North Africa/Middle East

The Middle East and north Africa must accelerate economic reforms and tackle an unemployment crisis among women and young people that risks fuelling wider unrest across the region, the International Monetary Fund has warned. In a report published on Thursday, the fund highlighted the vast gender gap in the regional workforce, the Financial Times reported. If this was narrowed “from triple to double the average for other emerging markets and developing economies”, the region’s economic growth could have doubled in the past decade, gaining $1tn in cumulative output, it said.
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A Sharjah court judge on Thursday adjourned the case against Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi for issuing a $48.2m cheque with insufficient funds as talks to settle the debt move ahead, the Financial Times reported. Adjournment until July 11 comes after late night negotiations between representatives for Mr Naqvi and Hamid Jafar, the founder of Crescent Group, who loaned Abraaj $300m last December. The criminal case, which had its first hearing on June 28, relates to one of several cheques signed by Mr Naqvi and a co-defendant and written to Mr Jafar, which were dishonoured when presented.
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Bahrain hired investment bank Lazard Ltd. to advise on how to repair its strained public finances, according to people with knowledge of the matter, as the island kingdom seeks to secure crucial support from rich neighbors to avoid a currency devaluation, Bloomberg News reported. Lazard is helping Bahrain evaluate fiscal reforms to help ease pressure on the state’s budget, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details aren’t public. The options include raising capital from international markets, one of the people said. Bahrain’s Eurobonds dropped after the report.
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Bonds issued by EA Partners, a special purpose vehicle linked to Etihad Airways, fell to the lowest on record this week after the company said it wants to discuss restructuring some of its debt with creditors. EA Partners II’s $500 million of bonds due June 2021 are quoted at a bid price of 63 cents on the dollar, about 5 cents lower since last week, according to two separate brokers contacted by Bloomberg.
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A United Arab Emirates court is expected to rule next week on a criminal case against Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi for issuing a check without sufficient funds, a lawyer involved in the case said on Thursday, Reuters reported. The Sharjah court case relates to a check for 177.1 million dirhams ($48 million), signed by Naqvi and fellow executive Muhammad Rafique Lakhani, and written to Hamid Jafar, another founding shareholder in private equity firm Abraaj, according to a prosecution document and a clerk at the prosecutor’s office.
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Bahrain said Wednesday its Gulf neighbors Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will offer new aid to strengthen the island nation's "fiscal stability" amid growing concerns over its economy, the International New York Times reported on an Associated Press story. Bahrain, just off the coast of Saudi Arabia, long has relied on the largess of its wealthy neighbors to support it despite being the first Arab nation in the Persian Gulf to strike oil.
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The absence of any signal of financial aid from Bahrain’s neighbors sent the kingdom’s credit risk rising the most in emerging markets this month, Bloomberg News reported. The cost of insuring Bahrain’s debt against default for five years jumped 170 basis points on Monday, the most since records began in 2008, to 609. That’s the highest among emerging-market peers after Lebanon. The dinar, whose peg to the dollar has been effectively unchanged since 1980, fell a fourth day in the onshore market to the weakest level since at least 1988.
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Authorities in the United Arab Emirates have issued arrest warrants for the founder of private equity firm Abraaj and another executive for issuing a check without sufficient funds, according to a prosecution document seen by Reuters. The warrants are the latest setback for the Middle East and Africa’s biggest private equity fund, which has been locked in a dispute with four investors over the use of their money in a $1 billion healthcare fund, Reuters reported. Abraaj has denied misusing funds.
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The co-chief executives of Abraaj Investment Management Ltd (AIML) are stepping down from the board of the unit, days after the Dubai-based firm agreed to sell the bulk of the business to Colony Capital, Reuters reported. This is the latest shakeup at Abraaj, the Middle East and Africa’s largest private equity firm, which has been bruised by a dispute with some of its investors over the use of their money in a $1 billion healthcare fund. The group has denied it misused the funds.
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Dubai-based Abraaj Group agreed to sell its Latin America, Sub Saharan Africa, North Africa and Turkey Funds management business to U.S. investment management firm Colony Capital Inc, the companies said on Thursday. The agreement comes after months of turmoil at Abraaj in the wake of its dispute with four of its investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and International Finance Corp (IFC), over the use of their money in a $1 billion healthcare fund, the International New York Times reported on a Reuters story. The group has denied it misused the funds.
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