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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

FT Alphaville » Citi fails Fed stress test

(BN) Citigroup, SunTrust Banks Capital Plans Fail Fed Stress Tests
Also Ally Financial and MetLife. Full – Jamie Dimon-bumrushed – Fed release here. Remember the minimum pass was a five per cent tier one common equity ratio. Citi came in with 4.9 per cent.

Moody’s affirms A1 credit rating | Oman Observer

Oman’s A1 foreign and local currency govt bond ratings are supported by economic and financial strengths - MUSCAT — International ratings agency Moody’s has affirmed the Long Term Issuer (domestic and foreign currency) credit rating of the Government of Oman at A1.
In affirming its current rating position on the Sultanate, Moody’s stated: “Oman’s A1 foreign and local currency government bond ratings are supported by the country’s economic and financial strengths. Its large fiscal and external current account surpluses have enabled the accumulation of foreign assets by both the public and private sectors while the country’s external debt remains low. Economic and financial event risks are mitigated by the country’s strong international investment position.”

UPDATE 1-NBAD CEO to retire, search begins for successor | Reuters

The chief executive officer of National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Michael Tomalin, will retire from the post in a few months and a search is underway for his successor, the bank's chairman announced on Tuesday.

Tomalin, a former chief executive of Barclays Global Private Banking, has been with the bank as CEO for the last 13 years and will remain in a non-executive director's role.

"The bank has commissioned a professional search for Tomalin's successor which was likely to take a few months," Nasser al Sowaidi told the bank's annual general meeting.

Arab hotels: a flight to safety? | beyondbrics –

Tourism in Egypt and Tunisia was battered by last year’s Arab Spring: but could the North African countries’ loss be Oman’s gain?

It seems so, according to a report released on Tuesday by A survey of more than 140,000 properties worldwide found that Luxor and Sharm El Sheikh, the popular Egyptian destinations, and Tunis, the Tunisan Capital, were the regions in which hotel prices fell the most over 2011. Oman, however, was an altogether different story. Prices there rose by nearly a fifth – thanks largely to a growing number of visitors.

The World Tourism Organisation said last week said that visits to Egypt and Tunisia plunged by as much as 80 per cent after 2011′s popular uprisings. Unsurprisingly, then, the Hotels Price Index showed that five of the six destinations in which prices fell the most last year were in the Middle East or North Africa.

UPDATE 1-France's Total, Kuwait reach China refinery deal | Reuters

Total signed an agreement with two units of state-run Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) on Tuesday to take a stake in the Zhanjiang refinery and petrochemicals platform in China, the French oil giant said.

Total and the KPC units signed a memorandum of understanding to take part in the development of the 300,000 barrel-per-day refinery in partnership with Chinese refiner Sinopec , Total said.

It would be designed to process Kuwaiti crude as feedstock and produce high-quality refined and petrochemicals products, Total said, without giving an estimate of the investment involved in the deal.

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Why High Gas Prices Are Here to Stay | TomDispatch

Think about this for a second and if it doesn’t stagger you, I don’t know what to say: the U.S. military consumes as much oil every day as the entire nation of Sweden.

Or take a guess on this question of the week: How much did it cost Mobil and its partners to build the world’s largest oil-drilling platform, a 1.2 million-ton monster that sits in 300 feet of water in “Iceberg Alley” in the Canadian North Atlantic and is armored with 16 protective “teeth” designed to absorb the impact of those approaching bergs?  The answer: $5 billion for the Hibernia platform, which is now producing 135,000 barrels of deep sea oil per day.

Abu Dhabi cuts excess, more consolidation seen | Reuters

Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich emirate that drives much of the United Arab Emirates' growth, is poised for more consolidation as it streamlines state-linked firms in the face of tougher property and economic conditions.

The emirate, more staid than its glitzier neighbour Dubai but as keen in the past on trophy property projects, is realigning its strategy to reign in debt and building excesses.

Abu Dhabi's No. 1 and 2 developers announced merger talks this week, in a union blessed by the government. Last month, the emirate merged two tourism and culture arms into a single authority.

MENA stock markets close - March 13, 2012

 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)

Iran’s Bank Melli Loses EU Court Challenge to Unfreeze Funds - Bloomberg

Iran’s Bank Melli, the state-run lender that is subject to European Union sanctions, lost an EU court bid to unfreeze its funds.
The EU’s highest court rejected the Tehran-based bank’s challenge to a 2008 decision by EU governments that froze assets belonging to Bank Melli and its units because the lender helped Iran buy “sensitive materials” for its nuclear and missile programs.
The freezing of the funds of a bank owned or controlled by a company “engaged in nuclear proliferation is necessary and appropriate,” the EU court said in an e-mailed statement.

U.S. asks Saudis to lift oil output from July | Reuters

The United States is pressing Saudi Arabia to boost oil output to fill a likely supply gap arising from sanctions on Iran, Gulf oil officials said, adding that an increase in production is unlikely to be needed before July.

Saudi Arabia is the only producer with spare capacity and oil importers will rely on Riyadh to fill the gap should Iranian output drop.

Saudi Arabia has made clear it will only raise output if it sees additional demand for crude and does not want its oil policy implicated in efforts to disrupt Iran's atomic program which the West says aims to develop a nuclear weapon.

Financial Repression Has Come Back to Stay: Carmen M. Reinhart - Bloomberg

As they have before in the aftermath of financial crises or wars, governments and central banks are increasingly resorting to a form of “taxation” that helps liquidate the huge overhang of public and private debt and eases the burden of servicing that debt.
Such policies, known as financial repression, usually involve a strong connection between the government, the central bank and the financial sector. In the U.S., as in Europe, at present, this means consistent negative real interest rates (yielding less than the rate of inflation) that are equivalent to a tax on bondholders and, more generally, savers.

Dubai Holding eyes sale of remaining stake in Axiom: sources | Reuters

Dubai Holding DUBAH.UL, the conglomerate owned by the ruler of Dubai, is considering a sale of its remaining 26-percent stake in local mobile phone retailer Axiom Telecom, three sources familiar with the matter said.

A sale could fetch a price of $300 million for Dubai Holding's unit Emirates International Telecommunications LLC (EIT), said a banking source speaking on condition of anonymity.

The holding company is in the process of nominating an advisor to evaluate options for the stake, two other sources said.

Abraaj Capital and the Palestine Investment Fund announce first closure of US$50 million Palestine Growth Capital Fund -

Abraaj Capital, Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), Bank of Palestine (BoP), Cisco and the European Investment Bank (EIB) jointly announced today the first close of the Palestine Growth Capital Fund, which will provide private equity growth capital investments and management support to high growth small and mid-cap companies (SMCs)   in Palestine.

The announcement was made yesterday during an event in Ramallah attended by SMCs, the business community, investors and the media.  

The Palestine Growth Capital Fund (“the Fund”) is part of Abraaj Capital’s US$ 650 million SMC investment platform, Riyada Enterprise Development (RED). The Fund will target investments in 13-15 businesses, which are expected to achieve tremendous growth and have the potential to expand into new regional and international markets.

MIDEAST DEBT-Dubai, Bahrain debt insurance costs converge | Reuters

Investors' perceptions of the sovereign debt of Dubai and Bahrain may mark a significant shift in coming days or weeks: the cost of insuring Dubai's debt against default may drop below the cost for Bahrain for the first time in over three years.

Dubai's five-year credit default swaps have narrowed dramatically since the emirate was hit by a corporate debt crisis at the end of 2009. The catalyst for the crisis -- weakness in the real estate market -- has not been resolved, but progress in restructuring debt and economic growth in Dubai have convinced most investors that disaster will be avoided.

Dubai's CDS are now quoted at 372 basis points, a far cry from levels around 650 bps hit days after Dubai World announced it needed to to restructure some $25 billion in debt in late 2009. CDS hit lows of around 320 bps last year; they then soared back above 500 bps briefly as the euro zone debt crisis worsened, but have since mostly been in a downtrend.

Oman Shares Rally to 8-Month High as Bank Dhofar Jumps After Court Ruling - Businessweek

Omani shares climbed to the highest in almost eight months, led by Bank Dhofar SAOG (BKDB) after a court ruled in favor of the nation’s third-largest lender.

Bank Dhofar surged the most in more than eleven years after the Appeals Court ruled the bank didn’t need to transfer 26.1 million rials ($68 million) to the Enforcement Court’s account. Dhofar International Development & Investment Holding Co. (DIDI), which according to data compiled by Bloomberg owns a 27.5 percent stake in the bank, surged 8.2 percent. The MSM30 Index (MSM30) rose 0.9 percent to 5,957.32, the highest since July 19, at the 1 p.m. close in Muscat. The Bloomberg GCC 200 Index (BGCC200) gained 0.1 percent at 1:32 p.m. in Dubai.

“The announcement lifted sentiment as it will effectively bring cash back to the bank,” said Kanaga Sundar, head of research at Gulf Baader Capital Markets SAOC in Muscat. “If they get the money, the bank will most likely report improved profitability this year, and that’s what the market is looking at.”

Kuwait hikes state wages, to act vs inflation | Reuters

Kuwait's government, under pressure from labour unions, has announced big rises in public sector wages while ordering measures to head off inflation in the prices of basic goods.

Authorities said late on Monday that government workers would get a 25 percent rise in their basic salaries, while pensioners would receive 12.5 percent more. Any increase in private sector wages will be announced at a later date, the government said.

The wage hike follows a series of strikes last year that put pressure on state companies to increase pay packets, as well a snap election last month that saw the Islamist-led opposition win control of parliament. The cabinet is appointed by a prime minister hand-picked by the ruling family.

Kuwait KOC Chairman Says ‘In Talks’ With ExxonMobil - Bloomberg

Kuwait Oil Co. is still in talks with ExxonMobil Corp. to develop heavy-crude deposits in northern fields, the company’s chairman Sami al-Rushaid said.
KOC, as the company is known, signed a two-year memorandum of understanding with ExxonMobil in 2007 to develop 700,000 barrels of heavy oil from the fields and the two parties didn’t announce any major agreement since then.
“We are interested in talks with any international oil company to develop the fields,” he said, including Total SA. (FP)

UAE's Etisalat eyes $700 mln from sale of XL Axiata stake-sources | Reuters

UAE telecom operator Etisalat plans to sell its entire 13.29 percent stake in Indonesia's No.3 phone firm PT XL Axiata , to raise between $600 to $700 million this year, sources said on Tuesday.

Etisalat has been considering the sale for months after failing to expand its partnership with XL Axiata's major shareholder, Malaysia's Axiata Group, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

"Etisalat thinks it hasn't been treated well in this deal... the reality is that the relationship soured a bit with the new management of Axiata," said one of the sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Carlyle Owners Took $398.5 Million Payout With Debt Before IPO - Businessweek

Carlyle Group LP (CG), in a transaction nine months before it filed to go public, saddled itself with debt to pay owners including William Conway, Daniel D’Aniello and David Rubenstein a $398.5 million tax-deferred dividend.

The private equity firm borrowed $500 million from Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Co. in December 2010, saying it would use part of that to expand investment products. Instead, it paid out almost 80 percent of the money to existing owners, according to regulatory filings. Separately, the Washington- based firm negotiated bank credit giving it the option to distribute an additional $400 million prior to its initial public offering, lending agreements filed last month show.

The deals, which echo the dividend recapitalization private equity managers use to extract cash from the companies they acquire, leave Carlyle’s future shareholders with the cost of servicing the debt. Assuming Carlyle holds its IPO by the end of June, Mubadala will have earned a return in excess of 50 percent, including a $200 million equity stake the owners gave away to obtain a loan that lasted about a year and a half.

WAM | Sharjah Islamic Bank's General Assembly approves 6 percent cash dividends

Sharjah Islamic Bank (SIB) announced that its General Assembly has approved the Board of Directors' proposal to distribute a cash dividend of 6 percent of capital, amounting to Dhs145.5 million.

The announcement was made following the 36th SIB General Assembly Meeting, which was held at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday. The General Assembly also approved the financial results for the fiscal year ended 31 December 2011, In a speech made during the General Assembly meeting on behalf of HH Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of the bank, Abdul Rahman Al Owais SIB Deputy Chairman said that the positive results achieved by the bank in 2011 were in line with the plan and strategy adopted by its Board of Directors, and reflected the bank's solid financial position and excellent performance.

Raising eyebrows in Abu Dhabi | beyondbrics –

Equity analysts in the United Arab Emirates are puzzling over some unusual trading patterns in the Abu Dhabi stock market this week – and over a curious response to the affair from ADX, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.

Hours before an announcement that two of the emirate’s biggest real estate developers would merge into a $15bn property titan, the shares of Aldar Properties and Sorouh rose in tandem by 7.9 per cent to Dh1.22 (33 cents) each.

The fact that the stock price increase came before the announcement was enough to set alarm bells ringing. However, the next day the shares of the two companies again rose in lockstep, by the same amount: 9.8 per cent, to Dh1.34.

gulfnews : Arabic deserves a fair hearing in DIFC Courts

Two weeks ago, the DIFC Courts organised its first Emirati lawyers' event. The apparent goal of the event was to introduce the DIFC Courts to Emirati lawyers and make them acquainted with the common system of law that is applied in the DIFC Courts. The event marked also the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Courts and the Judicial Training Institute of the Ministry of Justice to provide training in common law system for Emirati lawyers as part of their qualification process. The event was attended by a good number of Emirati lawyers which indicated their interest in the DIFC Courts.
All that is beautiful and bright. However, one question that the organisers did not address, although it was heavily debated during the event, is the issue of language. The DIFC Courts adopt English as the language of proceedings and advocacy. The whole system of the Courts is built around English. So the question that arises is how would Emirati lawyers, many of whom are not fluent in English, practise before the DIFC Courts? The broader question of course is: Should English continue to be the only language that is used at the DIFC Courts?

Business : Etisalat to wind up India JV

The UAE telecoms provider etisalat said on Monday that it has started proceedings for the winding up its scandal-hit Indian joint venture Etisalat DB Telecom Pvt Ltd, or EDB, which was formerly known as Swan Telecom.
Etisalat said the move to launch closure proceedings was to ensure “a proper and orderly end to the business of EDB that is supervised by the Indian Courts.”

In a statement, the UAE company pointed out that recent events have led to a complete breakdown in the relationship between etisalat and its Indian partners, Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka, who face various criminal charges of corruption associated with Swan’s acquisition of its UAS (unified access services) licences.

Qatar Petroleum Assumes $65 a Barrel Oil in Its 2012 Budget - Businessweek

Qatar Petroleum, the Persian Gulf country’s state-run energy company, based its budget for this year on an oil price of $65 a barrel, according to Finance Minister Yousef Kamal.

The cabinet hasn’t yet decided on an oil price for the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget, which is to be released by June, Kamal said at a conference in Doha, the nation’s capital.

Oil and gas exports account for about half of Qatar’s gross domestic product, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook. The country, the biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, was the world’s fastest-growing economy for the past two years, International Monetary Fund data showed.

UPDATE 2-Debt-riddled Zain Saudi names chief executive | Reuters

Indebted telecoms operator Zain Saudi has appointed Fraser Curley as chief executive, its third CEO in six months, as it seeks a first quarterly profit some four years after launching.

Curley's appointment came after Zain Saudi, an affiliate of Kuwaiti group Zain, said on Monday it had accepted the resignation of Khalid al-Omar, who will now retire.

Omar was formerly chief executive of Zain's operations in Kuwait and took over as head of Zain Saudi in October, following the departure of Saad al-Barrak. Barrak was also a former Zain group CEO.

Clinton calls for bilateral aid on Egypt economy -

Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, has urged the world to grant Egypt bilateral aid to help it reach a quick loan agreement with the IMF and avoid a financial crisis.
The IMF has offered Egypt a $3.2bn standby facility and an economic stabilisation programme conditional on Cairo’s ability to line up bilateral aid to supplement the loan.