North Africa/Middle East

Protests against growing economic hardship erupted in Tripoli and spread to other Lebanese cities on Tuesday, with banks set ablaze and violence boiling over into a second night. One demonstrator was killed in riots overnight Monday, according to security and medical sources, as a collapse in the currency, soaring inflation and spiralling unemployment convulse Lebanon, a country in deep financial crisis since October, Reuters reported. A shutdown to fight the new coronavirus has made matters worse for the economy.

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Iraq is planning painful cuts in social benefits relied on by millions of government workers. Saudi Arabia will likely have to delay mega-projects, the International New York Times reported on an Associated Press story. Egypt and Lebanon face a blow as their workers in the Gulf send back less of the much-needed dollars that help keep their fragile economies afloat.

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Dubai is in talks to raise billions of dollars of debt privately instead of following Gulf neighbors by tapping public markets, as the emirate looks to bolster its finances and mitigate the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, Bloomberg News reported. The Middle East’s main business hub is discussing loans and private placements with around a dozen international and domestic banks, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

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Lebanon’s prime minister launched a scathing attack on central bank Governor Riad Salameh over the sharp depreciation of the pound on the unofficial market amid the country’s worst ever financial crisis, Bloomberg News reported. “There is a dilemma in the suspicious and mysterious way the central bank governor is dealing with the deterioration of the exchange rate of the Lebanese pound, and that’s causing the collapse,” Hassan Diab said in a televised address from the presidential palace.

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Investors holding debt protection on Lebanon are in line to share compensation of $215 million after the government defaulted for the first time in its history, Bloomberg News reported. Firms holding credit swaps on the heavily-indebted nation will receive 86% of the amount covered by the instruments, according to the final results of an auction to settle the contracts on Thursday. Credit default swaps pay out when a borrower fails to pay its debt and are used by investors to make negative bets on borrowers or as hedges for bond investments.

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Abu Dhabi-based KBBO Group, once one of NMC Health Plc’s biggest shareholders, plans to restructure its debt and is weighing strategic options for the business, people familiar with the matter said, Bloomberg News reported. KPMG LLP is advising the privately-held investment firm on the asset review along with ways to address the company’s debt load, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

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Oman and Bahrain are stuck on the sidelines of the international debt markets after a record borrowing tally by Gulf Arab economies this month underscored a divide between the region’s strongest and weakest sovereigns, Bloomberg News reported. Facing external financing needs that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimates at $5.5 billion this year, Oman and Bahrain are all but shut out from bond funding, waiting for their yields to retreat before wading into the market.

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Lebanon has reached out to the IMF to discuss its draft rescue plan in hopes of winning much-needed aid after defaulting on its debt, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said. “The finance ministry initiated contact with the International Monetary Fund, from which we have positive feedback on the financial plan, taking into consideration first and foremost the interest of the Lebanese,” he said in a televised speech, Bloomberg News reported. Lebanon’s government is discussing a program to revive its ailing economy and restructure its debt as well as its banks.

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Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank said it has launched a criminal complaint in the capital of the United Arab Emirates in relation to NMC Health, the healthcare group that was put into administration in the UK last week and owes the bank nearly $1bn, the Financial Times reported. The individual suspects, who have been accused of fraud and forgery in the complaint to the attorney-general in Abu Dhabi, comprise a number of the group’s previous management as well as certain current and former shareholders, two people briefed on the complaint said.

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NMC Health Plc’s biggest creditors have set up a coordinating committee, taking a major step toward restructuring the $6.6 billion debt pile of the Middle Eastern hospital operator, Bloomberg News reported. The company asked Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC to chair a coordinating committee of debtholders, NMC’s acting chief executive officer, Michael Davis, wrote in a letter to lenders dated Monday. Deloitte and Clifford Chance LLP have been appointed to advise the committee while Lazard Ltd.

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