GLOBAL Developments Bottomline: The IMF, as expected, lowered its global growth forecast to 3% this year, the lowest since the 2008-09 financial crisis. Though the US-China trade tensions are projected to cumulatively reduce the level of global GDP by 0.8% by 2020, overall growth is expected to rise to 3.4% next year, supported by improvements across the developing nations (including in the Middle East and Latin America). A week with no major updates on the US-China trade deal saw many instances of protests across Lebanon, Hong Kong, Chile and Barcelona. Separately, the UK Parliament voted to withhold full approval of the Brexit deal: the PM has vowed to bring in legislation on Mon to implement the deal struck with Brussels last week.
- Oil investments in Bahrain have touched USD 8bn over the past years, according to the oil minister.
- Bahrain’s new international airport – a joint venture of UAE’s Arabtec and Turkey’s TAV under a USD 1.1bn contract – is set to open in Q1 2020, according to the transportation and telecommunications minister. It was announced in Jun 2019 that handover would be in Q3 2019.
- The IMF plans to initiate a new cooperation programme with Egypt, according to the organisation’s MD. Separately, the IMF called for additional structural reforms to achieve a growth target of 6% by the end of the current fiscal year.
- The Egyptian Financial Regulatory Authority confirmed the approval of lower stock exchange trading fees – trading service fees were reduced to 0.005% from 0.00625%, clearing and settlement fees to 0.01% from 0.0125% and stock market commissions to 0.01% from 0.012%. The decision needs cabinet approval before being implemented.
- Egypt’s primary surplus (excluding debt service payments) shrank to EGP 7.1bn (USD 437.73mn) in Q1 of the current fiscal year from EGP 7.2bn a year ago.
- Egypt’s draft customs law has been referred to the parliament for approval. The law, which proposes a single window system, aims to reduce costs of goods, and cut clearance time through digitizing customs clearance procedures thereby improving the business climate.
- About 1.2mn households in Egypt are connected to the natural gas grid in Q1 of the 2019-2020 fiscal year. From Jul-Sep, about 306k households were connected to the natural gas grid, representing 102% of the target.
- Oil output in Egypt declined by about 7k barrels per day (bpd) from Jul to 612,650 bpd in Aug, according to the Joint Organisations Data Initiative. The country’s production dropped by 5% yoy in Aug and by 4.8% since end-2018.
- Tourism related revenues in Jordan accelerated by 9% yoy to USD 4.4bn by end-Sep, according to the central bank, supported by a 7% rise in tourists to 4.107mn.
- Jordan’s Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority council halved its registration and economic activity fees for a year.
- Kuwait’s non-oil exports surged by 164% yoy in Sep 2019; Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine were the top importers while among the GCC, Qatar topped followed by Saudi Arabia and UAE.
- Lebanon continued to witness protests last week: PM Saad Hariri in a televised speech on Fri last week gave his political adversaries three days to agree on solutions to the ongoing impasse. Protests were sparked by the cabinet’s decision to raise a new USD 0.20 tax on WhatsApp voice calls (which was later withdrawn). The nation’s sovereign dollar-bonds tumbled as much as 1.9 cents on Fri. Since then, the right-wing Lebanese Forces party quit the coalition government.
- Oman’s real estate deal values touched OMR 173.3mn (USD 449mn) from 33,665 transactions during Sep while collected fees amounted to over OMR 6.07mn.
- Oman announced a new set of regulations for the tourism sector: restaurants and cafes catering to tourists need to hire a manager for daily management
- Qatar approved a new minimum wage law and announced scrapping of the mandatory exit visas and “no-objection certificates” for workers moving jobs. These new reforms are expected to come into force by Jan 2020.
- Saudi Aramco plans to delay “by weeks” its planned IPO, reported the FT. It is likely to be on hold till the next earnings update, which would reveal the company’s resilience to the Sep attacks.
- Oil production in Saudi Arabia will reach 9.86mn barrels per day (bpd) in Oct and Nov, disclosed the energy minister.
- Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council requested a freeze on companies’ expat fees and expat dependents fee for 2020. The monthly fee on dependent expats is set to rise to SAR 400 (USD 107) by next year, from SAR 100 now. The expat fee on companies is to double to SAR 800.
- Saudi Arabia’s financial institutions should hire Saudi nationals for leading positions, according to SAMA. If not, adequate explanations are to be provided.
- Saudi Arabia launched a new logistics zone in Jeddah: the Al-Khomra zone which extends over 2.3mn square meters is expected to create 10k direct jobs as the biggest logistics zone in the country. The private sector is expected to operate much of its transport infrastructure, with the government acting as regulator.
- Inflation in Abu Dhabi declined by 0.9% yoy till Sep this year, with the Sep inflation reading at a 1.8% yoy and 1% mom dip.
- Banks in the UAE invested AED 10.3bn (USD 2.8bn) in bonds during Jan-Aug 2019 (+12.7%).
- A total of 32,256 business licenses were issued in the UAE over Jan-Aug this year, bringing the total number of business permits to 572,615 (+6% from end-Dec). Abu Dhabi and Dubai accounted for 46.9% and 23.7% respectively of total number of business licenses.
- The Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority (DAFZA) reported an 8% yoy growth in the value of foreign trade to over AED 78bn in H1 this year. Growth was driven by an 11% rise in re-exports to AED 45bn.
- Dubai’s external trade with Russia increased by 25% yoy to AED 9.21bn (USD 2.5bn) in 2018. Bilateral trade touched AED 4.55bn in H1 this year.
- Russia and UAE signed various deals across energy, nuclear power, aviation and the environment during the 1-day visit by the Russian president.
- The Emirate of Sharjah started marketing a 10-year dollar Sukuk last week, at 185bps over mid-swaps.
- The DIFC announced a 45% growth in Islamic assets managed in the centre during the Q2 2018-Q2 2019 period.
- Etihad Airways and Air Arabia announced the setting up of a low-cost carrier in Abu Dhabi. No information was provided about either ownership structure or start of operations.
- Chinese tourists to Dubai can benefit from instant VAT refund capabilities at Dubai Airports via the We Tax Refund. The visitors will receive the refunds in RMB.
- As part of the National Space Strategy 2030 and Space Investment Plan, UAE has launched economic free zones for space firms, with 100% foreign ownership.
- The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) received a “record” low bid of USD 1.69 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for its 900 megawatt (MW) fifth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.
- The UAE is the MENA region’s most valuable country brand: its brand value rose by 3% to USD 730bn in 2019, according to a report by Brand Finance. The country is ranked 6th globally behind Singapore, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg.