A look at today’s important financial news and business updates from the Middle East region:
United Arab Emirates’ aviation policies have won praise from an unexpected quarter. In the past, major European, Australian and US-based airlines have been bickering about Middle Eastern air carriers, especially Dubai’s Emirates Airline, getting ‘unrelented’ government support and subsidies.
Hundreds of Saudis have petitioned King Abdullah to allow women to drive vehicles on the first anniversary of the Women2Drive campaign launched in June last year. The signatories, who numbered nearly 600 on Wednesday, asked the king to “encourage women who have obtained driving licences from neighbouring countries to begin driving whenever necessary”. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that forbids women from getting behind the wheel.
The International Energy Agency said on Wednesday Iran’s oil exports plummeted by an estimated 40% since the start of the year as US-led sanctions hit the country’s vital oil industry. The IEA, which represents the interests of major consuming nations, said preliminary data suggested Iran’s exports fell to 1.5 million barrels per day in April-May from 2.5 million at the end of 2011.
Reports coming from Damascus, quoting bankers, said Syria has released new cash into circulation to finance its fiscal deficit, after violence and Western sanctions wiped out revenues and led to severe inflation and economic deterioration. Reuters quoted four Damascus-based bankers as saying that new banknotes printed in Russia were circulating in trial amounts in the capital and Aleppo, the business hub, the first such step since a violent uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
Algerian Energy and Mines Minister Youcef Yousfi said on Wednesday the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) faces a real risk due to a slide in crude oil prices caused by the group exceeding its production ceiling. Earlier, Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi warned OPEC meeting in Vienna that a looming oil embargo on Tehran will destabilise the global oil market and spark higher prices.
Saudi Arabia came under pressure on Wednesday from fellow OPEC producers to cut oil output to prevent a further slide in crude prices.
Price hawks in the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are fretting that slowing economic growth will send crude, already off $30 since March, plummeting further.
The English Premier League said on Wednesday it had awarded live broadcast rights for 2013-16 to BSkyB and British Telecom.
BSkyB has secured five packages totalling 116 matches while BT won two packages totalling 38 matches in deals worth £3.018bn.
Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera, which beat Canal Plus to the French Ligue 1 and Champions League rights last year, was expected to be part of the bidding process.
Saudi Basic Industries Corp on Wednesday said it intends to repay an 8 billion riyal ($2.13 billion) Islamic bond, or sukuk, ahead of maturity, from internal cash balances. The petrochemicals giant sold the 20-year sukuk in 2007 in a deal which was arranged by HSBC’s Saudi Arabian unit. The bond had a call option after five years, allowing SABIC to repay investors early, a Saudi-based banker told Reuters.
Recent clashes in Lebanon have sparked a rapid sell-off of sovereign assets, reflected widespread fear that a spillover effect from Syria will further harm the Lebanese economy. Citi Group revealed that a significant amount of Lebanon’s sovereign debt has been sold since violence began in Tripoli several weeks ago. Additionally, the spread on Lebanon’s short-term Eurobonds has skyrocketed.
In a sign of optimism for Egypt’s future economy, Egyptian telecom billionaire Naguib Sawiris has established a fund management group to raise money for the purchase of underperforming telecom businesses in Europe, the Financial Times reported. Made up of former Wind and Vimpelcom executives, the group is approaching different European fund management groups, seeking investment in the private equity fund. Once funding is accumulated, the group will purchase small telecom organizations that are floundering in Europe’s worsening economic market.