Middle East Business Review

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Reports suggest troubled British banking giant, Lloyds TSB, is contemplating to sell its UAE operations with Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) emerging as the strongest contender. “With all the investment which local banks are putting in, it’s increasingly difficult for small and medium-sized internationals to compete in the retail space,” a banker privy to the information said on condition of anonymity. “With internationals evaluating their businesses after what happened in Europe, any product line which isn’t profitable will go,” the source added. ADCB bought Royal Bank of Scotland, another debt-laden British bank’s UAE retail operations, in June 2010 for AED367 million ($100 million).

Dubai’s troubled jewellery retailer, Damas, has agreed in principle to sell Qatari consumer goods and automobiles retailer, Mannai, 58.79 per cent of its shares. A statement released by the Doha-based company said the Abdullah brothers, founders of Damas, and other shareholders have agreed “to accept that offer at a price of $0.45 per Damas share, provided that an announcement of a firm intention to make the offer is made on or prior to April 20, 2012”.

According to a Bloomberg report, oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi would be bailing out a few property development companies as the real estate market struggles to make a comeback. Its fair to think of Abu Dhabi as a backstop in a worst- case scenario, because a big default would be too tough of an option now and would damage confidence, Saud Masud, an analyst at Dubai-based Rasmala Investment Bank Ltd, told Bloomberg. Abu Dhabi bailed out neighbouring emirate of Dubai in 2009 by contributing to a $20 billion financial rescue fund. It also bailed out leading property developer Aldar PJSC twice last year. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have seen property prices plummeting to as low as 60% and 45% respectively after the 2008 global credit crunch.

Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and State of Qatar are finalising plans to construct a multimillion dollar offshore gas terminal in Red Sea port of Aqaba as Amman hopes to replace Egyptian gas imports with Qatari liquefied natural gas. “We had very technical talks about this project and we discussed its financial feasibility,” Jordanian minister of energy, Qutaiba Abu Qura, told Dubai-based Gulf News. His counterpart also hinted that a gas deal between the two countries is within reach. Pipelines transporting Egyptian gas to Jordan via Israel have come under renewed rocket attacks since the regime change in last year’s popular uprising in Cairo.

According to some property analysts, many real estate projects across the UAE are facing delays due to difficulties obtaining connections to utilities like water, electricity and sewage and as a result failing to finish construction in time. Infrastructure delays are one of the primary reasons for delaying handovers. If you look at Business Bay area of Dubai, about a year ago there were lots of completed buildings, but no occupation. Its a common trend here, Matt Green, head of research at property consultancy CBRE, said.

Meanwhile, an amendment in the landlord and tenant law led to the rise in apartment rentals in Amman during the fourth quarter of 2011. Asteco, a leading property consultancy, said the amendment allows landlords to terminate existing agreements which in some cases were entered into over five years ago. Rental rates in some areas are expected to continue rising in 2012 as landlords continue to bring prices up to current values, Elaine Jones, CEO Asteco, said in a statement.

According to a Forbes Middle East study, Middle Eastern kingdom and sheikhdoms topped the list of “2011 Top Performing Economies in the Arab Region” amid political uprisings across the region. Saudi Arabia, region’s biggest economy, topped the list, followed by the United Arab Emirates while Qatar in third place and Oman in fourth position. State of Kuwait finished fifth in the ranking. Jordan managed to finish 10th on the list as the country grappled with political unrest and high levels of unemployment and inflation. Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen were the worst performers owing to instability and fears of civil strife.

(By Moign Khawaja – Editor: Arabian Gazette)

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