North Africa/Middle East

Dubai’s financial regulator fined Abraaj Group, the world’s biggest private equity insolvency to date, a record $315 million for deceiving investors and misappropriating their funds, Bloomberg News reported. The fines ordered by the Dubai Financial Services Authority come as Abraaj, once one of the world’s most influential emerging-market investors, faces legal action in the U.S.

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Oman’s bond investors gained some respite this week as Fitch affirmed its rating for the indebted country and the government published encouraging deficit figures, potentially paving the way for the Gulf oil producer’s next debt sale, Reuters reported. Rated junk by all three major rating agencies, Oman has relied heavily on borrowing over the past few years to spur growth and refill its coffers – depleted because of lower oil prices.

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Heavily indebted Lebanon has passed a budget seen as a “first step” towards fixing its public finances but still has much to do to steer the country away from crisis. Investors are waiting to see if Gulf Arabs will offer a lifeline that may provide some breathing space, Reuters reported. Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens, after years of big budget deficits rooted in waste, corruption, and sectarian politics.

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A decade after the international financial crisis and local political upheavals, many of the non-oil exporting nations in the Middle East and North Africa are undergoing a process of redefinition of how they are linked with the global economy. It is not going well, a Bloomberg View reported. Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan are becoming more dependent on external borrowing than on foreign direct investments compared to the pre-2008 period. This is visible with declining ratios of FDIs to GDP, in contrast with increasing ratios of foreign debt to GDP and total exports.

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Lebanon needs a plan to manage its huge public debt that offers a chance to “liberate the public budget from the burden of a deadly accumulation of debt and debt service”, finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil said on Thursday. Khalil told parliament that such a plan would need to be discussed by stakeholders including the government, the central bank and commercial banks, Reuters reported. “This requires a dialogue by the government, between the government and (parliament), a dialogue in which the central bank participates and the banks participate.

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Amlak Finance PJSC is nearing a deal to restructure debt for a second time as the Dubai-based Islamic mortgage provider navigates an ongoing property slump, according to two people with knowledge of the plan, Bloomberg News reported. The company is asking creditors to reschedule repayments on $1.2 billion of loans over the originally agreed period that ends in 2026, said the people, asking not to be identified because the information is private. Most lenders have agreed to the new terms but a final deal hasn’t been signed, they said.

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Jet Airways shut down its operations on April 17 following the refusal by its lenders to advance any funds for its operations, The News Minute reported. Subsequently, State Bank of India filed an application with the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to initiate insolvency proceedings against the airline company. News has now come in that Etihad Airways has expressed its interest in the resolution of the Jet Airways imbroglio.

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On May 30, 2019, Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, signed DIFC Insolvency Law, Law No. 1 of 2019 (the “New Insolvency Law”) into law, thereby repealing and replacing DIFC Law No. 3 of 2009, the National Law Review reported. The New Insolvency Law, and supporting regulations (the “Regulations”), became effective on June 13, 2019, and govern companies operating in the Dubai International Financial Centre (the “DIFC”).

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Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries is looking to hire a restructuring adviser after cutting jobs as a ban on the medicine maker’s exports to Saudi Arabia weighs on its finances, Bloomberg News reported. The company known as Julphar replaced most of its top management and appointed new board members as it comes under increasing financial strain. The United Arab Emirates-based firm also cut about 150 jobs, or 3% of its workforce, according to a person with knowledge of the plans who asked not to be identified because they are private.

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Limitless LLC asked banks to delay debt repayments for a third time as an on-going slump in property prices weighs on the Dubai-based developer, people with knowledge of the plan said, Bloomberg News reported. The company is seeking to reschedule about $600 million-worth of loans and is also asking banks for a new loan of 475 million dirhams ($129 million) to help complete existing projects, said the people, asking not to be identified because the information is private. The developer hasn’t proposed a formal restructuring plan to banks yet, they said.

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