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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Falciani: HCBC board 'cosied up' to criminals | @Ian_Fraser

Falciani: HCBC board 'cosied up' to criminals | Ian Fraser:

"HervĂ© Falciani is the man behind the largest leak in banking history. Speaking in February 2014, he tells film-maker Nick Francis why he had little choice but to become a whistleblower. He says what tipped him over the edge was that the board of HSBC, chaired by Sir John Bond in 1998-2006 and Stephen Green in 2006-10, was not prepared to lift a finger to stop the bank from being used as a vessel to hide $500bn of assets which “were not supposed to be there”, i.e. dirty money including the proceeds of crime, the drugs trade, cash from blood diamonds trafficking, and funds that customers were seeking to squirrel away from the tax man.

Since 2009, Falciani has been collaborating with numerous European nations by providing information relating to more than 130,000 suspected tax evaders with Swiss bank accounts – specifically those with accounts in HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary, HSBC Private Bank. On 11 December 2014, Falciani, who worked for ten years as a computer analyst at HSBC in Monaco and Switzerland, was indicted by the Swiss federal government for violating the country’s bank secrecy laws and for industrial espionage, the only person so far to have been indicted for the allegedly criminal activities of HSBC (though a few its customers have already been prosecuted in various countries)."

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Qatar’s clean sweep builds UK assets portfolio | The National

Qatar’s clean sweep builds UK assets portfolio | The National:

"The Qatar Investment Authority’s most recent acquisition is only the tip of an asset-owning iceberg — one some observers are becoming concerned about. 

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, effectively owned by the Qatari royal family, now has control of London assets that include The Shard, Europe’s tallest office block; the Olympic Village, which is rapidly being redeveloped as a new residential district as well as sporting and leisure venues; the HSBC tower at Canary Wharf; Harrods; a stake in the Shell Centre on the South Bank; the residential redevelopment at Chelsea Barracks; half of the luxury apartment block One Hyde Park, the former US embassy in Grosvenor Square; and an emerging Thames-side development in Chelsea known as Grosvenor Waterside.

Even as market analysts were scratching their heads at the implications of the Canary Wharf deal, Qatar — in the form of Qatar Airways — confounded the City again. Just a day after country’s sovereign wealth fund emerging successfully over the Docklands estate, Qatar Airways bought a 10 per cent stake in British Airways for just over £1 billion (Dh5.56bn)."

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UAE bonds pull away as cash pile beats Opec woes

UAE bonds pull away as cash pile beats Opec woes:

"The slide in oil prices since Opec kept its output targets unchanged last year is failing to curb investor appetite for United Arab Emirates debt, which has outpaced emerging markets amid a dearth of supply.

The average yield on UAE bonds declined eight basis points since the end of November, compared with a seven basis- point increase on the yield on developing-country debt, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co indexes. Bond issuance in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council plunged 17% last year to $33.4bn as borrowers turned to the loan market for cheaper financing. Sentiment is also being bolstered by the size of the nation’s cash reserves, according to Ali Soner Guney, a fixed-income fund manager at National Bank of Abu Dhabi.

While oil sank to the lowest level since 2009 this year, the UAE’s cash reserves swelled on the back of crude prices averaging more than $100 a barrel in the three years through 2013. Abu Dhabi, the richest of the seven emirates, is home to the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which holds assets estimated at $773bn, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute."

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UPDATE 1-MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf markets rise after oil's rebound | Reuters

UPDATE 1-MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf markets rise after oil's rebound | Reuters:

"Gulf stock markets rose in early trade on Sunday after oil prices surged at the end of last week, although some stocks in Dubai pulled back after disappointing fourth-quarter results.

Oil closed higher for a second straight week on Friday after another drop in the U.S. rig count, with Brent crude hitting a 2015 high above $60 a barrel.

Also, stock markets worldwide rose on Friday on stronger-than-expected economic growth in Germany and optimism that Greece would reach a deal with its creditors."

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Bluewaters project in Dubai has name challenged by UK shopping centre | The National

Bluewaters project in Dubai has name challenged by UK shopping centre | The National:

"Land Securities Group, the owner of the UK’s Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, is seeking to block a Dubai company from naming one of its developments Bluewaters, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The UK’s largest real estate investment trust filed a challenge to stop Meraas Holding using the name for a planned project that will include a Ferris wheel to rival the London Eye, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

The filing was made at the Industrial Property Office, which handles trademark disputes, the person said. Meraas plans to build shops, homes and the 210-metre Ferris wheel, according to its website, and is seeking to raise a loan of about US$500 million for the project. The company is also building the Middle East’s first Legoland theme park in Dubai."

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All creditors back $14.6 billion Dubai World debt deal | The National

All creditors back $14.6 billion Dubai World debt deal | The National:

"Dubai World, the state-owned company at the centre of the emirate’s 2009 financial crisis, is poised to avoid legal action after all creditors agreed to amend and extend terms on about $14.6 billion of debt.

The company has applied to withdraw its court application for Decree 57 after lenders agreed to a deal entailing the early repayment of $2.92bn due this year and the extension of debt due in 2018 to 2022, Adrian Cohen, partner at Clifford Chance and Dubai World counsel, told a tribunal hearing in Dubai today.

The court has adjourned until May 10 and will approve Dubai World’s application when the deal is finalised."

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UAE seen leading mergers in the Middle East region |

UAE seen leading mergers in the Middle East region |

"The UAE has topped the Middle East and North Africa region in inbound mergers and acquisitions in terms of both number of deals and value of deals according EY [formerly Ernst & Young].

“The UAE dominated as the target country with the largest number and value of inbound mergers and acquisitions deals in Mena which points to the strong confidence of international investors in the UAE,” said Anil Menon, Mena M & A and IPO Leader at EY.

According to EY’s analysis of regional M & A data, 50 acquisitions targeting UAE based companies accounting for 21 per cent of the total domestic M & A deals were announced the region last year. In value terms too, the domestic deals targeting UAE based companies accounted for $7 billion (Dh25.7 billion) or 45.7 per cent of the overall regional domestic deals."

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Projects worth $200b cancelled due to low oil prices |

Projects worth $200b cancelled due to low oil prices |

"Projects worth around $200 billion (Dh734.47 billion) were cancelled globally in the last three months due to falling oil prices, an oil and gas expert told Gulf News.

Christophe de Mahieu, a partner in Dubai-based Bain and Company said a lot of companies are either cancelling projects or temporarily stopping work due to the slide in oil prices.

“Drilling activity in the US is dropping like a stone. The contracts are interrupted and drilling companies have stopped drilling because of the cash flow situation."

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Guest post: Ukraine must fix itself | beyondbrics

Guest post: Ukraine must fix itself | beyondbrics:

"Are things finally turning around for Ukraine? In the space of a few hours on Thursday, a cease-fire with the Kremlin-sponsored separatists was agreed in Minsk, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pledged $17.5bn in financial assistance to the government as part of a package from various donors totalling $40bn.

The events on Kiev’s Maidan last year opened a window of opportunity to stop the economic, social and human devastation of Ukraine by its own political elites. The popular will to stop corruption and fix the country’s political and economic institutions was palpable. Two successive governments of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk have included a number of promising reformists, raising hopes that this time might be different.

The prospect of Ukraine’s transformation from a client state run by gangsters into a successful market democracy would set a precedent for the region – most importantly for Russia. That might be the best explanation for Vladimir Putin’s ongoing military escapade in Donbass."

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Guest post: Russia, the submerging market | beyondbrics

Guest post: Russia, the submerging market | beyondbrics:

"After Vladimir Putin swept back to power in 2012, he had the air of a chess grandmaster: plotting each intricate move from the Kremlin. He swiftly annexed Crimea, suppressed opposition at home, and antagonised a seemingly vulnerable and tactically inept West at every turn.

With oil comfortably around $100 barrel – the government’s treasury was swelling and his opinion rating at home was soaring. How quickly fortunes change! Now the rouble has plummeted, Western sanctions have gripped, allies are in short supply, and a recession more bitter than a Russian winter looks set to take hold. It appears as if Vladmir Putin has spectacularly over played his hand. From an emerging market, Russia may well now be submerging.

This week’s 17-hour meeting in Minsk brought some relief to the markets as the first details of the ceasefire agreement were revealed. These include a broad ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, an amnesty for prisoners involved in fighting, lifting of restrictions in rebel areas and constitutional reforms that grant more independence to Donetsk and Luhansk by the end of 2015."

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Sovereign debt reprofiling: Ukraine’s lesson for the IMF | FT Alphaville

Sovereign debt reprofiling: Ukraine’s lesson for the IMF | FT Alphaville:

"The IMF’s proposals to change its policy on sovereign debt reprofiling have divided opinion, with FT Alphaville providing a debating platform between supporters (for example here and here) and sceptics including myself (for example here and here).

The proposals are motivated by the objective of providing a fund programme breathing space to work when it is unclear if debt is unsustainable.

The idea is that if debt falls into a grey area of uncertain sustainability, the fund would lend money. But in order not to use official loans to bail out private creditors, the sovereign could consider extending maturities on all private sector bonds falling due within the life of the programme. If the programme worked, bondholders would still be paid out, albeit around three years late. If it did not, a full-scale restructuring would need to be undertaken."

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