North Africa/Middle East

The Israeli government will demand that El Al Israel Airlines carries out an overhaul, including layoffs, before agreeing to throw a lifeline to the cash-strapped airline, officials said on Sunday, Reuters reported. El Al, Israel’s flag carrier, is seeking state-backed loans of $400 million to help it through the coronavirus crisis, as foreigners are barred from entering the country and incoming Israelis must enter quarantine. The airline suspended passenger flights until at least the end of May while about 6,000 of its workers are on unpaid leave until June 30.

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As Iraq inches toward the formation of a new government, the risks are stacking up for OPEC’s second-biggest crude producer, Bloomberg News reported. Beyond the country’s long-standing sectarian tensions, frayed relations with the Kurdish north, a bloated public wage bill and endemic corruption, new Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi now has to grapple with a collapse in oil revenue and the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. Little wonder that the country is seeking financial aid from the U.S.

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Only a handful of Lebanese lenders are expected to emerge from an economic rescue plan that many banks, who are among the government’s biggest creditors, oppose because it would wipe out $20.6 billion in shareholder capital, Reuters reported. Lebanon is trying to enlist the International Monetary Fund’s help and restructure around $90 billion in debt to end an economic crisis which has included a sovereign default, a currency crash and widespread public protests.

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Lebanese banks are working on a national financial rescue plan that would preserve some of their capital rather than writing it all off as outlined in a government programme, the banking association head said on Tuesday, Reuters reported. The Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) has criticised the plan approved by the government last week, saying it would “further destroy confidence” in the heavily-indebted country which is facing economic and financial meltdown.

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After dithering and division, Lebanon’s government has concluded the only way it can refloat its sinking economy is by going to the IMF, the Financial Times reported in a commentary. That would be just in time. While it is a shopworn adage that countries cannot go bankrupt, Lebanon palpably has.

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A public fight between Lebanon’s new prime minister and its once untouchable central bank governor is jeopardising the state’s efforts to secure badly needed international financial support as it grapples with the worst economic crisis in decades, the Financial Times reported. The dispute came to a head this week after prime minister Hassan Diab, a former computer science professor, had lambasted governor Riad Salame’s handling of the country’s monetary crisis.

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The fallout of the coronavirus and oil-price collapse will offer a once-in-a decade opportunity for distressed debt investors in the Persian Gulf, according to Sancta Capital Group Ltd, Bloomberg News reported. “2020 will present us with the most lucrative deep value and distressed debt investment opportunity set since the global financial crisis,” said Ahmad Alanani, chief executive officer of the company, which invests in the debt and equity of under-performing companies.

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Finablr Plc, the embattled owner of two foreign-exchange businesses, uncovered about $1 billion of debt hidden from its board that may have been used for purposes outside of the company, compounding a scandal that pushed its sister firm NMC Health Plc into administration, Bloomberg News reported. The London-listed company and its creditors found that Finablr Group’s overall debt was about $1.3 billion, excluding the debt of its Travelex Holdings Ltd. unit and “materially above” its last reported figure, according to a statement.

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Lebanon’s government will seek a loan from the International Monetary Fund after signing off on a rescue plan to begin overhauling an economy facing its worst financial crisis in decades, Bloomberg News reported. “We will ask for a loan program from the International Monetary Fund and formalize our negotiations with Eurobond holders and move forward with that,” Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a televised speech Thursday after his cabinet approved the plan.

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