North Africa/Middle East

Saudi Arabia’s biggest construction company overhauled its top management, delaying plans to appoint an adviser for a proposed $15 billion debt restructuring, people familiar with the matter said, Bloomberg News reported. Saudi Binladin Group’s previous chairman and managing director left within months of being appointed, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter hasn’t been made public. The company also named four new directors to its board this week, they said.

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Lebanon’s central bank on Wednesday dramatically lowered interest rates on dollar and Lebanese pound deposits and loans — the latest measure to shore up the country’s banking system amid a burgeoning economic crisis, the International New York Times reported on an Associated Press story. Banque de Liban also announced that for the next six months it would pay 50% of the interest it owes banks on dollar deposits and deposit certificates in Lebanese pounds— a move that would also ease the demand on the dollar.

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Courier app Fetchr, once one of the Middle East’s largest startups, raised as much as $10 million in emergency funding to help avoid collapse, Bloomberg News reported. The Dubai-based company, which offers delivery and logistics services to e-commerce firms, is also in the process of securing as much as $25 million in additional funding to turn the company around, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

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Lebanon’s central bank plans to slash interest rates in an attempt to ease the country’s economic crisis and is considering formalizing temporary capital controls set individually by local lenders, Bloomberg News reported. Governor Riad Salameh told the Association of Banks in Lebanon that he will issue a circular within days to lower rates “to revive the economy” and limit the increase in “doubtful” loans, according to a document summarizing the meeting and seen by Bloomberg.

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Lebanon may have just repaid $1.5 billion of Eurobonds, but its chances of escaping a default still look grim. It will probably come down to how far it can stretch its foreign reserves while containing the worst currency crisis since it pegged the pound over two decades ago, Bloomberg News reported. On both counts, recent developments have been negative. The central bank’s reserves dropped by nearly $800 million in the first two weeks of November alone.

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As Lebanon’s crisis-hit bonds flash warnings of a sovereign debt distress ahead, any potential restructuring is likely complicated by the absence of widely-used legal clauses barring bondholders from holding up the negotiations in the courts, Reuters reported. Lebanon is one of the few countries - alongside the Bahamas, Azerbaijan, Macedonia and Poland - to not include so-called enhanced collective action clauses, or CACs, in the legal framework governing its recent bond sales.

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Creditors of Abu Dhabi-based Al Jaber Group are considering enforcing claims against the owners of the group after delays in executing a restructuring agreement, the latest in a long-running debt dispute, two sources familiar with the matter said. Al Jaber, best known as a contractor but with interests across a range of sectors, has struggled since a construction downturn in the United Arab Emirates after the global financial crisis, Reuters reported.

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Saudi Arabia is closely monitoring how much banks are lending to local investors rushing to buy shares in Aramco and what impact the mammoth offering will have on the kingdom’s financial sector, Bloomberg News reported. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority wants daily updates on how much credit banks are providing after it eased lending limits for buyers, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

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The political crisis in Lebanon has sent yields on some of its dollar bonds into triple digits. Rates on the government’s $1.2 billion of notes maturing in March next year have climbed 28 percentage points this week to 105%, Bloomberg News reported. They were at 13% five weeks ago, just before the start of protests that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and exacerbated the nation’s economic woes. Protesters marched to parliament in Beirut on Tuesday, forcing it to suspend a session as the army and riot police tried to disperse them.

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A new insolvency law to help UAE residents clear bad debts will ease the burden of heavy liabilities as the threat of criminal sanctions is removed, according to analysts, The National reported. The federal law, passed by the UAE Cabinet on Sunday, protects Emiratis and residents in debt from legal prosecution and decriminalises their financial obligations, offering them an opportunity to work to resolve their financial dilemma while still supporting their families.

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