Middle East Business News Review – 19 June

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Middle East Business News Review – A look at today’s important financial news and business updates from the Middle East and North Africa region:

UAE seventh on Global Retail Development Index

A study released by a global management consultancy firm said four Gulf countries feature among top global emerging markets for retail expansion. The Global Retail Development Index (GRDI) ranks 30 countries on market attractiveness, market saturation, country risk and time pressure on an annual basis. Martin Fabel, partner at A. T. Kearney Middle East, said the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are attracting strong interest from international and regional retailers thanks to high GDP per capita figures, increasing population and rising tourism numbers.

Kuwait improving IT infrastructure: Oxford Business Group

An influential research group said Kuwait is improving its information technology (IT) infrastructure and brining it in line with its Gulf neighbours. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has ranked Kuwait 62nd out of 142 countries in its latest annual Global Information Technology Report. The Gulf nation was rated on its IT networked readiness index, which grades economies on their IT usage, acceptance and efficiency. Kuwait’s GCC counterparts fared better in the rankings, all featuring in the top 40.

Jordan ‘shuts down’ open border policy for Syrians

Jordan is ending its open door policy for neighbouring Syrians amid rising false asylum claims, government and UN officials said on Tuesday. A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity told AP that individual Syrian males with residency permits elsewhere will be barred entry under the new procedures. He said dozens coming from third countries have been turned back over the past few weeks. The Jordanian Interior Ministry estimated that some 125,000 Syrians have arrived since the outbreak of violence in their country in March 2011.

Sudan announces stern austerity measures to ‘help’ economy

Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir on Monday announced wide-ranging austerity plans that include gradually abolishing fuel subsidies, reducing the size of the government, raising taxes on consumer goods, banks and imports to plug its budget deficit, and devaluing the pound in a bid to stabilise the economy and deal with a loss of oil revenue. The North African nation is facing a deficit of around $2.4 billion which was announced by Finance Minister Ali Mahmoud in May. Khartoum lost three-quarters of its oil, the lifeline of the economy, when South Sudan became independent a year ago.

Chinese telecom giant ZTE announces Tunisia entry

Chinese telecom giant ZTE, also the world’s fourth-largest mobile phone producer, said on Monday it is entering the Tunisian market despite uncertain economic and political conditions in the North African country. ZTE’s announcement comes after a series of test launches since last year. The Chinese company is partnering with Tunisian mobile phone distributor RayenCom as part of its ambitious project to enter the lucrative African market. The Shenzen-based telecommunications equipment and system company has struck a deal with the Tunisian company to provide a wide range of products.

Banker urges UAE central bank to cut reserve requirements

A top commercial banker in the United Arab Emirates has urged the central bank to cut some of its reserve requirements sharply in order to spur corporate lending. “What we are asking for now is to provide greater liquidity and release reserve funds…which the banks can use,” Abdul Aziz al-Ghurair, chief executive of Mashreq bank, was quoted by Monday’s Al Bayan newspaper as saying. Mashreq confirmed his comments to Reuters. Ghurair suggested cash reserve requirements imposed by the central bank on banks’ current accounts be slashed to just 1 percent from 14 percent to free more funds for lending. Reserve requirements for time deposits are already at that level.

Arabs unified in Rio+20 vision – Arab League official

Arab nations will have a unified goal at the the Rio+20 Earth Summit aimed at locally enabling the ‘green economy’ as a stepping stone for sustainable development, an Arab official said here Tuesday. The goal was asserted in a decleration during a meeting of Arab ministers tasked with the enironment, Arab League Assistant Secretary General for Economic Affairs Dr. Mohammad Al-Tuweijri told reporters.

Bad loans at HSBC Middle East seen rising in 2012

HSBC Middle East’s non-performing loans are expected to rise further this year, Fitch Ratings has said in a new report. It said the rise was forecast because of more prudent classification policies as well as continuing stresses in the region. The rating agency said the rate of growth of NPLs would “depend on the future performance of its renegotiated loan book and the slow recovery in the UAE economy, in particular in the Dubai government related and real estate sectors”.

Iranian companies offer oil tanker insurance – Fars

Iranian insurance companies are ready to offer coverage for foreign oil tankers to continue shipping Iran’s oil after a European Union ban comes into effect next month, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Tuesday. Barring an unlikely last-minute deal to soften EU sanctions, Europe’s Protection and Indemnity (P&I) clubs will be unable to insure vessels carrying Iranian crude from July 1, as a result of sanctions to punish the government for its nuclear programme. The looming ban has sent Iranian crude customers scrambling for alternative cover, with Japan’s lower house set to pass a bill on Friday to provide insurance and India studying offering sovereign insurance to its refiners.

Oil prices climb after early tumble

World oil prices rose on Tuesday, with Brent crude rebounding strongly from a 17-month low point that had been caused by Spanish debt concerns. New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in July, climbed 83 cents to $84.10 a barrel. Brent North Sea crude for August stood at $96.40 in London afternoon deals — up 35 cents compared with Monday’s close. The contract had hit $94.44 earlier earlier Tuesday, which was the lowest point since January 10, 2011. But prices rallied later on hopes of fresh stimulus by the US Federal Reserve, traders said.

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