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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Ukraine’s Yanukovich returns from Moscow on Akhmetov’s plane – and on a tight leash | beyondbrics - #EuroMaidan

Ukraine’s Yanukovich returns from Moscow on Akhmetov’s plane – and on a tight leash | beyondbrics:

"Viktor Yanukovich, the embattled Ukrainian president, flew to Moscow in comfort on Tuesday, taking a lift on the luxurious Airbus owned by Rinat Akhmetov, his long-time backer and the richest of Ukraine’s oligarchs. Yet it’s far from certain that, back in Kiev, Yanukovich was comfortable about his controversial $20bn bailout deal brokered with Vladimir Putin – or that Akhmetov was happy to have provided his plane for the trip.

Both men’s discomfort will have been exacerbated on Wednesday by news that the European Union had been ready to offer Ukraine $20bn in loans if Yanukovich had signed up to EU trade and association agreements as expected in late November.

Facing re-election in 2015 and keen to defuse four weeks of pro-EU protests at home, Yanukovich was aiming to land a bailout and lower gas prices to reboot his nation’s ailing economy. He has accomplished this, but at a huge cost for himself, for the next president of Ukraine, for the nation’s economy and for its future relations with the EU."

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Nine accused in Oman graft trials |

Nine accused in Oman graft trials |

"Nine state officials and private sector executives have gone on trial in Oman on charges of taking or offering bribes, in a widening crackdown on corruption in the Gulf sultanate’s oil industry and related sectors.
Corruption is a politically sensitive issue in Oman, which saw sporadic street protests against graft and unemployment in 2011 as political unrest gripped other Arab countries.
The charges, mostly involving infrastructure projects, were outlined in six trials that opened on Sunday. The nine accused all denied the charges when they appeared at the Court of First Instance in the capital Muscat.
Eight individuals, including former or serving state officials, face similar charges in four other trials that have opened in the past six weeks."

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Novatek finalises Yamal LNG project: Gazprom beware… | beyondbrics

Novatek finalises Yamal LNG project: Gazprom beware… | beyondbrics:

"Novatek has taken a final investment decision on the Yamal LNG project, paving the way for the launch of the pioneering liquefied natural gas venture in the Russian Arctic.

Legal amendments approved by the Russian parliament last month allowing rivals of Gazprom to export LNG are working wonders for Russia’s pushy independent gas producer.

Novatek, controlled by billionaires Leonid Mikhelson and Gennady Timchenko, has been challenging Gazprom’s supremacy, first by grabbing a larger share of the Russian domestic gas market and then lobbying for rights to export liquefied natural gas.

Russian parliament passed a bill last month allowing independent LNG producers to chip away at Gazprom’s gas export monopoly and trade liquefied natural gas overseas. Gazprom retains the right to handle all Russia’s pipeline gas exports.

Russia competes with the US for the title of the world’s top gas producer but has fallen behind in the surging global LNG business. So far the Gazprom-controlled Sakhalin II project is the country’s only large LNG venture."

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Man in jail 8 months for parody video - ht @bukhaledobaid

2013 in charts: A creeping ascent | The Economist

2013 in charts: A creeping ascent | The Economist:

"THE world economy continued to recover from the financial crisis in 2013, albeit wanly. Stockmarkets around the world rallied (chart 1).

And companies are issuing what is likely to be a record amount of debt (chart 2), to take advantage of rock-bottom interest rates.


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Seasonal cheer for central and eastern Europe | beyondbrics

Seasonal cheer for central and eastern Europe | beyondbrics:

"The boys and girls of central and eastern Europe have been pretty good this year and Santa looks like he has some goodies in his sack for the region over the upcoming year.

A look at a raft of end-of-year analyses of the CEE region shows that the gloom that was afflicting the region last year has largely lifted.

Capital Economics noted:

The recovery in Emerging Europe has moved onto a firmer footing in recent months and we expect growth to accelerate over the coming quarters."

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2013 Illicit Capital Outflow at $22 Billion Through September | Business | The Moscow Times

2013 Illicit Capital Outflow at $22 Billion Through September | Business | The Moscow Times:

"Illegal or dubious transactions were the cause of $22 billion of capital outflow from Russia for the first nine months of 2013, Central Bank chief Elvira Nabiullina said Wednesday.

"The situation in which a large amount of capital is involved in illegal operations has to change," Nabiullina said, Prime news agency reported.

The total amount of suspicious capital outflow last year was $39 billion, she said, adding that the Customs Union's simplified trading procedures have played a major part in facilitating these illegal financial schemes.

About $47 billion has been funneled out of the country through the Customs Union in 2012 and 2013, Nabiullina said."

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MIDEAST STOCKS-Emaar lifts Dubai to new 5-yr high as bond conversion fears abate | Reuters

MIDEAST STOCKS-Emaar lifts Dubai to new 5-yr high as bond conversion fears abate | Reuters:

"Dubai bourse rose to a new five-year high on Wednesday with blue chip Emaar Properties gaining after it approved a bond conversion that will result in fewer new shares than expected.

The property developer responded to requests from convertible bond holders by agreeing to issue 18.7 million new shares; a tiny fraction of the company's 6.09 billion shares outstanding.

"I think this is a good deal - it allows some interest savings and it shows the management is flexible," said Sanyalaksna Manibhandu, senior analyst at NBAD Securities.

Emaar climbed 2.3 percent to 7.25 dirhams ($1.97), halting a two-session drop, and was the main support for the market.

A full conversion of the $500 million bond that Emaar issued in 2010 would result in dilution of only 2.2 percent in the stock price if it occurred at 4.38 dirhams per share, analysts at NBK Capital earlier estimated in a note."

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LOCAL - Details revealed about Turkey’s ongoing graft probe

LOCAL - Details revealed about Turkey’s ongoing graft probe:

Azeri businessman Reza Zarrab is accused of paying bribes to
Cabinet members. CİHAN photo
The details are gradually being revealed regarding the ongoing corruption investigations, which first shocked the country on Dec. 17 when the sons of three ministers, a mayor, and several businessmen were detained on bribery charges.

The operations were made up of three separate investigations.

The first raid was launched against Azeri businessman Reza Zarrab on allegations that he was running a crime ring. The Azeri businessman is accused of paying bribes to Cabinet members to cover his suspicious money transactions and get Turkish citizenship for his relatives and his men in the alleged crime gang.

Zarrab allegedly gave bribes to Interior Minister Muammer Güler’s son Barış Güler, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan’s son Salih Kaan Çağlayan, and Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan, in order to enable the transactions of money and gold between Turkey, Iran and Russia, daily Hürriyet reported on Dec. 18."

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Guest post: reshaping the gas map of central Europe | beyondbrics

Guest post: reshaping the gas map of central Europe | beyondbrics:

"The tug-of-war between the European Union and Russia over Ukraine has highlighted – if that were necessary – the geopolitical role of natural gas in the region. But for much of the rest of central Europe, an ambitious plan to complete a North-South Gas Corridor offers the potential for a separate geopolitical breakthrough to rival the region’s regime changes of 1989.

The plan dates to 2009 when central European countries, which at the time depended on the east for some 70 to 80 per cent of their gas supplies, were hit to varying degrees by the interruption of supplies caused by a dispute between Ukraine and Russia. In the aftermath of the crisis, cooperation in the region intensified and was institutionalised, including at the EU level.

The crisis showed not only the need for diversification of supply in central Europe but also the role of regional solidarity in efficiently managing the risk of sudden cuts. During the crisis the Czech Republic established reverse flow to Slovakia, while Hungary made emergency supplies from its stockpiles available to the western Balkans. This is exactly how the idea of the North-South Gas Corridor was born."

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Turkey seizes $4.5 million from bank chief's home | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR

Turkey seizes $4.5 million from bank chief's home | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR:

"Istanbul police leading a major corruption and bribery investigation targeting allies of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have seized shoe boxes stashed with money totaling some $4.5 million in the home of the chief executive of a state-owned bank, a Turkish news agency reported Wednesday.

The Dogan news agency said the shoe boxes were discovered on bookshelves in the home of Halk Bank's CEO, Suleyman Aslan, who is among dozens of people - including the sons of government ministers - detained for questioning as part of the corruption and bribery investigation.

Dogan, a reliable news source, cited unidentified judicial officials for its report. A national police official said he could not immediately confirm the report, while officials at the Interior Ministry refused comment.

In a sign that Erdogan was fighting back against the probe, five senior police officials were removed from duty on Wednesday, Turkish media reports said. They included commissioners in charge of combatting organized crime, smuggling and criminal financial activity and oversaw the corruption detentions, according to Dogan."

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Oman State Council rebuffs expat tax idea - Politics & Economics -

Oman State Council rebuffs expat tax idea - Politics & Economics -

"Oman’s State Council has rebuffed plans for expatriates to pay tax on remittances, with one member saying it would create a bad image of the country, it was reported.
The economic and financial committee of the Shura Council had recommended the imposition of a two per cent tax on remittances by expatriates to ease the burden on state finances.
The proposed tax, if imposed, would hit about 1.5m expats, many of them labourers from south and southeast Asia,the Muscat Daily reported.
However, members of the State Council have said that the time is not right for the tax."

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ECONOMICS - Borsa Istanbul loses $12.7 billion after bribery probe

ECONOMICS - Borsa Istanbul loses $12.7 billion after bribery probe:

"Borsa Istanbul (BIST) closed with a 5.2 percent loss yesterday, with the value of the BIST traded company losing 26 billion Turkish Liras ($12.7 billion), following the massive corruption probe launched yesterday.

Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan and Murat Kurum, general manager of Emlak GYO, Turkey’s largest housing developer, were among those taken into custody in the raids.

Halkbank shares lost 12.3 percent and Emlak GYO shares lost 12.4 percent yesterday. This morning, the two companies’ share price saw a moderate fall compared to yesterday. Halkbank shares have fallen 2.8 percent and Emlak GYO shares have fallen 1.7 percent.

Overall, BIST lost 2.5 percent in value in the opening of the morning session today.

At least 84 people, including the sons of three Cabinet members, businessmen, officials and a mayor were detained in three separate investigations, on accusations of accepting and facilitating bribes for state projects and receiving construction permits for protected areas in exchange for money."

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MAF plans malls, ski slopes, for sub-Saharan Africa | beyondbrics

MAF plans malls, ski slopes, for sub-Saharan Africa | beyondbrics:

Majid Al Futtaim, the malls operator that brought an indoor ski slope to Dubai, is seeking to double revenues over the next five years by bringing Carrefour markets and mega-malls to more countries across the broader region.

Having expanded across 12 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and central Asia, the retailing giant is scouting four out of the 14 sub-Saharan African countries for which it holds Carrefour franchisee rights.

Initial studies have indicated the best opportunities lie in Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya and Mozambique, with the company planning to send teams to these countries in early 2014 to develop retailing strategies and source suppliers, says Iyad Malas, chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim’s holding company.

MAF malls, from Deira City Centre to Mall of the Emirates, have played a large part in driving tourism into Dubai over the past decade. Around 70 per cent of the company’s assets are in the United Arab Emirates, where mall culture has embedded itself in daily life."

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Egypt FT Special Report


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Egypt after Morsi – all you need to know | beyondbrics

Egypt after Morsi – all you need to know | beyondbrics:

"With the military reoccupying centre stage in Egypt, what does this mean for democracy and the economy? Since the July ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, detentions have continued and more than 1,000 of his Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been killed. The FT’s special report on Egypt takes a hard look at the country’s political and economic future, writes Peter Chapman.

Interim prime minister Hazem al-Biblawi has the job of stabilising the flailing economy. He tells the FT what chance he thinks he has. And Heba Saleh, our Cairo bureau chief, examines the new government’s double-edged sword of a $16bn lifeline of aid and investment from the wealthy Gulf oil-rich states.


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Foreign investors wary as Ukraine plumps for Russia | beyondbrics - #EuroMaidan

Foreign investors wary as Ukraine plumps for Russia | beyondbrics:

Ukraine’s president may have managed to secure a deal from Russia to prevent his country plunging into crisis but observers warn an expected upsurge in political instability will have investors looking for an exit.

After turning his back on the European Union in November by failing to sign association and free trade agreements, Viktor Yanukovich, Ukraine’s president, flew to Moscow on Tuesday to hammer out a controversial backroom deal with Vladimir Putin, his Russian counterpart. The result: Russia will buy $15bn worth of Ukrainian government bonds and cut the price it charges for natural gas $400 per 1,000 cubic metres to $268.50."

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The impact of shale gas in the EBRD region will be limited in the coming years

The impact of shale gas in the EBRD region will be limited in the coming years:

"Shale gas may help EBRD countries of operations diversify their gas imports. But it is unclear how it will affect emissions without effective cross-border energy and carbon markets.

The US energy market has changed drastically since the rise of shale gas in the country. The US is now the world’s largest gas producer and is expected to become a net exporter. Will shale gas be a similar game changer in the EBRD region?

This article argues that the impact of shale gas in the EBRD region is likely be limited in the coming years due to high uncertainties about the size of resources, production costs and environmental impacts.

Source: based on KPMG report

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South Asia: Protect Migrant Workers to Gulf Countries | Human Rights Watch

South Asia: Protect Migrant Workers to Gulf Countries | Human Rights Watch:

"The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) should leverage their countries’ collective bargaining power to seek greater protection for their nationals working in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the SAARC secretary general. December 18, 2013 is International Migrants’ Day.

A SAARC regional protection initiative could significantly enhance the living and working conditions of workers in low-paid sectors from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh, who routinely face violations of international labor standards and human rights law in the six Gulf states, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Gulf countries should recognize the crucial role foreign workers play in their economies and take measures to ensure that their rights are fully respected,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “South Asian governments should join forces to press for reforms to end the terrible abuses against migrant workers that have gone on for far too long.”"

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Qatar is suddenly investing heavily in the U.S., bankrolling D.C.’s City Center, other projects - The Washington Post

Qatar is suddenly investing heavily in the U.S., bankrolling D.C.’s City Center, other projects - The Washington Post:

"Eight years after Washington’s biggest construction project in two decades was launched, City Center was just a sad expanse of parking lots on seven blocks of prime downtown real estate, a project paralyzed by the economic downturn, according to city officials.

Then came Qatar. A tiny nation of sand dunes and salt lakes jutting into the Persian Gulf, Qatar has only about 250,000 citizens, but it is also home to the world’s largest natural gas field and, therefore, unimaginable wealth."

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Dubai buyer of Madame Tussauds mulls new investments in Middle East | The National

Dubai buyer of Madame Tussauds mulls new investments in Middle East | The National:

"Dubai International Capital (DIC), the private equity firm associated with some of the emirate’s high-profile acquisitions, is ready to start investing in the region again.

The Dubai Holding unit said it would consider a fresh round of Middle East investments as the emirate’s economy rebounds.

It made global headlines during Dubai’s boom years with a series of highly leveraged trophy purchases, including the parent firm of London’s Madame Tussauds and the British hotel operator Travelodge. But as asset prices tumbled following the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, it was unable to meet its debt obligations.

“DIC had its own challenges when it came to liabilities and debt and we had to renegotiate with our creditors,” Maissan Al Maskati, the firm’s managing director, said in an interview yesterday."

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MAF to have a united corporate brand |

MAF to have a united corporate brand |

"Majid Al Futtaim (MAF), a retail and leisure group, revealed on Tuesday a new brand direction and visual identity.
The group said its new brand direction will bring together MAF group of companies under one umbrella corporate brand.
The group has three business divisions, including MAF Properties, MAF Retail and MAF Ventures. Operating in more than 12 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, the group plans to expand to new markets in Mena and elsewhere, according to Iyad Malas, CEO of MAF Holding.
“This major re-branding initiative will reinforce the Majid Al Futtaim name behind the unique experiences and brand,” Malas said."

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GCC needs an ordered transition into an union |

GCC needs an ordered transition into an union |

"The recent controversy over transforming the GCC into a fully-fledged union has gained an exaggerated momentum, especially after the issue turned into a war of words and insults over social networking sites done by those who do not wish well for the Gulf states. Their intention is to exploit the issue to fuel differences that occur between members of any bloc.
The shift, if it takes place, will be a routine transformation process that will not change much the nature of the co-operation or affect the sovereignty of any country. It is evidenced by the experience of the European Union (EU) where all member states have the right to veto and cannot pass any decisions without collective consent, which ensures sovereignty.
In addition, the agendas of the European and Gulf blocs are in the main economy and security dominated, even though co-operation in the political space has increased in the EU and with the consent of all."

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Any juice left in markets?

Celebrating small business: Independence day

Emaar’s Board Approves Phased Conversion of Bonds Into Shares - Bloomberg

Emaar’s Board Approves Phased Conversion of Bonds Into Shares - Bloomberg:

"Emaar Properties PJSC (EMAAR)’s board approved a plan to convert bonds into stock in stages, with the first batch leading to the creation of 18.7 million shares.

The developer approved the issuance of new shares to note holders who requested it and will “approve all similar conversion requests that may be received by the company in the future,” Emaar said in a statement today.

Investors who bought Emaar’s convertible bonds in the midst of Dubai’s real estate crisis three years ago stand to generate returns of more than 70 percent upon conversion. Emaar, which built the world’s tallest tower, almost doubled in Dubai trading this year as the retail, tourism and housing markets rebounded.

“Local investors in particular will be relieved that there will not be a forced conversion for the whole lump,” said Julian Bruce, head of institutional trading at EFG-Hermes U.A.E. Ltd. in Dubai. “This sort of drip-feed supply should be easily absorbed by the consistent buying interest we have seen of late.”"

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