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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Islamic insurance merger creates UAE giant | Arab News

Islamic insurance merger creates UAE giant | Arab News:

"Takaful Emarat has agreed to acquire Al Hilal Takaful from Al Hilal Bank in an all-cash transaction that will create the largest Islamic insurer in the UAE, based on 2016 gross written contributions.
The move is viewed as part of a consolidation drive in the Gulf’s takaful sector and the wider regional insurance market as local players look at mergers and acquisitions to offset weak profitability. A recent report by E&Y said performance had been knocked by low interest rates, a stagnant real estate market and, until recently, insufficient regulatory oversight. A statement said Takaful Emarat provides life and health takaful insurance for customers, mostly in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. Al Hilal Takaful operates with a general license, offering a wide range of cover for individual and corporate customers, primarily in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. The deal will enable the combined group to offer comprehensive takaful products and services throughout the UAE, giving consumers greater choice. The two companies wrote more than 900 million dirhams ($245 million) in combined gross written contributions in 2016, said the announcement. Mohammad Al-Hawari, managing director of Takaful Emarat, said Tuesday’s deal would drive growth through a wider range of takaful services and a larger customer base. “In parallel, we are making strong progress in developing our digital platform, which will mean a highly efficient and cost-effective service for our customers.” Alex Coelho, CEO of Al Hilal Bank, said: “We are working closely together to ensure a smooth transition for all our insurance customers.”
Takaful Emarat’s planned acquisition of Al Hilal Takaful is subject to full regulatory approvals and is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2018. The transfer of Al Hilal Takaful’s ownership to Takaful Emarat will have no impact on current takaful policies, contracts, claims settlements or the writing of new insurance business. E&Y’s industry report pointed out that increasingly competitive markets with price and margin pressures had seen some insurers cutting costs to maintain their bottom line. “Despite these efforts, short-term financial results in some markets are impacted by regulatory change and the need for better reserving — leading some local insurers to actively look at consolidation.” Regulatory tightening is ongoing. In an unprecedented move in November 2016, SAMA suspended a number of significant KSA motor insurers from issuing new motor policies until customer complaints and claims management issues were addressed by the insurers. The E&Y report predicted that regulators and insurers would exhibit increased agility in addressing emerging opportunities such as digital and the challenge of lower oil prices. “Regulatory changes, including the introduction of VAT/IFRS and higher customer expectations, will be key drivers of change and an opportunity for insurers to revamp their operating models,” said E&Y."



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U.A.E. Has No Plans to Delay VAT for Companies, Al Tayer Says - Bloomberg

U.A.E. Has No Plans to Delay VAT for Companies, Al Tayer Says - Bloomberg:

"Companies in the United Arab Emirates will not be given additional time to implement value-added taxation, according to a government minister. “There will be no favors to anyone,” Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, minister of state for financial affairs, told members of the advisory Federal National Council on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi. Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. plan to impose the levy from Jan. 1 as they seek to increase non-oil revenue to counter the impact of low crude prices on public finances. Analysts and businessmen say many companies are racing to prepare for the tax and may not be ready in time for the start date."



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Gulf boycott boosts Qatar as wealth comes home

Gulf boycott boosts Qatar as wealth comes home:

"The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) is seeing a surge in business as Qataris register more of their assets at home and multinationals navigating a Gulf boycott of the country boost their local presence, its chief executive told Reuters.

The diplomatic and trade boycott imposed in June by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain has changed the way business is done with Qatar, the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter and host of the 2022 World Cup.

State-owned companies, or companies owned by mostly Qatari shareholders, and rich individuals are redirecting their investments to the Qatar Financial Centre, the QFC’s head Yousuf al-Jaida told Reuters in an interview in Doha, Qatar’s capital."



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Qatar Central Bank Starts Probe Into Possible Riyal Manipulation - Bloomberg

Qatar Central Bank Starts Probe Into Possible Riyal Manipulation - Bloomberg:

"Qatar’s banking regulator started a legal investigation into the possible manipulation of its currency, securities and derivatives markets.


The central bank hired law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP to lead the probe, according to a statement posted its website. A number of financial institutions and individuals have been asked to preserve documents in advance of legal proceedings, it said.

"We know blockading countries and their agents are attempting to manipulate and undermine our currency, securities and derivatives, as part of a coordinated strategy to damage Qatar’s economy,” Governor Sheikh Abdullah Bin Saoud Al-Thani said in the statement. “We will not stand by while our country is attacked in this manner.”"



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Saudi Budget Is Balm for Investors Stung by Austerity Drive - Bloomberg

Saudi Budget Is Balm for Investors Stung by Austerity Drive - Bloomberg:

"For investors who watched austerity measures pummel growth over the past two years, Saudi Arabia’s 2018 budget is a relief. The world’s biggest crude exporter will boost spending to 1.1 trillion riyals ($293 billion) to revive an economy that has languished as the nation copes with low oil prices. Ashmore Group Plc says it’s a sign Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reforms are going ahead, and markets will probably rally, according to Arqaam Capital Ltd."



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Dubai's Al Gurg vehicle buys London office block for over $350mln | ZAWYA MENA Edition

Dubai's Al Gurg vehicle buys London office block for over $350mln | ZAWYA MENA Edition:

"An asset management company owned by the Dubai-based Al Gurg family has agreed to buy an office block and neighbouring residential building in London for £266.5 million ($356.8 million).

Wolfe Asset Management, a company owned by the Al Gurg Family, has bought the 240 Blackfriars Road office building and neighbouring residential block Cubitt House from the Great Ropemaker Partnership (GRP), a 50/50 joint venture between Great Portland Estates and Ropemaker Properties, which is the property nominee of the BP Pension Fund.

GRP said in an announcement on the London Stock Exchange on Monday that contracts have been exchanged on the deal and is expected to be completed next month."



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Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways to end Tehran flights in January | ZAWYA MENA Edition

Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways to end Tehran flights in January | ZAWYA MENA Edition:

"Etihad Airways will scrap flights to Tehran on Jan. 24, the latest route to be dropped as the Abu Dhabi airline pursues a strategy review. The airline launched the review in 2016 that has also seen it sell or step away from investments in foreign carriers. Etihad's five weekly flights to Iran's capital will be reduced to two a week between Dec. 25 and Jan. 23, before it suspends the route entirely on Jan. 24, an airline spokeswoman said. "



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UPDATE 1-Saudi Arabia considers creating privatisation fund -economy minister

UPDATE 1-Saudi Arabia considers creating privatisation fund -economy minister:

"Saudi Arabia’s economy minister said on Tuesday that his country was studying the idea of creating a national privatisation fund to facilitate sales of state assets. “Personally I think it is a valid concept,” Mohammed al-Tuwaijri said in an interview. Such a fund would bundle together state assets and be sold to Saudi citizens at a discount, letting them profit from privatisations; it has been suggested by analysts at State Street Global Advisors and elsewhere. However, Tuwaijri added that the idea would need many approvals to become reality."



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Key Figures in Saudi Arabia's 2018 Budget, 2017 Fiscal Data - Bloomberg

Key Figures in Saudi Arabia's 2018 Budget, 2017 Fiscal Data - Bloomberg:

"Below are the key figures from Saudi Arabia’s 2018 budget, the second issued since it embarked on a long-term plan to reduce the kingdom’s dependence on oil. Numbers from the Ministry of Finance and state-run media.


Budget Deficit:

2018: deficit seen at 195 billion riyals ($52 billion), or 7.3 percent of gross domestic product
2017: deficit was 230 billion riyals, or 8.9 percent of GDP
Planned deficit in 2017 budget was 198 billion riyals
2016 budget deficit was 12.8 percent of GDP
Delays target to balance budget to 2023 from as early as 2019"



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Saudi Arabia’s year of living dangerously

Saudi Arabia’s year of living dangerously:

"Cinemas are preparing to open in Saudi Arabia, a few decades behind the rest of the world. A strong contender for the first local production to hit the big screen is the blockbuster The Saudi Year of Living Dangerously.

One can just imagine the plot. It stars Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old crown prince who emerged in 2017 as the de facto ruler, with supporting roles by Jared Kushner, the US president’s son-in-law and the prince’s new best friend, and tough-looking guys in the roles of inconvenient royal cousins and unpleasant mullahs in Iran.

There are scenes of war and destruction in countries called Yemen and Syria, valiant stands by the prince against the backwardness of Saudi clerics who fancy themselves as the real rulers of the kingdom. Most intriguing is a Byzantine plot to steal an oil kingdom’s riches that lands the perpetrators in a luxury prison named the Ritz."



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CORRECTED-MIDEAST STOCKS-Qatar leaps, Saudi barely changed before state budget

CORRECTED-MIDEAST STOCKS-Qatar leaps, Saudi barely changed before state budget:

"Qatar’s stock market jumped on Tuesday as local retail investors piled back into the bourse, while Saudi Arabia closed barely changed ahead of the release of its 2018 state budget. The Qatari index surged 3.8 percent, its biggest daily gain since January 2016, to its highest level since late September. It rose above its 100-day average for the first time since April. Real estate firm Ezdan Holding jumped 7.9 percent. It plunged 57 percent between end-2016 and mid-November, partly because of a weak Qatari property market. But it has been rebounding strongly since then, supported by news a shareholder has filed suit to block the firm’s plan to go private. "



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Saudi Arabia unveils record $261bn budget

Saudi Arabia unveils record $261bn budget:

"Saudi Arabia announced plans to boost spending to record levels next year as it unveiled a budget intended to drag the economy out of recession.

The finance ministry on Tuesday said expenditure would hit more than 978bn riyals ($261bn) in 2018, up from 926bn riyals the previous year. It is the first expansionary budget in three years and comes at a critical period for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he consolidates his power and attempts to implement ambitious reform programmes to modernise the conservative kingdom.

The economy has been struggling since the collapse in oil prices in 2014. The government has been forced to slash spending, cut subsidies and tap international debt markets as it has struggled to keep its widening fiscal deficit in check."



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Singapore Bans Two More People From Finance for 1MDB Breaches - Bloomberg

Singapore Bans Two More People From Finance for 1MDB Breaches - Bloomberg:

"Singapore banned two more financial professionals over breaches related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd., taking to eight the number of prohibitions handed down by the city in connection with the troubled state investment fund. The Monetary Authority of Singapore issued a lifetime prohibition order on former private banker Yeo Jiawei and placed a three-year ban on Kevin Scully, the former chief executive officer of NRA Capital Pte, it said Tuesday. Singapore is taking steps to safeguard its reputation in the aftermath of the largest money laundering probe in its history. The city shut the local units of two Swiss banks, seized hundreds of millions in assets and convicted several people over offenses connected to 1MDB, which has consistently denied wrongdoing."



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UAE's NMC Healthcare plans $800 mln in investments from 2018

UAE's NMC Healthcare plans $800 mln in investments from 2018:

"United Arab Emirates-based hospital operator NMC Healthcare has $800 million available to start investing in 2018 in the Gulf and other markets, its chief executive told Reuters in an interview. The London-listed firm, which is among the beneficiaries from recent growth in the Gulf’s healthcare sector, plans to acquire hospitals and other facilities, as well as smaller investments in In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) facilities in Europe, said Prasanth Manghat. “We have an $800 million war chest available to us and see a lot of assets in the market that make sense for us,” said Manghat. “If you look at healthcare, there’s a shortage of quality of assets and from a usage point of view there’s a lot of assets.”"



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MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi flat early on, cement shares lose ground | ZAWYA MENA Edition

MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi flat early on, cement shares lose ground | ZAWYA MENA Edition:

"Saudi Arabia's stock market was flat in early trade on Tuesday as some cement shares, which had surged in recent days on hopes that the 2018 state budget would boost infrastructure spending, lost ground. Najran Cement gained 0.9 percent as Northern Region cement slipped 1.0 percent. The budget will be announced after the market closes on Tuesday and is expected to feature a moderate increase in spending as the government seeks to lift flagging economic growth. "



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