North Africa/Middle East

Lebanon’s severe economic and financial crisis is likely to rank as one of the worst the world has seen in more than 150 years, the World Bank said in a report released Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. The World Bank said that since late 2019, Lebanon has been facing compounded challenges, including its largest peace-time economic and financial crisis, the spread of coronavirus and a massive blast at Beirut’s port last year that is considered as one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.

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The OPEC oil cartel and allied producing countries plan to restore 2.1 million barrels per day of crude production, balancing fears that COVID-19 outbreaks in some countries will sap demand against surging energy needs in recovering economies, the Associated Press reported. Energy ministers made the decision during an online meeting Tuesday.
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Saudi Arabian oil group Aramco is in talks with banks for a U.S. dollar-denominated bond issue, two sources said, seeking to raise money ahead of large commitments for its major shareholder, the Saudi government, Reuters reported. Aramco was widely expected to become a regular bond issuer after its debut $12 billion bond deal in 2019 was followed by an $8 billion, five-part transaction in November last year.
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Abu Dhabi’s state oil firm raised $1.64 billion by selling bonds and shares in its fuel arm, which slumped the most in more than a year, Bloomberg News reported. The capital of the United Arab Emirates contains almost all the OPEC member’s hydrocarbon reserves. The government, along with others in the region such as Saudi Arabia and Oman, is seeking to use money from energy assets to build new industries and diversify the economy. Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.
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Egypt is targeting $6 billion-$9 billion in tourism revenue in 2021 as an influx of Eastern European and Gulf vacationers revive a key sector heavily hit by the pandemic, the minister said, Bloomberg News reported. With visitors numbers having risen to about 500,000 a month, Egypt is hoping for a total of more than 6 million tourists this year, Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany said Wednesday on the sidelines of a tourism conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
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Dubai-listed Emirates REIT made no indication it’s willing to compromise with a group of creditors that rejected its proposal to exchange $400 million of sukuk securities for new notes, Bloomberg News reported. A dispute with investors escalated on Wednesday after the dissenting certificate-holders said they have the numbers to block the offer and asked for a meeting with the company the following day “to discuss the concerns of the Ad-Hoc Group and its requirements for the restructuring process.” Rothschild & Co. and Clifford Chance are advising the group.
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Israel will sign a free trade agreement with South Korea this week, marking the first such arrangement with an Asian market, Israel's economy ministry said on Sunday, Reuters reported. The deal is meant to bolster bilateral trade by cutting out customs duties and offering safety nets on investments. Bilateral trade reached about $2.4 billion in 2020, about two thirds of it goods and services imported into Israel, the ministry said. The deal will be signed this week in Seoul during a visit by Israel's foreign affairs and economy ministers.
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Saudi Arabia is talking with unnamed foreign investors about selling stakes in Aramco, with options that include a 1% acquisition by a leading global energy company, according to the kingdom’s crown prince, the Wall Street Journal reported. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler and chairman of Saudi Arabian Oil Co., as Aramco is officially known, said that an announcement would come in the next year or two.

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A ship that blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week in March is being held in the waterway as canal authorities pursue a $916 million compensation claim against the ship’s Japanese owner, one of the vessel’s insurers and canal sources said on Tuesday, Reuters reported. The Ever Given container ship, owned by Shoei Kisen, has been in a lake separating two sections of the canal since it was dislodged on March 29, as the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) conducts investigations. Two SCA sources, who declined to be named, told Reuters a court order had been issued for the ship to be held.
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The blocking of the Suez Canal by one of the world’s largest container ships is likely to result in losses worth hundreds of millions of euros for the reinsurance industry, Fitch Ratings said, even as rescue teams were successful in partially refloating the vessel yesterday, Reuters reported. The 400-metre (430-yard) long Ever Given got wedged diagonally across the canal in high winds early last Tuesday, blocking the path for hundreds of vessels waiting to transit the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.
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