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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Abdullah brothers plan to sell Damas stake -

The jewellery retailer Damas says its majority shareholders, the Abdullah brothers, intend to sell some of their stake in the company amid efforts by the Dubai-based group to recover from one of the emirate’s biggest corporate scandals.
In a regulatory filing to Nasdaq Dubai, the company said it had received a letter from the brothers – Tawfique, Tawhid and Tamjid – announcing their appointment of an unnamed financial adviser to seek the potential sale for “no less” than 45 cents a share.

Analysis - Etihad Airways' push into Europe carries risks | Reuters

Etihad Airways may have stolen a march on its Gulf rivals when it took a stake in Germany's second-biggest airline Air Berlin, obtaining access to the German capital. But the Abu Dhabi carrier could find itself hampered by the airline's financial troubles.

The move by eight-year-old Etihad, one of the United Arab Emirates' flag carriers and owned by the Abu Dhabi government, is an attempt to gain scale quickly as it bids to catch up to rivals such as Dubai government-owned Emirates EMIRA.UL and Qatar Airways.

Last month, Etihad raised its stake in Air Berlin to nearly 30 percent from just under 3 percent, paying approximately 73 million euros (60.5 million pounds) and lending the carrier $255 million (163 million pounds). In return, Etihad received a codeshare agreement giving it access to Air Berlin's dense European short-haul route network and to the German capital ahead of Emirates, one of the fastest-growing carriers in the world, which has been lobbying for years to get into Berlin.

Qatar's next big purchase: a farming sector | World | Reuters

Qatar's energy resources have given it one of the world's highest per capita incomes, a futuristic urban skyline and enough clout to host the 2022 soccer World Cup. But its wealth may not be enough for the arid state to achieve an even more ambitious goal: becoming largely self-sufficient in food.

Like other oil-rich, water-poor Gulf states, Qatar has been investing in large areas of farmland overseas to ensure access to food supplies. The agricultural arm of Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, Hassad Food, has bought land in Sudan and Australia, and has announced plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on agricultural projects in countries including Kenya, Brazil, Argentina, Turkey and Ukraine.

But in contrast to the other Gulf states, Qatar also aims to produce most of its food domestically, by spending massively to boost crop yields and convert semi-desert into agricultural land.

Al Futtaim HC Securities to Shut U.A.E. Brokerage Operations - Bloomberg

Al Futtaim HC Securities LLC, a brokerage based in Dubai, decided to shut operations in the United Arab Emirates after stock trading and volumes slumped.
“Shareholders of Al Futtaim HC Securities have agreed to discontinue the brokerage operations in the U.A.E.,” general manager Hasan Choucri said in a telephone interview today. Al Futtaim Development Services Co. owns a 65 percent stake and Cairo-based investment bank HC Securities & Investment holds the remainder. Al Futtaim was ranked 14th by value traded in December, according to the Dubai Financial Market PJSC’s website.
Some brokerages in the U.A.E. are suspending operations or cutting costs after political unrest in the Middle East and debt restructurings pushed average trading volumes in Dubai to a six- year low. HSBC Holdings Plc will stop offering brokerage services to retail investors in the U.A.E. and focus on institutional clients, the bank said in October.

IPO prospects remain poor after grim year -

Bankers in the Middle East, who once profited handsomely on advisory fees for initial public offerings, will be hoping for a miracle this year.

They should not hold their breath. The value of first-time share sales, or IPOs, dropped 69 per cent in the Middle East and north Africa last year, according to a report released this week by Ernst & Young.

With the region’s corporates still coming to terms with debt piles and a tough lending environment, diversifying sources of funding – particularly through share sales – would be a welcome path to rebuilding balance sheets. But bankers expect IPO markets to remain subdued.

CAPM Investment in Abu Dhabi Said to Consider Halting Operations - Bloomberg

CAPM Investment PJSC, a financial services company based in Abu Dhabi, may suspend operations if global market conditions don’t improve in the next three months, two bankers with knowledge of the situation said.
The company is in the process of halting asset management services and may suspend the investment banking business, said one of the bankers, who declined to be identified because the matter hasn’t been made public.
CAPM, whose subsidiaries include brokerage Asayel Shares & Bonds Trading LLC and Ithmar Invest PJSC, was set up in September 2007, according to its website.
Two officials at the company declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News.

MIDEAST STOCKS-Kuwait slumps to 7-yr low; Gulf markets mixed | Reuters

Kuwait's stock index fell to a seven-year low on Wednesday as foreign investors exited on political uncertainty in the Gulf Arab state, while other regional markets were mixed.

Heavyweight telecom operator Zain fell 1.1 percent, Commercial Bank of Kuwait shed 2.5 percent and Ahli United Bank dipped 1.2 percent.

The index slipped 0.5 percent, its largest one-day loss in six weeks, to end at its lowest close since August 2004 .

MENA stock markets close - January 4, 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)

Abu Dhabi Shares Rise to 3-Week High on Global Economic Optimism - Bloomberg

Abu Dhabi’s benchmark stock index advanced to the highest level in three weeks, led by Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC (ADCB), after economic reports in the U.S. and Germany boosted optimism about the global economic recovery.
Abu Dhabi Commercial, the United Arab Emirates third- biggest lender by assets, rallied the most in a month. First Gulf Bank PJSC (FGB) gained 0.3 percent after JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) said the lender controlled by Abu Dhabi’s ruling family may pay a higher dividend in 2011 and this year. Abu Dhabi’s ADX General Index (ADSMI) climbed 0.3 percent to 2,416.61, the highest since Dec. 14, at the 2 p.m. close in the emirate. The Bloomberg GCC 200 Index (BGCC200) was little changed at 1:05 p.m. in Riyadh.
“The tailwind is coming from the strong overnight gains in global markets,” said Ali Khan, London-based head of Middle East and North Africa equities sales at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. “In the absence of any specific negative news in the U.A.E., there is little or no reason to be hitting stocks down.”

Abu Dhabi to pay for UAE pension hike

The emirate of Abu Dhabi will pay the cost of the United Arab Emirates' decision to hike minimum pensions of former military and federal government employees to 10,000 dirhams ($2,700) per month, a senior government official was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

The number of beneficiaries of the hike, granted by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan on Monday, will exceed 7,000, Younis Al-Khouri, undersecretary and director general at the UAE finance ministry, told Arabic language daily Al-Bayan.

Al-Khouri also said the total cost of the hike would be paid by the emirate of Abu Dhabi, adding that the Ministry of Finance would implement the increase effective from the end of January.

Citi on Middle East: a bull among bears | beyondbrics –

A spot of cheer amid all the gloom? Or a bit of wishful thinking? Entitled Unfashionably Bullish, a Citigroup report published on Wednesday on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) paints a surprisingly rosy picture of the region’s equity markets.

The authors argue that investors are exaggerating the region’s political risks - including the threat of a possible Iran war - and underestimating the growth prospects of some of the region’s companies, notably in transport, investment services and consumer markets.

Abu Dhabi Shares Advance to Three-Week High on Global Economic Optimism - Bloomberg

Abu Dhabi’s benchmark stock index advanced to the highest level in almost three weeks, led by First Gulf Bank PJSC (FGB), after economic reports in the U.S. and Germany boosted optimism about the global economic recovery.
First Gulf gained as much as 1 percent after JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) said the lender controlled by Abu Dhabi’s ruling family may pay a higher dividend in 2011 and this year. Emirates Telecommunications Corp., the United Arab Emirates biggest telephone company known as Etisalat, headed for the highest close since Dec. 19. Abu Dhabi’s ADX General Index (ADSMI) climbed 0.3 percent to 2,415.55, the highest intraday level since Dec. 15, at 12:10 p.m. in the emirate. The Bloomberg GCC 200 Index (BGCC200) was little changed.
“The tailwind is coming from the strong overnight gains in global markets,” said Ali Khan, London-based head of Middle East and North Africa equities sales at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. “In the absence of any specific negative news in the U.A.E., there is little or no reason to be hitting stocks down.”

gulfnews : Abu Dhabi's Aldar says repaid $1.2b bond on time in Nov

Indebted Aldar Properties repaid a $1.18 billion convertible Islamic bond, or sukuk, due on November 10 last year on time, the company said in a statement to the bourse, dated Dec 28 but released on Wednesday.
Aldar, which last week received a new $4.6 billion lifeline from the Abu Dhabi government, clarified the redemption of the sukuk certificates after a request from the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, where it is listed.
The sukuk was arranged as an exchangeable Islamic bond by Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse and National Bank of Abu Dhabi, at a conversion price of 5.69 dirhams ($1.55).

UAE business activity at 4-month low

Growth in business activity in the UAE's non-oil private sector slipped to a four-month low in December as output and new order growth eased and employment stagnated, a survey showed.

The HSBC UAE Purchasing Managers' Index, which measures the performance of the Opec member's manufacturing and services sectors, fell to 51.7 points last month from 52.5 in November.

The adjusted index remains above the 50-point mark which separates growth from contraction, the survey of 400 private sector firms showed.

Indian businessmen manual to be published in the UAE - The Economic Times

The first-ever official directory of Indian businessmen and professional manual in the UAE will be published by the India Trade and Exhibition Centre (ITEC), Middle East.

The manual, to be published under the auspices of the Indian Missions in the UAE and India's Ministry of Commerce, will be released by October 2012.

Sudesh Aggarwal, Chairman of India Trade and Exhibition Centre said the UAE continues to be India's top trading partner with over USD 76 billion bilateral trade in 2010-11.

UAE jeweller Damas' major shareholders eye share sale | Alrroya

The largest shareholders of Middle East jeweller Damas International have appointed a financial adviser ahead of a potential sale of some of their shares, the firm said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday.

The three Abdullah brothers - Tawfique Abdullah, Tawhid Abdullah and Tamjid Abdullah - are aiming to sell the shares for no less than $0.45 each, the statement said.

Damas shares closed on Monday at $0.23 on the Nasdaq Dubai.

gulfnews : IPOs declined 70% in Gulf markets last year

Gulf markets raised a miniscule $843.9 million (Dh3.1 billion) in 2011 as companies shied away from local bourses, a report has found.
This is a decline of almost 70 per cent on the $2.8 billion in 2010, while funds raised in the fourth quarter alone clocked in at just over $200 million, down 83.5 per cent over the same period of 2010.
"Companies chose other fundraising routes over IPOs in 2011, which was another year of low capital market activity," Phil Gandier, Mena head of Transaction Advisory Services, Ernst & Young, said in a report yesterday.

Saudi Arabian private-sector activity eases off - The National

The rate of private-sector business expansion in Saudi Arabia eased slightly last month as new orders declined, a survey released yesterday shows.

Despite the dip, the strength of the data suggested the economy was shrugging off the impact of the global slowdown, said SABB HSBC, which compiled the purchasing managers' index (PMI).

"Saudi Arabia's PMI score remained strong in December as the domestic economy continued to sidestep the worst effects of the global slowdown," Simon Williams, a regional chief economist for HSBC, wrote in a research note.

Dubai trading activity surges 23% - The National

Dubai recorded a major increase in trade over the first nine months of last year, with activity surging by 23 per cent at the emirate's ports and airports. But the figures do not include the downward trajectory of the global economy in the final quarter of last year.

Dubai Customs yesterday said the value of non-oil trade between January and September last year was Dh814 billion (US$221.61bn), compared with Dh661bn in the period a year earlier.

The biggest growth in value was recorded in imports, which rose by 21 per cent to Dh326bn.

Emirates Airline buys UK travel agent - The National

Dnata, the holidays and baggage handling arm of Emirates Airline, has bought control of one of the biggest online travel agents in Britain.

The deal struck at the end of last month for an undisclosed sum is the latest in a buying spree of travel firms by Dnata asit seeks to strengthen its position in the lucrative online travel market.

The acquisition of Travel Republic also has the potential to channel more UK traffic through the Dubai company. More than two million people a year book their holidays through Travel Republic's website.

Analysis: Is war in the Straits of Hormuz and US$200 a barrel oil inevitable?-

Since 24 December the Iranian Navy has been holding its ten-day Velayat 90 naval exercises, covering an area in the Arabian Sea stretching from east of the Strait of Hormuz entrance to the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden.

The day the maneuvers opened Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari told a press conference that the exercises were intended to show "Iran's military prowess and defense capabilities in international waters, convey a message of peace and friendship to regional countries, and test the newest military equipment."

The exercise is Iran's first naval training drill since May 2010, when the country held its Velayat 89 naval maneuvers in the same area. Velayat 90 is the largest naval exercise the country has ever held.

Qatar fund may seek Lagardere board seat - Arab News

Qatar's sovereign wealth fund may seek a supervisory board seat and strategic partnership with Lagardere, potentially deepening its ties with the French media-to-aerospace conglomerate in which it is the biggest shareholder.

Qatar Holdings said in a letter published on Tuesday by French stock market regulator AMF it may raise its stake, but would not seek to take over the company.

Lagardere is effectively insulated from takeover by a governance structure, known as a commandite. This gives broad powers to chief executive Arnaud Lagardere.

A pro-growth budget | Oman Observer

OMAN’S annual State Budget for this year is significant on several counts but what stands out most importantly is that it is pro-youth, pro-business and growth-oriented budget. According to the budget, the projected government expenditure for 2012 will be RO 10 billion and the revenue estimate is RO 8.8 billion, leaving an anticipated deficit of RO 1.2 billion for the year.
The revenue estimate is 21 per cent (RO 1.5 billion) higher than that of 2011, whereas public expenditure is 9 per cent (RO 800 million) more than last year’s revised estimate of RO 9.13 billion. The government would use much of 2011’s general budget surplus to fill part of the projected revenue deficit of RO 1.2 billion in 2012.
The Sultanate is set to wind up 2011 with a budget surplus of RO 700 million as against an anticipated shortfall of RO 2.6 billion, thanks to high crude prices in the international market. The budget surplus of RO 700 million from the 2011 budget has been set aside to cover the gap in this year’s budget, which forecasts a deficit of RO 1.2 billion.

Kuwait 8-mth budget surplus at $42 bln | Reuters

Kuwait's budget surplus reached 11.6 billion dinars ($41.6 billion) in the first eight months of its 2011-12 fiscal year, double than a year ago on higher than expected oil revenue and lower spending, finance ministry data showed on Tuesday.

The surplus accounted for 33 percent of the OPEC member's 2010 gross domestic product, according to Reuters calculations. It stood at 5.9 billion dinars in the same period a year ago.

Revenue of the world's sixth-largest oil exporter was 18.7 billion dinars in April-November, while spending came at 7.1 billion, a mere 36.6 percent of the full-year plan, the data posted on the finance ministry's website showed.

Alcoa Faces RICO Claims -

An aluminum company controlled by the Bahrain government filed a federal racketeering claim against Alcoa Inc. (AA).

Aluminum Bahrain BSC filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) document in the US District Court in its nearly 4-year lawsuit against Alcoa.

The company, also known as Alba, is one of the world’s largest aluminum smelters. Alba claimed in court documents that Alcoa reaped more than $400 million in illegal profits by overcharging for alumina, which is used to make aluminum. Further, the profit was used to pay bribes to senior executives of Alba and the Bahrain government.

Saudi Cash: SAMA’s Reserves Reach $525 Billion - Arabianomics

Saudi Arabia’s Monetary Agency, also known as SAMA, now has $525 billion in reserve assets, according to a recently released report by Al Rahji Capital included in this Arab News item.
The record reserve amount was reached in 2011 despite record high spending by the Saudi Government.
Arab News provides an executive summary: