North Africa/Middle East

The United Arab Emirates’ banking group is considering whether to ask the central bank to relax mortgage lending rules to stimulate a fragile real estate market, sources familiar with the matter said. At the moment, first-time buyers of a home worth up to 5 million dirhams can only borrow up to 80 percent of the property value if they are UAE citizens, while the cap is 75 percent for foreigners, Reuters reported. The UAE Banks Federation’s retail banking committee has proposed that the limit be raised to 85 percent for UAE nationals and 80 percent for foreigners, the sources said.
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The cost of insurance on Lebanese sovereign bonds has soared in recent weeks, reflecting concerns about the sustainability of the country’s debt burden as its economy slows and faces a potential cash crunch, the Financial Times reported. Like many emerging markets, rising global interest rates are swelling Lebanon’s external financing costs as the economy’s growth rate slows to 1.3 per cent this year. The country has the world’s third highest debt-to-GDP ratio at 150 per cent, a legacy of borrowing from public markets to rebuild after its devastating civil war.
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Dubai’s flagship airline Emirates is looking at taking over unprofitable neighbor Etihad, according to four people familiar with the matter, in a move that would create the world’s biggest carrier by passenger traffic. The talks, which are at a preliminary stage, would see Emirates acquire the main airline business of Abu Dhabi’s Etihad, which would keep its maintenance arm, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the matter is confidential, Bloomberg News reported. The negotiations could yet fall through, they said.
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Abu Dhabi Financial Group (ADFG) has submitted a revised bid to acquire the management rights for the Middle East funds of stricken Dubai-based Abraaj, according to a document seen by Reuters. The Abu Dhabi-based alternative investment firm is among more than a dozen bidders seeking to buy the bulk of Abraaj’s private equity funds, Reuters reported. But in a letter to investors in Abraaj Funds, ADFG said that the bid is unlikely to materialize given the “convolution” of the situation. To address this, ADFG is seeking a dedicated budget to conduct a full forensic audit and a litigation budget.
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Shareholders of loss-making Dubai construction company Drake & Scull will meet on Sept. 27 to decide whether to dissolve the company, Drake & Scull announced on Wednesday. The company, which posted a second-quarter net loss of 181.1 million dirhams ($49.3 million) compared to a year-earlier loss of 182.7 million dirhams, said it was calling a general assembly under an article of United Arab Emirates company law, Reuters reported. The law requires companies to vote on whether they should continue operating if their accumulated losses have reached half of their issued share capital.
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Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Brothers Co. will seek to prevent Arab National Bank and another lender from claiming assets of the Saudi Arabian company to settle outstanding loans, according to its acting chief executive officer. Algosaibi will oppose the move because the assets are meant to be frozen by a royal decree to ensure all creditors are treated fairly, Simon Charlton said in an interview in Dubai, without naming the second bank, Bloomberg News reported.
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It was a deal that should have provided Abraaj Group with one of its biggest ever paydays. Instead the failure to sell a majority stake in Pakistan’s K-Electric to a Chinese group has all but crippled the Dubai-based private equity group, the Financial Times reported. Had the $1.8bn sale gone through at the end of 2017, its parent, Abraaj Holdings, would have received almost $450m. It didn’t.
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Qatar Airways is reviewing plans for its own domestic Indian airline due to “confusing” foreign ownership rules and could work with a partner in India or take a stake in IndiGo instead, its chief executive said on Tuesday. The state-owned Gulf carrier has long coveted the Indian aviation market, which is the fastest growing in the world, and in 2017 said it would set up a domestic airline, a year after India eased foreign investment rules for the sector, Reuters reported.
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Dubai’s economic downturn is starting to weigh on some of the emirate’s biggest state-linked companies, Bloomberg News reported. S&P Global Ratings cut the credit worthiness of Dubai’s utility monopoly and a company that owns properties in Dubai’s financial center. Explaining its decision, S&P said it was concerned that Dubai’s deteriorating “credit conditions” may affect the ability to provide extraordinary support to state-related firms if needed. The move is the latest sign that one of the most diversified economies in the Middle East is coming under pressure.
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More than 10 private-equity firms including Canadian real-estate firm Brookfield Asset Management have emerged as contenders to buy some or all of the funds managed by Dubai private-equity firm Abraaj Group, according to an email sent to investors reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Thomas Barrack’s Colony Capital Inc. has also re-entered the race after an earlier deal to buy four of Abraaj’s funds fell through after failing to secure sufficient investor support…The Wall Street Journal reported. Interested parties have until Sept.
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