North Africa/Middle East

Lebanon is committed to launching fast and effective reforms that could be “difficult and painful” to avoid a worsening of economic, financial and social conditions, according to a draft government policy statement seen by Reuters on Wednesday. The statement sets the main policy objectives of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s national unity government that was finally formed last week after nine months of wrangling over cabinet portfolios, Reuters reported.

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DXB Entertainments PJSC said on Wednesday that the Six Flags theme park in Dubai had been put on hold as the financing for the project was no longer available, Reuters reported. The move is the latest sign that the Gulf’s leading tourism and commerce hotspot is being buffeted by the impact of an economic slowdown in the region triggered by lower oil prices and geopolitical tensions. DXB Entertainments said the decision came after its board in August 2018 mandated a strategic review of its future development plans and capital deployment.

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With fixed exchange rates and some of the world’s worst debt and balance-of-payment ratios, Lebanon’s newly-formed government knows it needs to act fast to avoid sinking into a full-blown economic crisis, Reuters reported. Lebanon’s ability to dodge financial disaster has for years confounded critics, whose warnings of debt defaults, balance of payments crises and a collapse of the pound currency, have all failed to materialise. The hope is that it will stay that way, but as the charts below show the numbers are daunting.

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British private equity firm Actis plans to instigate an investor vote from next week on its proposed takeover of one of Abraaj’s biggest funds, seeking indemnity from potential legal claims against the Dubai buyout group, said a source close to Actis. Abraaj was the largest buyout fund in the Middle East and North Africa until it collapsed last year after fallout from a row with investors, including the Gates Foundation, over the use of their money in a $1 billion healthcare fund, Reuters reported.

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Lebanon should consider a voluntary debt restructuring to avert a financial crisis despite pledges of aid from Gulf benefactors, according to Franklin Templeton Investments, which manages $650 billion in assets worldwide, Bloomberg News reported. A debt overhaul needs to be part of a reform program backed by lenders such as the International Monetary Fund, said Mohieddine Kronfol, the firm’s chief investment officer for global sukuk and Middle East and North Africa fixed income.

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Etihad Airways has appointed turnaround specialist Alvarez & Marsal to conduct due diligence on Jet Airways Ltd as it weighs bailing out the cash-strapped Indian carrier, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Executives from Alvarez & Marsal are camped in Jet Airways’ offices in Mumbai and are taking stock of the airline’s operations and looking into its financial health and records, one of the sources said, Reuters reported.

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Amlak Finance, a Sharia-complaint home financier in Dubai, initiated talks with creditors to restructure its debt again, The National reported. The company had previously restructured its Dh10.2 billion investment deposits and settled Dh2.8bn in cash with financiers in 2014, and subsequently revised the terms of the 12-year deal in 2016, Amlak said in a statement on Wednesday to the Dubai Financial Market, where its shares are traded.

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Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways on Wednesday said it has begun legal proceedings in London, disputing a claim by the administrators of Air Berlin for damages of up to 2 billion euros ($2.26 billion), Reuters reported. State-owned Etihad filed its case in the High Court in London on Wednesday, a company spokesman told Reuters, and believes that the case initiated in December by the German airline in Berlin should be determined by the English court. The insolvency administrator’s lawsuit said that Etihad had not complied with its financial obligations to Air Berlin.

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A report by Moody's Investors Service that downgraded the country's long-term investment ratings reflects the urgent need for quickly forming a new government, implementing reforms and reducing budget deficit, Lebanon's finance minister and experts said Tuesday.

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