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Monday, 18 April 2011 - Banking: A slow and uncertain recovery

One of Kuwait’s most enduring memories from the financial crisis was the unprecedented queues of anxious depositors that formed outside the branches of Gulf Bank after rumours of the lender’s financial distress spread in October 2008.

A derivatives trade gone horribly awry had straddled Gulf Bank with a massive loss, sparking a bank run – the first in living memory in the region – and forcing a swift bail-out from Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund.

Gulf Bank’s derivatives mishap may have been the nadir for the country’s large and varied financial sector, but most of the industry has suffered from the aftershocks of the global and regional economic downturn.

Dubai's Emaar riding to rescue of Indian JV Emaar MGF - CNBC-TV18 -

Dubai's Emaar Properties is coming to its Indian joint venture Emaar MGF's rescue, reports CNBC-TV18. Sources say Emaar has decided to assume a USD 270 million debt from Horizon, which will help in extending the repayment period by three years.

Emaar MGF, which has been unsuccessfully trying to tap the capital markets since January 2008, is also in talks with private equity players to raise nearly Rs 400 crore for two of its Gurgaon projects. Sources say the realty firm is talking to Tishman Speyer, Sun Apollo and Morgan Stanley for this project level financing.

When contacted, Emaar MGF said it is regularly in talks with quite a few potential investors and lenders, that these talks are generally confidential in nature and thus it cannot comment further at this stage. CNBC-TV18 also learns that Emaar MGF is in talks with Starwood Capital to raise USD 200 million at the entity level, which will require dilution of both partners-Emaar and MGF. - Abu Dhabi property begins to compete

The price of living and working in Abu Dhabi is gradually becoming more competitive with neighbouring emirates and countries as new office space becomes available and the city’s housing costs continue to slide.

Average residential rents have fallen 40 per cent in Abu Dhabi since the market’s peak in 2008, say analysts with Jones Lang LaSalle, the consultancy.

The estimated 16,000 new homes scheduled to come on to the market this year – double the number of 2010 – will drive rents down further, although not enough to meet local demand for middle-income housing.

Is the oil market really oversupplied? | Energy Source –

Brent priceThe only thing more surprising than the comment from Ali Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, that the oil market is oversupplied, is how seriously the market appears to have taken it. The oil price has dipped sharply today, according to some at least, because of Naimi’s comments.

The evidence Naimi cites is that the Saudis cut output last month by some 800,000 barrels per day. Some of this may have come from reduced Japanese output, afterthe earthquake put many of its refineries out of action. But this demand is likely to return relatively soon – it certainly shouldn’t be viewed as gone from the market in the long term.

Another, possibly more important reason for the Saudis to cut output is to manage their medium-term spare capacity. Although the market is comfortable with the 3.5m barrels the Saudis say they have, traders are particularly concerned about whether that number is rising or falling. To support prices, the Saudis have to show that capacity is not being eroded.

MENA stock markets close - April 18, 2011

Dubai Group Is Said to Restructure $10 Billion of Liabilities - Businessweek

Dubai Group LLC, an investment company owned by the emirate’s ruler, is restructuring $10 billion of liabilities, up from an original estimate of $6 billion, two people with knowledge of the discussions said.

The $10 billion includes $6 billion of bank debt and $4 billion owed to other investors, according to the people, who declined to be identified because the information is private. Discussions are at an early stage and an agreement is several months away, one of the people said.

A spokesman for Dubai Group declined to comment.

MENA: dividends for the discerning | beyondbrics –

Since the ousting of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak sparked civil unrest across the Mideast and north Africa, more parochial investors may have been tempted to lump the whole region into a pot marked “too risky”.

The more discerning spotted opportunity.

The Dubai Financial Market index is back to pre-Tahrir Square levels, having bounced 22 per cent since early March, a time when investors were indiscriminate in their fear of the civil unrest in the Gulf and beyond.

Dubai's JAFZA '10 profit halves; bond to be refinanced, UAE Industries - Maktoob News

Full-year profit at Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), a unit of state-owned conglomerate Dubai World more than halved, and the firm said it was eyeing options to refinance an Islamic bond due in 2012.

In a statement accompanying its financial results, JAFZA's chairman said the company was considering refinancing options for its 7.5 billion dirham ($2.04 billion) Islamic bond, or sukuk, its only outstanding debt.

"The establishment commenced work on the liability management and is currently exploring various refinancing options," Chairman Hisham Abdullah Al Shirawi said in a statement, referring to the sukuk.

Retail investors double share of trading on Nasdaq Dubai in Q1

Individual investors on Nasdaq Dubai more than doubled their share of equities traded value on the exchange to 7.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2011, up from 2.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2010, the exchange said in a statement today.

The strong increase came after Nasdaq Dubai started routing all its equities trades through the trading platform of Dubai Financial Market (DFM) in July 2010, in order to improve access by individual investors.

The value of trades by individuals rose to $14.8 million in the first quarter of 2011, up 52 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2010. Total traded value – by institutions and individuals – fell 44 per cent in the same period, to reach $202 million in the first quarter of 2011.

Oil Declines in New York After Saudi Arabia Says Market Is `Oversupplied' - Bloomberg

Oil declined for the first time in four days in New York after Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter, said the global market has adequate crude supplies.

Futures slipped as much as 1.1 percent after Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said yesterday the “market is oversupplied.” Crude fell 2.8 percent last week on speculation price gains spurred by conflicts in the Middle East will curb economic expansion. The world economy is being hurt by “very high” oil prices, said Nobuo Tanaka, the International Energy Agency’s executive director.

“The price recovery may have been delayed by al-Naimi’s comments, but I think the general trend is for the market to move higher,” said Christopher Bellew, senior broker at Bache Commodities Ltd. in London. “Investors are cautiously returning as it becomes apparent that Libyan crude may be unavailable for some time, and as unrest continues in other countries.”

UAE to have better fiscal position - Emirates 24/7

Strong oil prices will ally with lower expenditure to bolster the UAE’s fiscal position in 2011, with Abu Dhabi’s balance turning positive and Dubai’s budget shortfall projected lower, a key Saudi bank has said.

Abu Dhabi’s budget balance will also be strengthened by revenue from its state oil company ADNOC and return from its massive overseas assets, controlled mainly by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), National Commercial Bank (NCB) said in a study sent to Emirates 24/7.

Citing official data, NCB said Abu Dhabi projected a budget a deficit of Dh84.9 billion in 2010 based on an oil price of about $60 a barrel.

DP World to sell stake in P&O Trans Australia | News by Country | Reuters

DP World (DPW.DI: Quote) agreed to sell its remaining stake in container services firm P&O Trans Australia (POTA) for A$106 million, the port operator's second sale in Australia in the last five months.

DP World will sell the stake to Qube Logistics (QUB.AX: Quote), the two companies said in separate statements on Monday.

The deal, which consists of the purchase of DP World's shares and related loans, is expected to be completed by the end of April and will provide Qube with a 94.5 percent stake in POTA with management owning the remaining 5.5 percent, Qube said.

UAE competition could force out overseas contractors - Construction -

The hyper-competitive construction market in the UAE could force some overseas contractors to exit the market, according to senior figures in the industry.

"Overseas companies may leave - maybe what was working in 2007 to 2008 doesn't provide the basis for the number of firms that will be here in the future," said Al Habtoor Leighton managing director and CEO Laurie Voyer, who was speaking during the Cityscape Abu Dhabi event.

"There are far too many competitors for opportunities and somewhere along the line that will need to be sorted out."

Business : The UAE economy: An Arab safe haven

The UAE has emerged as the obvious safe haven (with Qatar) from the geopolitical tempest that has reconfigured the social contract in the Arab world.

The oil shock is a windfall for Abu Dhabi, owner of one tenth of the world’s oil and gas reserves, whose government infrastructure spending is the growth catalyst for the Federation. The protracted political riots in Bahrain reinforce Dubai’s bid to be the preeminent financial, tourism, trade services and aviation/shipping hub of the Middle East. Global oil companies and banks have relocated the families of their staff from Tripoli, Damascus, Sanaa, Bahrain and even Cairo to Dubai in a tradition that goes back to the fall of the Shah, the Lebanese unrest and the Iran-Iraq was in the past generation. Regional capital flows will also be attracted to the UAE because political risk premia have spiked in almost every banking market in the Arab world.

Hotel occupancy rates, airport passenger traffic, school/school enrollments, traffic, Jebel Ali export volumes, bank deposit growth rates in Dubai and Abu Dhabi reflect the post-Arab spring realities. Bahrain’s future as an international financial centre could well be undermined by the current unrest. This happened to Beirut, which lost its status as the money souk of the Levant after the PLO, Druze and Phalangist militias gutted its financial district in the opening round of unrest that culminated in Syrian intervention and two horrific Israeli invasions of Lebanon. Financial centres cannot coexist with political risk. Hence the role of the UAE as a banking safe haven.

UPDATE 1-National Bank of Oman Q1 up 16.7 pct, beats estimates | Reuters

First quarter net profit at National Bank of Oman NBO.OM, the sultanate's second-largest lender by assets, jumped 16.7 percent, beating analysts average expectations.

The bank made a quarterly net profit of 7.7 million rials ($20 million), compared with 6.6 million rials in the same period last year, it said in a statement to bourse on Monday.

Analysts polled by Reuters had estimated an average first quarter profit of 6.86 million rials.

gulfnews : Halal index is new Islamic investment frontier

The newly launched Socially Acceptable Market Investments (Sami) Halal Food Index has a market capitalisation in excess of $114 billion (Dh418 billion).

The world's first Halal Food Index was unveiled at the opening of WHF 2011 by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, former Malaysian prime minister.

Experts say the index will be a bridge-builder for Islamic funds, exchange-traded funds and sukuks as well as for global non-Islamic investors interested in the emerging food sector. Here are some basic facts about the index and its role in the future of Islamic investing.

Big dividends stage return in the UAE - The National

Generous dividends are back in fashion on local markets, and with them a revived debate about whether such payments are a wise move for companies.

Many companies suspended dividends after the global financial crisis first jolted Gulf bourses at the end of 2008, but this year cash dividends - money distributed to shareholders out of a company's earnings - are again being paid.

In fact the dividend yield, which is the ratio of payouts in dividends each year relative to share price, continues to be higher in this region than in some of the world's major markets.

Citadel Capital makes sure its case is known - The National

Citadel Capital, an Egyptian private equity company, denies a charge it bought a cement maker from the government at an under-valued price.

In repeated statements to the press in recent days, the company said it bought Helwan Portland Cement from private owners, not the government, contradicting reports that a claim was filed with the country's public prosecutor on those grounds.

But the statements did little to keep the army of sellers at bay as the company's shares headed to their lowest close on record. The stock slumped almost 10 per cent to end at 4.69 Egyptian pounds.

DFSA moves against financial scams - The National

The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) has closed a loophole that allowed the advertising of unlicensed services.

Under the new rules, financial services can be promoted in or from the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) only by companies regulated by the DFSA or another UAE federal authority.

While previously the DFSA policed the offering of all financial services in the DIFC, a loophole meant the communications used to market products were unregulated.

Full: Lessons forgotten with Saudi focus on the short term - The National

One of the great myths in the oil world is that Saudi Arabia is the force for price moderation. The Saudis have played their role to perfection ever since the days of Sheikh Zaki Yamani, the urbane oil minister, in the 1970s.

The Saudis follow Theodore Roosevelt's advice to "speak softly and carry a big stick"; their stick being the world's largest oil reserves.

Conversely, the "price hawks", led by Iran and Venezuela, consistently trumpet the virtues of higher prices. In their view, the "fair price" is US$10 higher than whatever it is today. As in the old Texan expression "all hat and no cattle", they are content to talk big.

Oman to spend billions on jobs

Oman plans to raise the salaries of civil servants and spend $2.6 billion on creating jobs and state aid reported the Associated Press on Sunday.
The announcement of the spending boost comes after two months of sporadic protests by demonstrators asking for more jobs and greater representation in government.

On Saturday, the country’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, promised pay raises and benefits for 120,000 civil servants and pensioners, according to a report in Times of Oman.

In March, the Sultan had ceded to demands of protestors asking for a raise in salary by increasing the living allowance of government employees by 100 Omani rials ($260). He also increased the pension of civil servants by 50 percent.
“My pension is now 154 rials more than it was before, a rise of 40 percent,” Ahmed Al Jahdhami, a retiree based in Muscat, told the newspaper. “I used to get 512 rials and now I get 666 rials, thanks to the royal grant.”

A tribute to a pioneering Kuwaiti entrepreneur » Kuwait Times

Born in 1944, Nasser Al-Khorafi was a Kuwaiti businessman and the founder of M.A. Khorafi & Sons. With the Khorafi Group showing an annual turnover of around $4.3 billion in sales, Al-Khorafi's net worth continued to increase steadily in recent years due to the rising share prices of several Khorafi Group holdings, including Zain, National Bank of Kuwait and Americana, the sole Middle East franchise-holder for a number of US fast food chains.

Nasser Al-Khorafi may be best remembered amongst his many pioneering roles as the founder and chairman of the Khorafi Group, one of the largest and most diversified conglomerates in the Arab world, with the group's lucrative food division, Americana, holding the exclusive franchise rights in the Middle East for fast food brands including KFC, Wimpy, TGI Friday's, Cadbury's, Pizza Hut and Saint Cinnamon. He is also the largest individual stakeholder in the popular doughnut company, Krispy Kreme holding 13.8

This year Al-Khorafi also featured heavily in the British press after his name was linked to a rumored buyout of Newcastle United football team. Reports claimed the billionaire was in discussions to buy the club for $440m, but the rumors were later denied.

Kuwait's Zain still seen for sale despite shareholder death | Reuters

Kuwait's Zain (ZAIN.KW) should remain for sale despite the death of Nasser al-Kharafi, one of telecom operator's top shareholders and former chairman of the indebted Kharafi group.

"It all depends on who succeeds Kharafi, but Zain is likely to still be up for sale," said Irfan Ellam, Al Mal Capital vice president in Dubai. "It depends on the financial situation of the Kharafi group. Assets could be sold to pay down debts."

The group's interests span real estate, retail and financial services, but these were hit hard by the financial crisis and it has direct and indirect liabilities likely to total at least $5 billion, said Naser al-Nafisi, general manager for Al Joman Center for Economic Consultancy in Kuwait.

Templeton's Mobius bullish on MEast despite unrest | Reuters

Veteran emerging markets investor Mark Mobius is bullish on Middle East markets and expects recent political events to benefit the region in the long-term, he said on Sunday.

"My outlook is very positive because I see these political changes result in more open societies, more dialogue and therefore better environment for markets including stocks and bonds," Mobius told reporters in Dubai.

"I am not saying the ride is going to be smooth and in many places we could see some bumps but the overall trend is positive."

Leighton's Dubai unit may need bail-out

Al Habtoor Leighton, an affiliate of Leighton Holdings, may need a cash injection from its parent firm if its ongoing legacy projects are not paid on time, its top executive says.

"We have reported to our three shareholders the sensitivities of cash and cash collection. (If) we don't get paid or something gets delayed then we need standby facilities," Al Habtoor chief executive said Laurie Voyer said.

"At the end of the day, the shareholders need to come to terms with how to take the business forward."

Oil Traders, Not Saudi Arabia, Are Responsible For Oil’s 2011 Rise | Arabianomics

“The reason i tell you these figures is because the market is oversupplied.”

These are the words of Saudi Aramco chief Ali al Naimi, speaking about Saudi production figures, in Kuwait, according to Bloomberg.

Saudi energy strategy is becoming clearer by the day. With output levels rising and new blends in the works, it is becoming obvious that Saudi Arabia-for now- is leaving the pricing to speculators and traders in New York and London.