prices hovered near their highest in 2½ years on Monday as tensions in the Middle East surfaced again after Saudi troops entered neighbouring Bahrain to support the tiny Gulf kingdom’s embattled royal family against a widespread surge in protest.

The political crisis in the Middle East and north Africa, with battles continuing in Libya, outweighed concerns about a drop in oil demand in Japan, the world’s third-largest oil consumer after the US and China, following Friday’s devastating earthquake.

In afternoon trading, ICE April Brent, the global benchmark, traded 5 cents higher at $113.89 a barrel. Earlier, Brent touched a session high of $114.18 a barrel.