North Africa/Middle East

The implementation of a 5% value-added tax in Oman this year is seen bringing in 300 million rials ($779 million), the Oman News Agency reported Saturday, citing the Gulf nation’s finance minister, Bloomberg News reported. Oman’s 2021 budget, announced Friday, forecasts a 14% drop in spending and a 19% decline in revenue after finances were ravaged by lower crude prices and the coronavirus pandemic. The country last year announced it would impose a 5% VAT in an effort to bolster the economy and curb its widening budget deficit.

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Cleopatra Hospital Group, the biggest Egyptian private hospital operator by number of beds, agreed to buy Alameda Healthcare Group’s assets in the country in one of the largest African health-care transactions this year, Bloomberg News reported. The board of Cleopatra has approved the planned purchase, according to a statement yesterday. Cleopatra plans to partially fund the deal by issuing convertible loan notes to Alameda controlling shareholder Fahad Khater. The deal could value Alameda at about $450 million to $500 million including debt.

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Dubai’s government expects to spend 57.1 billion dirhams ($15.5 billion) next year as it tries to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus, according to the budget approved on Sunday, Bloomberg News reported. The program takes into account “the exceptional economic conditions of the fiscal year 2020 and the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy,” according to a statement on the website of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai. Government revenue is expected to reach 52.3 billion dirhams, it said.
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Lebanon’s parliament passed a law on Monday to lift banking secrecy for one year in a move that could clear the way for a forensic audit of the central bank, a key condition for foreign aid that has hit a roadblock, Reuters reported. Such an audit is on a list of reforms that donors have demanded before helping Lebanon climb out of a financial crisis without precedent. These include steps to tackle corruption, a root cause of the meltdown that has crashed the currency and triggered a sovereign default.

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Sentiments on the UAE stock markets have turned completely negative – as a mix of global events and local concerns fuel investor fears, Gulf News reported. Within the first two hours of Monday. The index shed more than 100 points, with 28 stocks in the red. (Al Salam Group Holding is the only one as of 11.30am to break the down trend.) By 12pm, the drop was brought down below 4 points. But it still looks like being a long day for UAE investors. The real estate stocks, which had been showing signs of strong recovery through the first two months, are particularly hit.

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Payments company Finablr is selling its entire business and operations to an Israeli-United Arab Emirates consortium for a nominal $1 after running into financial difficulties, the company said on Thursday, Reuters reported. Global Fintech Investments Holding (GFIH), an affiliate of Prism Group AG, has partnered with Abu Dhabi’s Royal Strategic Partners to buy the business, Finablr said in a statement. GFIH will provide working capital to support Finablr so it can continue to operate and support various stakeholders, including its employees and creditors, the statement said.

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Investment Corp. of Dubai is gaining a larger footprint in the emirate’s property market by asserting control over state-owned developer Meydan’s real estate projects, Bloomberg News reported. “We have embarked on a review of Meydan’s business strategy,” Mohammed Al Shaibani, ICD’s chief executive officer, said in an emailed reply to questions.

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When Kuwait’s prime minister returns to office in the coming weeks, he faces an apparent paradox: the Gulf state with a $550bn sovereign wealth fund is running short on cash to pay ballooning public sector salaries, the Financial Times reported. Oil accounts for 90 per cent of its revenue, but slumping prices have hit the western ally’s income hard, putting its forecast deficit close to 40 per cent of GDP, higher than it was in the 1990s, during the financially perilous aftermath of the first Gulf war when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

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Administrators of troubled hospital operator NMC Health are sounding out potential buyer interest for its flagship business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), three sources familiar with the matter said, Reuters reported. The potential sale of its biggest assets which would also include Oman, could generate around $1 billion, one of the sources said. It follows administrators Alvarez & Marsal’s launch in August of a process to sell NMC’s international business including its international fertility units.

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Coronavirus struck at a tough time for Morocco: it aggravated the impact of a second year of drought, in a country where economic growth is vulnerable to fluctuations in rainfall. Agriculture, which accounts for about 10 per cent of gross domestic product and employs almost 30 per cent of the workforce, was already suffering as a result of two years of poor rains, the Financial Times reported. The pandemic was another disaster, leading to the collapse of the tourism sector and disrupting exports to Europe, the country’s foremost economic partner.

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