Middle East Business News Review – 7 November

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Today’s top business and economy news from the Middle East and North Africa:

Emirates inks deal for 2014 Glasgow Games

Emirates Airline was unveiled on Wednesday as an Official Partner of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Official Airline of the Queen’s Baton Relay.

The partnership strengthens the Dubai-based airline’s commitment to Glasgow and Scotland and will play a key role in profiling the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games on a global stage, it said in a statement.

Expats seeing UAE as longer-term move – survey

More expats are looking at the UAE as a longer-term move to build their careers and future, a new study said on Wednesday.

Once considered a transient and short-term option, more and more nationalities are opting to stay longer in the UAE, according to the study conducted by Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

It said 62% of executives surveyed had been working in the region for more than five years and planned to be here “for the foreseeable future”.

Dubai facing $48bn debt challenge – Standard Chartered

Dubai faces nearly US$50bn of debt maturities between 2014 and 2016 but, unlike the crisis in 2009, is better equipped to handle redemptions due to an economic rebound, Standard Chartered said in a research report on Wednesday.

In the note, the UK-based lender said Dubai, propelled into the global limelight three years ago after asking for a US$25bn debt restructuring for one of its flagship investment vehicles, has made little progress on raising cash from asset sales and the emirate’s overall debt burden remains a challenge.

Abu Dhabi realty firms advance merger talks

Abu Dhabi’s top two developers – Aldar Properties and Sorouh Real Estate – said their government-backed talks were at an advanced stage.

The two companies also both reported higher quarterly profit on Wednesday, albeit with impairments and asset writedowns as valuations fell, highlighting glum conditions.

Their merger talks were started against the backdrop of continuing oversupply and declining house prices. Prices in Abu Dhabi were expected to fall 5 percent this year, a Reuters poll found.

Qatar’s Food Security Program Aims to Cut Imports by 60%

The tiny desert emirate of Qatar hopes to reduce its near complete dependency on imported food by 60% in 12 years after rolling out an ambitious multi-billion dollar government-backed food security programme.

Oil and gas exports may have made Qatar one of the richest per capita nations in the world but with an average rainfall of just 80 millimeters per year, like other Gulf states it relies on desalinated seawater for nearly all its freshwater needs and imports almost 95% of its food.

Exxon tells Iraq it wants to sell oilfield stake

ExxonMobil has informed Baghdad it wants to sell its stake in a south Iraq oilfield, an official said Wednesday, indicating the US giant will focus on a controversial deal with Iraq’s Kurdish region.

The move comes after a year-long stand-off between the American energy firm and Iraq’s central government, which has opposed contracts such as the one signed by Exxon with the autonomous northern Kurdistan region because it was not explicitly approved by Baghdad.

Iraq expels Turkish firm from oil exploration deal

Iraq expelled Turkish national energy firm TPAO on Wednesday from a consortium that won an exploration contract in south Iraq, in the latest sign of worsening ties between Baghdad and Ankara.

The two neighbours have been at odds over their responses to the Syrian conflict and Iraq has publicly urged Turkey to hand over fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who has been sentenced to death on charges of running a death squad.

The exploration deal was for a tract of land in oil-rich Basra province and had been awarded in May to Kuwait Energy, TPAO and Dragon Oil of the United Arab Emirates.

Syria budget deficit widens due to Western sanctions, strife

Syrian government has submitted the 2013 budget in which it revealed a steep increase in the deficit due to falling revenue and rising expenditure.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency quoted Finance Minister Mohammad al- Jleilati, who tabled the budget on Sunday, as saying that the country is suffering from sanctions which are also affecting the state budget, exchange rates, foreign currency reserves, general debt, inflation, unemployment and cash reserves.

The budget proposes a 4% rise in spending to 1.38 trillion Syrian pounds ($20 billion) for 2013. There is also an increase in public sector wages by about 13% to 236 billion pounds ($3.38bn), while spending on subsidies will increase by 33% to 512 billion pounds ($7.33bn), SANA said while adding that the deficit will reach 745 billion pounds ($10.67bn) next year compared with an estimated deficit of 216 billion pounds ($3.09bn) in 2012.

Egypt Set to Sign IMF Loan in December – Minister

Egypt may reach a loan deal with the International Monetary Fund next month, but it would be for $4.5 billion rather than the $4.8 billion hoped for, Finance Minister Mumtaz al-Said said on Wednesday.

Said said he expected “a final deal to be reached in the middle of December,” the official MENA news agency reported.

He had told state news paper Al-Ahram in an interview published on Wednesday that the deal for the crucial loan could be concluded by early January, but “with a slight decrease to $4.5 billion.”

MidEast buyers pile into luxury London market

Middle Eastern buyers piled into London’s luxury home market in October as they shielded their wealth from political turmoil back home, including the Syrian civil war.

The trend is not new, but a sharp increase in buying last month suggests wealthy citizens in some Middle Eastern countries believe their security is continuing to deteriorate, even as politics become more stable elsewhere in the region.

Buyers from countries including Egypt, the UAE, Israel and Jordan spent 50 percent more on London property in October than they did in the same month last year, paying an average 3.5 million pounds ($5.6m), property consultant Knight Frank estimated.

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