Today’s top business and economy news from the Middle East and North Africa:
A top UAE banker said on Sunday Islamic finance can be an ethical and sustainable business model in the global financial landscape in order to avoid a repetition of the financial crisis’ shocks.
Speaking on Bloomberg Television’s inaugural episode named ” Faith in Finance”, Tirad Al Mahmoud, CEO of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), said conventional banks shall endorse the principles of Islamic finance as a non-interest, non-conventional and ethical style of investing.
According to global auditing and consultancy firm Ernst and Young, there are 390 Islamic financial institutions worldwide, based in 75 countries. Ernst and Young has estimated that Islamic investments will reach $1.2 trillion mark this year.
Top level talks have taken place to discuss timetables and the process of land allocation for stages two and three of the UAE’s planned rail network.
The Federal Government Coordination Committee for Etihad Rail has met for the first time “to ensure the timely delivery of the project”.
Officials said the route between Abu Dhabi and Dubai has already been agreed upon, and the required land has been completely allocated.
Qatari Prime Minister Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani said on Monday that multi-billion investments in France is motivated by business interests and not by any political ambitions. The Gulf state’s investments sparked fears it is motivated to promote Islamism.
Doha clarified that investments are conducted after consulting the French government and denied any political motivation.
Qatar’s fifth-largest bank by market value is considering selling shares in London as part of a plan to boost capital by up to $1.6 billion in 2013, four banking sources said in a report published by Reuters.
Speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters news agency, two of the sources said that Doha Bank, part-owned by the Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, may raise about a quarter of the capital through an issue of global depository receipts (GDR) on the London Stock Exchange, with the remainder raised through a local rights issue.
The UK’s Financial Services Authority has given approval for Qatar Holding to buy a controlling stake in Harrods Bank, the private banking arm of the luxury department store, it was reported.
The investment fund of the Gulf state’s royal family has appointed a new board for the lender and plans to expand its operations, the Daily Mail said, citing a spokeswoman for Harrods Bank. “A new board has been appointed to support this exciting development,” a spokeswoman said.
Harrods Bank posted losses of GBP£1.7m (US$2.7m) in the 12 months ending 30 January 2012 on the back of one bad loan.
Almost 4m performed the hajj Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah this year, according to a senior official in the Saudi Arabian holy city.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Makkah governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal described this year’s pilgrimage as “a resounding success”.
The 4m figure included both Saudi Arabian and foreign worshippers, with the latter accounting for the vast majority of pilgrims.
The International Monetary Fund on Monday urged Gulf Arab oil exporting countries to cut down government spending in order to make their budgets more sustainable, warning their combined surplus could turn into a deficit around 2017.
“While expansionary fiscal policies helped the region weather the global financial crisis, given the healthy economic expansion currently underway, the need for continued fiscal stimulus is diminishing,” the IMF said in a report.
“Most GCC countries should therefore plan to reduce the growth rate in government expenditure in the period ahead,” it added.
A US Energy Department official said on Sunday that excluding Iran from the global oil market would increase the shortfall between worldwide supply and demand based on September and October production and consumption estimates.
According to the department’s Energy Information Administration report released on Saturday, global fuel use averaged 2.4 million barrels a day more than output over the two months when Iran is excluded from the calculations, and 600,000 barrels less than production when Iran is included.
Obama administration is examining oil and fuel supplies and prices with and without Iran and trying to determine the feasibility of imposing sanctions related to Iranian oil trades through its central bank. Saturday’s report was the fifth assessment issued under a 31 December law that requires the EIA to provide an update on oil market conditions every 60 days.
Private Egyptian interests have in past days purchased about 180,000 tonnes of corn from South America, European traders said on Monday. It was thought largely to have been bought from Argentina, traders said.
Three consignments of 60,000 tonnes each were purchased for shipment in the beginning of April, May and June 2013, traders said.
Traders said the corn was largely purchased at premiums over Chicago corn futures rather than outright prices, but one dealer said the May consignment was purchased from Argentina at about $253 fob.
The Arab world should move away from its dependence on oil for generating electricity and look towards gas as a primary source of energy and renewables as a future alternative as the global power mix continues to grow, Michael Suess, CEO of Siemens AG’s Energy Sector said.
Hydro power and wind energy will remain the major renewable contributors to the global power generation mix in the future, he said. Siemens predicts that energy from renewable sources will account for 28 percent of the global power mix in 2030. According to Siemens’ estimates, global power consumption will rise from 22,100 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2011 to 37,100 TWh by 2030. Hydro power and wind energy will continue to contribute the largest share of energy from renewable sources.