A look at today’s important financial news and business updates from the Middle East region:
Four GCC countries have been ranked in the top 10 worldwide list of millionaire households, reflecting the growth in private financial wealth in the MENA region which reached $4.5 trillion in 2011, a new study revealed. The UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain ranked in Boston Consultancy Group’s top 10 millionaires list.
Qatar’s state budget surplus shrunk to 2.9% of quarterly economic output in the third quarter of its 2011/12 fiscal year, amid increased public spending and dropping revenues compared with the previous three months, official data showed on Thursday. Preliminary estimates published by the central bank showed a surplus of 5.1 billion riyals ($1.4 billion) during Q4 of 2011, down from a huge surplus of 42.2 billion riyals, or 25.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the previous quarter.
India has announced plans to hold roadshows next week in five Gulf countries in a bid to attract sovereign funds and other investors to help revive faltering Asia’s third largest economy. The Indian economy was rapidly expanding at more than 9% per annum before the 2008 global financial crisis. However, the pace slowed down to just 5.3% during Q1 this year, the weakest in nine years. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said he hopes to attract foreign direct investment from Gulf states particularly in the country’s infrastructure.
Saudi Grain Silos & Flour Mills Organisation (GSFMO) said on Thursday it may import soft wheat, in addition to the current hard wheat imports, to meet local food demand. The desert kingdom has piled up imports sharply since abandoning plans for self-sufficiency in wheat in 2008. The country now aims to import all of its wheat by 2016 as it strives to save water.
Authorities in Libya announced on Thursday the scrapping of a limit on cash withdrawals, as part of plans to rebuild confidence in its banks amid liquidity crisis stemming from last year’s war. The oil rich country faced an acute cash crisis when banks were hit by record cash demand during the eight-month uprising that ended Gaddafi’s 42-year rule. A central bank official said the limit was 2,000 Libyan dinars ($1,560) per month before the announcement.
A surge in crude prices allied with a slight increase in oil production to allow Oman to record a large fiscal surplus in the first two months of 2012 despite a rise in actual expenditure, according to official data. After registering a deficit of RO67.3 million (Dh666 million) in the first two months of 2011, the Gulf country’s budget balance turned into a huge surplus of RO768 million (Dh7.6 billion) in the first two months of 2012, showed the figures by the Omani ministry of national economy.
The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner has made its first visit to Abu Dhabi, with the aircraft touching down in the UAE capital on Wednesday evening. Etihad Airways, which has 41 of the 300-passenger capacity aircraft on order for a total of US$9.3bn, welcomed the plane to the UAE capital after it arrived from Casablanca, Morocco.
Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) says it is to spend US$2.5bn between now and 2015 on increasing output, it was reported. Speaking to Bloomberg, the firm’s CEO Laurent Schmitt said that he was expecting the price of aluminium to rebound from the 30 percent slump witnessed in the last year, which has led rival producers in the US and Europe to close plants.
Qatari Minister of Energy and Industry Dr. Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Sada said Wednesday the launching of the industrial map of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states constitutes “a critical juncture” in the development process of the industrial sector in the region.
Emirates, the world’s largest airline by international traffic, raised 1.9 billion dirhams ($517 million) from an Islamic facility for the purchase of three aircraft. The carrier completed the 12-year loan to buy planes including Boeing Co’s 777-300ERs and Airbus SAS’s A380 with Dubai Islamic Bank PJSC, Al Hilal Bank and Ajman Bank PJSC, it confirmed yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The two Boeing planes were delivered in February and May, said the company.