01 May 2013

Kuwait to spend $18bn on projects
KUWAIT plans to spend KD4.5 billion to KD5 billion ($15.8 billion to $17.5 billion) on development projects in the 2013/14 fiscal year, which began in April, said Finance Minister Mustapha Al Shamali.

Domestic political tensions have been delaying work on parts of a KD30 billion infrastructure building and economic development plan announced by the country in late 2010.

However, there have been signs that the government has found ways to move ahead with some projects. Kuwait had a budget surplus of KD17.2 billion in the first 10 months of its fiscal year, preliminary budget data showed at the end of March, thanks to robust oil income and lower-than-expected public spending.

Shamali also said that the Opec member’s economy should grow by 4.5 to 5 per cent this year.


Oman trade surplus soars to $24bn in 2012
OMAN’S merchandise trade surplus rose 2.3 per cent to RO9.24 billion ($24 billion) last year, boosted by strong energy exports, according to data released by the government’s statistics centre.

Exports rose 10.7 per cent to RO20.05 billion, aided by an 8.9 per cent increase in the value of oil and gas shipments to RO13.97 billion.

Imports expanded 19 per cent to RO10.81 billion, partly because of a 36.2 per cent jump to RO2.56 billion in purchases of transport equipment. Flag carrier Oman Air added two aircraft to its fleet last year.


Abu Dhabi March inflation flat at 1pc
ABU Dhabi’s annual inflation remained flat at 1 per cent in March, according to data released by Abu Dhabi Statistics Centre.

The housing and utility costs, which account for almost 38 per cent of consumer expenses, fell 0.6 per cent from a year earlier in March, while clothing and footwear prices rose 2.2 per cent.

Analysts polled by Reuters in January forecast average inflation in the UAE would accelerate to 1.8 per cent in 2013 from 0.7 per cent in 2012, which was the lowest level since 1990.


Mena IPOs raise $1.6bn in Q1
THE regional capital markets in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) recorded a 20-fold increase in capital raised during the first quarter through three IPOs which soared to $1.6 billion compared to last year’s $82.8 million through four IPOs, according to Ernst & Young’s (E & Y) 2013 Q1 Mena IPO update.

This is the highest Q1 value since 2008, said the E&Y in its report.

The three regional IPOs in first quarter of 2013 represented a 374.3 per cent increase from the $339.8 million raised in the last quarter, it stated.

However, there was a 25 per cent decrease in the deal volume during the first quarter, the report added.

Phil Gandier, Mena head of Transaction Advisory Services, E&Y, said, “Q1’13 posted the strongest results for the first quarter of the year since 2008. However, the majority of the value is attributed to a large ticket telecommunications IPO in Iraq.”

Of the three IPOs, two came to market in Saudi Arabia while one was reported in Iraq. The largest issuance was in Iraq, with Asiacell Communications raising $1.3 billion, followed by Northern Region Cement Company in Saudi Arabia that raised $240 million and National Medical Care Company in Saudi Arabia that raised $97.2 million, said Phil.

“Over 40 per cent of investors in the Middle East and Africa stated a preference to invest overseas, as evidenced in Ernst & Young’s recent institutional investor study. Therefore, the challenge remains whereby more domestic deal activity would be a key driver for stronger IPO activity and growth in the Mena region,” he added.


Bahrain bad loans rise to $136m
THE Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has reported BD51.5 million ($136 million) in bad loans last year.

“Bad loans averaged 3.4 per cent of the total consumer loans which topped BD1.5 billion by the end of last year,” CBB Governor Rasheed Al Maraj said.

He stressed CBB must resolve to monitor consumer loans though regulatory procedures and enforce best banking practices. The measures are aimed at regulating the growth of consumer loans and reducing the volume of bad loans.


Qatar’s real GDP grows 6.2pc
QATAR’S real GDP grew 6.2 per cent from the earlier forecast 5.6 per cent on the back of strong non-oil and gas exports supported by expenditure in public administration, healthcare and education, said a report.

A pick up in project activity in the second half of 2012 boosted both construction and transport and communication. These sectors grew at 10.6 per cent and 12.1 per cent respectively in 2012, according to the report by Qatar National Bank (QNB) Group.

With the strong government capital spending increases, they are likely to see continued growth in 2013-14, it stated.

The country’s real GDP was 0.4 per cent points stronger than the projection from QNB Group. The non-oil and gas sector was the main driver of growth in 2012, as QNB Group had expected, expanding by 10 per cent. The share of the non-oil and gas sector in the overall economy increased to 42.2 per cent in 2012 from 40.7 per cent in 2011.

The same project helped drive strong growth of 11.8 per cent in the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing was also supported by a ramp up in production of petrochemicals and fertilisers at new facilities, said the QNB report.

Strong growth in government services of 11.5 per cent in 2012 was another important factor driving growth, supported by expenditure in public administration, healthcare and education.


GCC consulting market to reach $2bn
THE combined GCC consulting market, which grew by 18 per cent between 2011 and 2012, is now worth just short of $1.9 billion and is set to reach $2 billion during the next 12 months, a report said.

This follows strong growth in 2010-2011, added the report released in April 21 by Source Information Services (Source), a leading provider of information about the market for management consulting.

The report also found the Saudi Arabian consulting market, which grew by 34 per cent to $791 million, has now emerged as the largest consulting market in the GCC, eclipsing that of the UAE ($553 million). Behind Saudi Arabia, the report said that Qatar is the next most exciting market – growing at 14 per cent to $232 million.

The greatest sector growth across the region is coming from the public sector.

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