Business Intelligence Middle East

IMF urges Dubai to curb property speculation to avoid bubble

The United Arab Emirates should enact stronger measures to curb real-estate speculation in Dubai to prevent an “unsustainable” surge in prices, the International Monetary Fund said. According to Masood Ahmed, head of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia Department, there is evidence that prices of real estate have been rising at a very rapid pace over the past 18 months. However, not everybody shares the same view. The Institute of International Finance, a Washington-based financial industry association, said that the rise in U.A.E. property values probably won’t lead to an asset-price bubble because credit growth remains relatively modest.

Limitless said to seek delay on installment of US$1.2 billion debt

Limitless LLC, the Dubai-based developer, has reportedly asked creditors to defer the first installment on its $1.2 billion restructured debt until the end of 2015. The company has offered banks 200 million dirhams ($54 million) toward the $400 million amortization due in December. Limitless, which was put under the management of state-controlled developer Nakheel PJSC in 2010, has requested postponement of payment for a year. The company is revising business plans and will approach lenders about the debt maturing in 2014, its chairman Ali Rashid Lootah said. Options include sale of land in Jebel Ali, he added. Seemingly, the company reached an arrangement that would give lenders a profit rate equivalent to interest of 175 basis points over the London interbank offered rate and may extend payment by five years.

US$14 billion Sukuk issuance in December, 120 billion for 2013

Fears that the Fed’s taper will cause interest rates to rise further has triggered a wave of issuance during the 4Q13 (up 68.5% q-o-q) with issuers looking to take advantage of cheaper funding rates. Total Issuance volume for 2013 came in at USD119.7bln, 8.7% less than in 2012. Malaysia accounted for the largest share of the sukuk market during the month with 72.8% of the issuance total. December saw new issuances from a number of jurisdictions such as the UK, Yemen and Singapore, which collectively accounted for 1.8% of issuance volume. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE continue to witness strong growth this year with further issuances amounting to USD1.5bln, USD1.1bln and USD750mln respectively during the month.

Opportune time for borrowers to issue Sukuk, says BLME

Following on from S&Ps comments regarding strong demand for Sukuk and low yields; credit spreads have been tightening in the Sukuk space for quite some time, due to supply outstripping demand and strong fundamentals in the Middle East. In addition, with the recent geopolitical tensions in Ukraine and other emerging markets, a flight to credit quality has led to further tightening. The news of Dubai rolling over its debt owed to Abu Dhabi and the UAE Central Bank for 5yrs at 1% has lowered yields further. With yields at such low levels it seems an opportune time for borrowers to issue Sukuk, even for existing conventional issuers.

KFH Research: Sukuk issuances in March 2014 amounted to US$11.2 billion

The month of March has produced the most volume of sukuk issuances for the global sukuk market in 2014 with total sukuk issuances amounting to USD11.2bln. This represents an increase of more than 23% as compared to the USD9.07bln issuances in February 2014 and a 3.13% increase as compared to the USD10.86bln issuances in January this year. However, there was a substantial decline in corporate sukuk issuances in March with only USD1.45bln worth of issuances. The decline in corporate sukuk issuances was contributed mainly by a noticeable absence of issuers from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The sukuk volume in March saw heavy involvement of the sovereign and government related entities issuers in the primary market as collectively these two types of sukuks represented over 87% of total sukuks issued.

Alkhabeer Capital hosts roundtable on family businesses and private equity...

Saudi investment and asset management firm Alkhabeer Capital has hosted a roundtable on ‘Family Businesses and Private Equity’ in Jeddah. The event was attended by clients, partners and a select group of prominent industry leaders and was chaired by keynote speaker, Dr. Benoit Leleux, a professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at IMD Business School in Switzerland. Dr. Leleux presented two key sessions which addressed the relationship between private equity and family businesses, the first titled “Family Business and Private Equity – Valuable Partnership or Conflicts of Interest” and the second addressed “The Impact of Governance and Presence of Non-Family Executives on Family Businesses’ Entrepreneurial Wealth Creation”.

Islamic finance could make inroads into North Africa, says S&P report

Islamic finance could develop in North Africa, according to a report titled "Islamic Finance Could Make Inroads Into North Africa" published by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services. Large current account deficits and declining conventional financing sources have prompted governments from Arab spring countries to look at opportunities offered by Islamic finance. Moreover, public awareness is increasing. Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco have recently taken steps to implement policies to support the development of Islamic finance. Nevertheless, Islamic finance in this region has yet to demonstrate its economic added value, through creating access to a new class of investors or by offering Sharia-compliant products at costs comparable with their conventional counterparts.

Nakheel plans early repayment of bank debt

Nakheel plans to prepay in 2014 more than half of its bank debt of AED6.8 billion, originally due for repayment in September 2015. The company will pay AED2.35 billion in Q1 2014, and plans an additional prepayment of approximately AED1.65 billion in Q3 2014. Moreover, Nakheel plans to make additional payments of AED3 billion by Q3 2015. Other amounts will be paid ahead of the due dates. The trade creditor sukuk, due in August 2016, will be paid on time. The company says that a robust financial performance that has significantly exceeded its revised business plan, has led to improvements of approximately AED22 billion to date over the plan period. Over the past 28 months, since the successful completion of the financial restructuring, Nakheel has continued its focus on delivering the revised business plan and creating a long term sustainable business. Besides, Nakheel also launched new development projects to revive its core business activity of property development.

Turkey's Islamic banking sector can expand further if it gets more capital

According to Standard & Poor's' article "Turkey's Growing Islamic Banking Sector Needs Fresh Capital For An Added Push," participation banks in Turkey look set to keep increasing their market shares over the medium term. However, S&P believes sluggish domestic savings and intensifying competition from conventional banks will likely limit the sector's progress without fresh capital and funding. The local authorities' more supportive stance toward the sector contributed significantly to the growth of Islamic banks. However, participation banks' rapid growth and high exposure to the construction sector render their asset quality vulnerable to an economic slowdown. The growth momentum existing participation banks have enjoyed can continue only if their capital bases increase and they achieve some competitive advantage.

Pent up global demand for Islamic pension funds valued between US$160-US$190 billion, according to EY estimates

According to estimates by EY’s Global Islamic Banking Center, the pent up global demand for Islamic pension funds is currently between $160 bn and $190 bn. At present, most of these funds are parked under conventional sovereign pension funds due to lack of investing options. Since greenfield operations would take too long to satiate market demand, a more practical approach is the partial transformation of existing pension funds to carve out Shari’a compliant tranches. The transformation will need to be carefully planned to choose the right business model and operational framework. The choice of business model will determine the governance structure, the complexity of financial reporting, tax implications, and go-to-market timeframes.

Entries to ADIB-Thomson Reuters ethical finance awards seek to balance returns with social purpose

The Ethical Finance and Innovation Challenge and Awards, sponsored by Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) and Thomson Reuters, have attracted over 100 entries. The awards, which address issues of ethics in finance and innovation in Islamic banking and offer prizes of up to $100,000, drew interest from individuals and institutions in 55 countries, with interest highest in the UAE, Pakistan, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Winners will be announced in late November at the Global Islamic Economy Summit in Dubai. The Award rewards ideas or initiatives in financial services that deliver a sustainable positive impact on society or the environment. A Lifetime Achievement Award will be granted to an individual who has made a significant contribution and impact in the ethical practice of financial services.

Nakheel pays US$53.7 million to lenders in compliance with restructuring terms

Nakheel has released interest and profit payments of AED197 million (US$53.7 million) to its lenders in compliance with its restructuring requirements. The company emphasized that it remains focused on meeting its commitments in accordance with the terms set out in its company restructure and revised business plan. Nakheel's commitment, achievements and newly-announced projects will continue to contribute to the growth of Dubai’s real estate and tourism sector, including the government target of 20 million annual visitors to Dubai by 2020.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank sees retail demand in North Africa after revolts

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) plans to expand in North Africa as the lender seeks to access more-populous markets. The bank applied for licenses in Algeria and Libya and is considering Tunisia and Morocco, Chief Executive Officer Tirad Mahmoud said. Interest in Shariah-compliant banking has increased since 2011, when revolts in North Africa catapulted Islamists to power. Moreover, the bank wants to be better placed to serve companies, such as Dubai-based mall operator Majid Al Futtaim, which operate across the Middle East and North Africa and rely on global lenders such as HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) and Citigroup Inc. Mahmoud said MENA expansion is essential to capture market share from foreign lenders.

Bahrain-based Al Baraka Banking Group lowered to 'BB+/B' on high MENA sovereign and economic risks

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services has lowered its long- and short-term counterparty credit ratings on Bahrain-based Al Baraka Banking Group (ABG) to 'BB+/B' from 'BBB-/A-3'. The outlook is negative. The rating action follows S&P's review of the wider implications of deteriorated sovereign creditworthiness in the past 12 months in some countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) , where ABG operates, especially Egypt and Jordan. The ratings agency lowered its assessment of ABG's risk position to "adequate" from "strong," owing to its operations in high-risk MENA countries. The ratings remain supported by ABG's strong business position, and its average funding and adequate liquidity position. The negative outlook reflects S&P's view that ABG’s capitalization could deteriorate to levels deemed as weak if, for instance, Egypt defaults and further economic stress materializes in Jordan.

Call for common definition of sustainability and what it means in the UAE

According to a recent focus group held in Dubai by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), a common definition of what sustainability is and what it means in the UAE would help to encourage more companies to invest in creating their own corporate sustainability reports on a regular basis. The UAE focus group brought together 11 high level delegates representing a range of organisations. Whilst the level of sustainability reporting is currently low in the UAE, it was felt that sustainability reporting should play an important role in the development of the UAE in the years to come. Represantatives of the ACCA hope that these discussions will make a difference in helping to change perspectives and show just how important corporate sustainability reporting is to helping the UAE’s growing economy maintain its momentum.

Algosaibi plans new debt offer after biggest Middle East default

Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Brothers plans to make a new offer on US$7.2 billion of debt to creditors as it seeks to bounce back from the Middle East's biggest corporate default. The Saudi Arabian company, which runs a bottling plant for PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) products in the kingdom and has interests ranging from finance to shipping, will propose the new deal in the coming months, according to its Chief Executive Officer Simon Charlton. Creditors rejected a proposal from Algosaibi four years ago. The new debt proposal will include some upfront payments and those spread over a longer time. However, terms of the revised deal are likely to be less favorable than the initial offer. Charlton said Algosaibi plans to borrow from local and international banks once the restructuring is resolved.

Deloitte highlights requirements for a successful Saudi Arabia mortgage market

A new whitepaper released by Deloitte in July examines the potential mortgage industry in Saudi Arabia and highlights key issues that need to be addressed in order to create both lender and consumer confidence in this market. The whitepaper lists and describes the five laws that will make up the Finance Law, which are The Enforcement Law, The Real Estate Finance Law, The Registered Real Estate Mortgage Law, The Finance Lease Law and The Finance Companies Control Law. The description is followed by a discussion of lenders and consumers’ potential concerns with regards to the new mortgage infrastructure. In principle, the multi-dimension reforms appear sufficient to develop a functioning mortgage market. However, fundamental to this is whether they are executed in their entirety, or whether there is any uncertainty as to their exact definition.

Household debt of US$114 billion in UAE poses growing risk

Household debt poses a growing risk to the financial sector in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As of June 2012, household debt totalled over US$114 billion, which translates to over US$95,000 in debt per household. 48% of UAE citizens have monthly loan repayment obligations that exceed their financial means. The UAE represents roughly 67% of the consumer debt in the GCC. One reason for the disparity is the difference in lending regulations. The positive news is that the banking sector in the UAE and GCC in general retains a high degree of liquidity. In conclusion, household debt remains an issue of concern in the UAE, and government policy should be directed towards the causes rather than the symptoms. Issuing debt relief must be coupled with stricter regulations on household lending, so that excessive lending and defaults can be prevented.

ADIB launches initiative to support UAE SMEs

On July 1, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) launched BusinessPulse, a portal aimed at providing advice and support to small and medium-sized businesses in the UAE. has three main sections: ‘Ignite’ is all about seeding the idea and kick starting the business plan; ‘Enrich’ is about funding the plan and ‘Grow’ deals with facilitating growth and future expansion. A key feature of the portal is a comprehensive library of case studies and videos from successful entrepreneurs. It also features a networking section that will enable SMEs to find the right business partners and contacts. Moreover, visitors can apply for a financing facility of up to AED 2 million through the portal and receive funding advice through interactions with ADIB’s Business banking team. BusinessPulse will be supported by a series of events and seminars, offering SMEs an opportunity to showcase their success stories and learn from others.

MENA sees increase in number and volume of private equity investments

The MENA Private Equity Association has released its 2012 annual report highlighting the outlook of the private equity industry in the region. According to the report, the sector continued to show signs of recovery in 2012 with investments and exits both registering significant growth. The report also revealed that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and high growth technology and media companies were one of the most active areas in the industry. On the other hand, private equity had suffered from persistent uncertainty in Europe and depressed fundraising environment in 2012. MENA managers focused in 2012 on enhancing value and exit opportunities for their current portfolios. The report concludes that while private equity activity in some countries remains depressed due to uncertainty, investment in these countries is expected to return to historical levels in the short to medium term.

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