North Africa/Middle East

Lebanon's Spiralling Economic Crisis

Financial meltdown on a scale never seen before in Lebanon has raised fears for the stability of a country facing multiple crises. Political chaos, the COVID-19 pandemic and a huge explosion at Beirut’s port, which killed nearly 200 people and caused billions of dollars in damage, have all deepened Lebanon’s troubles, Reuters reported. After months of discord, politicians are set to nominate a prime minister on Thursday to form a new government that must launch a recovery and unlock foreign aid.

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Union Properties PJSC is restructuring debt and trimming costs to weather a slump in Dubai’s real estate market, Bloomberg News reported. “We are focusing on restructuring our balance sheet, and all our efforts will be directed to reduce our accumulated losses in the past,” Vice Chairman Fathi Ben Grira said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. The company restructured 946 million dirhams ($258 million) of debt in August. Chronic oversupply has battered property values and rents over the past six years in Dubai.

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The English High Court appointed Ben Cairns and Richard Fleming of Alvarez & Marsal as joint administrators of NMC Health on 9 April 2020, but NMC Health’s operating subsidiaries in the Middle East, including its 36 UAE-incorporated subsidiaries (the NMC Companies), are not within the jurisdiction of the English courts and are not part of the English administration process, JD Supra reported. On 27 September 2020, however, the Courts of Abu Dhabi Global Market (the ADGM Courts) placed the NMC Companies into administration and appointed Ben Cairns and Richard Fleming as administrators.

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United Arab Emirates energy firm Dana Gas has raised a $90 million loan allowing it to redeem $309 million in bonds due at the end of October and avoid a third debt restructuring, Reuters reported. The company whose main assets are in Egypt and in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq said on Thursday it had obtained a one-year $90 million loan from Mashreq Bank. “In conjunction with the company’s cash reserves, the facility will allow full redemption of the sukuk at the maturity date of 31 October 2020,” it said.

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Arabtec Holding asked banks this week for a three-month standstill on debt repayments for its subsidiary Target, sources said, as the Dubai-listed builder that is facing liquidation seeks to save some of its business, Reuters reported. Target specialises in oil and gas projects and marine work with operations in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, its website says. Shareholders, including Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala Investment Co, voted last month to liquidate Arabtec after losses deepened due to the coronavirus crisis.

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The International Monetary Fund is willing to work with Lebanon to solve its financial problems and restructure its debt, but needs a partner in the Lebanese government, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Wednesday, Reuters reported. Speaking with CNN during the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank, Georgieva said ongoing fragmentation was holding Lebanon back and preventing progress on an economic plan to lift the country out of financial crisis. “It takes two to tango,” Georgieva said.

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Time and money are running out for Lebanon. Foreign reserves have dropped far below what the state already deemed “dangerous levels” when it defaulted on its huge debt in March, meaning it cannot afford to keep subsidies for long, Reuters reported. Leaders in power for decades have yet to enact a financial rescue plan, a year after huge protests against them swept the country, and they have failed to secure aid from foreign donors.

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Just over six years ago, Dubai-listed Arabtec Holding had investors eating out of its hands. At a lavish shareholder meeting at Abu Dhabi’s St. Regis Hotel, the contractor that helped build the world’s tallest skyscraper, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, outlined plans for listings in London, Hong Kong and New York, Reuters reported. Those plans never materialised.

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Al Masah Capital Ltd., once among the Persian Gulf’s most active private equity companies, is being liquidated after being fined for allegedly misleading investors about fees, according to court filings in the Cayman Islands, Bloomberg News reported. The company’s collapse comes after Dubai’s financial watchdog in May penalized Al Masah, its founder Shailesh Dash, and two other executives on accusations that they also provided unauthorized services. The individuals were banned from working in the emirate’s financial center.

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Shareholders of United Arab Emirates-based Arabtec Holding PJSC, which helped build the world’s tallest skyscraper, voted to dissolve the debt-laden firm in a move likely to threaten thousands of jobs and scores of suppliers and sub-contractors in the Persian Gulf, Bloomberg News reported. Construction companies that sprang up more than a decade ago as a building bonanza swept Dubai and much of the Gulf are facing a reckoning as governments pull back on spending.

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