North Africa/Middle East

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A government plan for tackling Lebanon's financial crisis projects a 93% devaluation of the Lebanese pound and converts the bulk of hard currency deposits in the banking system to local currency, according to a blueprint seen by Reuters. Of $104 billion of hard currency deposits, the plan foresees returning just $25 billion to savers in U.S. dollars, with most of what's left converted to pounds at several exchange rates, including one that would wipe 75% off some deposits. The plan sets a 15-year timeframe for paying back all depositors.
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Some Turkish manufacturing companies have halted production temporarily after Iran cut gas flows last week for up to 10 days due to a technical problem, Reuters reported. Companies affected include car parts maker Ege Endustri , cardboard manufacturer Kartonsan and defence and automotive parts maker Katmerciler. Turkey is almost fully dependent on imported gas from Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran, which suspended gas flows to the country last Thursday, saying there was a technical fault at a pressure-boosting station in Turkey.
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The United Arab Emirates and Turkey agreed to a currency swap equivalent to nearly $5 billion that reinforces an economic partnership between two Middle Eastern rivals and provides Ankara with a badly needed infusion of foreign funds, the Wall Street Journal reported. The deal, announced Wednesday, deepens the detente between Turkey and the U.A.E., powers that until recently were on opposite sides of a Middle Eastern cold war and remain at odds over conflicts in the region.
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Lebanon's currency has lost more than 15% of its value since the start of the year, piling further pressure on the population more than two years into a crisis that has plunged many into poverty and fuelled demonstrations, Reuters reported. Protesters took to the streets in several areas of the country on Monday night, burning tires and voicing anger at the dire economic situation amid political deadlock. Cars queued at fuel stations to fill up before another expected rise in prices.
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Egypt’s red-hot bond market has made it a favorite of emerging-market investors, and they’re counting on another year of big gains, Bloomberg News reported. JPMorgan Chase & Co. will add Egypt -- which has $26 billion of eligible government bonds -- to a group of indexes this month, setting the market up to receive an influx of cash from passive money managers. Investors have already been enticed by Egypt’s hefty interest rates, which rank as the highest in the world after adjusting for inflation.
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Lebanon’s currency hit a new low Tuesday reaching 20 times its value on the black market since the economic meltdown began in late 2019 and likely throwing more people into poverty, the Associated Press reported. The pound was trading at 30,000 to 1 U.S. dollar on the black market as the economic crisis continues with no solution expected in the near future. The Lebanese currency was pegged at 1,500 pounds to the dollar for 22 years until decades of corruption and mismanagement led to the country’s worst economic crisis in its modern history starting in October 2019.
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Israel's government said on Thursday it would give additional aid to El Al Airlines to help compensate for the reimposition of a COVID-19 entry ban on foreign tourists and restrictions on overseas travel by Israelis, Reuters reported. Israel's flag carrier will receive tens of millions of dollars from the state and El Al's controlling shareholders to help it weather the pandemic, and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, according to a Finance Ministry statement.
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The multibillion-dollar world’s fair in Dubai has warned that some venues on site may shut down as coronavirus cases rapidly rise in the United Arab Emirates, the Associated Press reported. Dubai’s Expo 2020 said that virus outbreaks among staff may force some parts of the fair to “close temporarily for deep cleaning and sanitization,” without elaborating on the scope or the location of the infections. The UAE’s daily virus caseload has skyrocketed by a multiple of 37 in just the last three weeks after the arrival of the omicron variant.

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Morocco has extended a ban on international passenger flights until the end of January to fight the spread of the Omicron variant, RFI reported. The closure deals a severe blow to its vital tourism economy, with those working in the sector warning that Morocco is going bankrupt. The National Office of Airports (ONDA) announced on Friday that all passenger flights to and from Morocco would be suspended until 31 January 2021. Royal Air Maroc – the local airline – said that its scheduled exceptional flights between 24 December and 31 December 2021 would still operate.

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The board of Jordan's Capital Bank approved a mandatory offer to acquire Societe Generale Bank Jordan (SGBJ), part of a drive to expand the bank's foothold regionally and domestically, its chairman said on Sunday, Reuters reported. Bassem Al Salem told Reuters an extraordinary general meeting had on Thursday also agreed to issue $100 million in perpetual bonds - meaning they have no maturity - to help drive growth.
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