CGI Gulf Insights of the Week

  • ByCGI Gulf Insights of the Week
  • Monday, 01 July 2019
  • Published inJuly 2019
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Country Risk Update - Bahrain

Risk Indicator  -  DB5c
Risk Level       -  High
Ratings Trend -  Deteriorating

Dun & Bradstreet downgrades Bahrain’s country risk rating after a sharp cut in oil price forecasts to 2023; we now forecast a recession in 2022-23.A giant oil and gas find off the west coast offers the promise of vast wealth if it proves commercially viable to extract. Bahrain achieved 4.1% y/y real GDP growth in Q4 2018, up sharply from 1.4% in Q3 and the strongest in nearly two years. 
Market Overview
Fraud alert: UAE Central Bank warns customers of fake WhatsApp messages
The UAE Central Bank has issued a fresh warning to customers not to open links sent through the social networking site WhatsApp. On 30 June 2019, the banking authority cautioned clients to be on the alert for fraudulent messages that claim to be sent either by the Central Bank (CBUAE) or by other banks operating in the UAE. “The Central Bank advises customers to avoid responding to such messages, and not to open any link that may be attached. [By opening the attachment], residents have the possibility of becoming a victim of an electronic scam,” said the authority in a statement. CBUAE stressed that it does not use social networking sites to contact individuals or businesses, and reminded customers to always protect their confidential information, such as bank account details and PIN numbers. “CBUAE advises residents not to disclose any information about their bank accounts or any other banking information to the caller,” it said.
UAE banks expected to report strong H1 profits
UAE banks are expected to report strong first half results supported by loan growth, lower provisions, and shrinking costs. In the first quarter of the year, UAE banks generated healthy earnings despite challenging economic conditions, according to a recent study by professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal (A&M). The first quarter witnessed a surge in profitability, underpinned by an increase in loans and advances, and a stabilized yield on credit. “Overall the profitability for the UAE banks has increased. This stems from increased operating income, reduced costs and increased balance sheet leveraging, offset by an increase in the cost of risk. This very much reflects the funding cost pressures that continue to impact the banks amid increased competition for deposits and tighter liquidity, consequently leading to lower net interest margins in Q1 2019,” said Dr. Saeeda Jaffar, A&M Managing Director, and the Middle East Office, and Co-Head in the firm’s Strategic Performance Improvement Practice. While the operating environment and credit conditions have remained largely unchanged during the second quarter of 2019, analysts expect banks to continue to report strong profitability largely driven by the higher yield on credit and decrease in cost-to-income ratio.
Saudi Arabia relaxes ownership limits for foreign investors
Saudi Arabia has relaxed a 49 percent limit for foreign strategic investors in shares of listed companies, aiming to attract billions of dollars of foreign funds as the kingdom opens up the region’s largest bourse to a more diverse investor base. The country has introduced a raft of reforms in recent years to make its stock market, the region’s biggest, attractive to foreign investors and issuers. The move aims to help enhance the market’s efficiency and attractiveness and to expand the institutional investments base, the regulator, the Capital Market Authority (CMA), said in a statement on its website. The Saudi stock market, which opened to foreign investors in 2015, has seen an upsurge in foreign fund flows since the start of the year due to its inclusion in the emerging markets indexes. “In the beginning of this year, we had only 1 percent ownership in the Saudi capital market by financial investors, today it is over 3 percent, that’s more than a threefold increase,” CMA chairman, Mohammed El Kuwaiz told Reuters in an interview. “Our hope is that we can see a similar increase in terms of pace and magnitude as we start to create more avenues for foreign investors to come into the market,” he added.
Saudi Arabia signs $8.3bn economic pact with South Korea
Saudi Arabia and South Korea have signed an $8.3bn economic cooperation pact during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Seoul. The pact was signed by the Crown Prince on 26 June 2019 as part of his first visit to the South Korean capital, which also included talks with President Moon Jae-in –- aimed at strengthening bilateral ties between the two governments. The Crown Prince – also Saudi Arabia’s deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence – was also received by South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-Yeon and Saudi Ambassador to Seoul, Riyadh Al Mubaraki. During talks, President Moon said he hoped relations between the nations would develop. “Saudi Arabia is the largest oil supplier for us, and it’s the biggest customer for South Korean construction firms. It is also our number one trade partner in the Middle East,” he said. “As a partner of the Vision 2030 project, South Korea will expand cooperation with Saudi Arabia to the areas of information and communications technology, smart infrastructure, defense, health and medicine and others beyond the traditional cooperation on energy and construction.”
Abu Dhabi reveals nine new initiatives to boost the private sector
The Abu Dhabi Government has announced nine new initiatives to boost development in the private sector, including the granting of instant business licenses and access to loans for SMEs. The initiatives come as part of the emirate’s Abu Dhabi’s accelerator program, Ghadan 21, which aims to ease doing business in Abu Dhabi. The three-year program from 2019 to 2021 includes a Dhs50bn fund that is being invested across four strategic pillars – economic, knowledge, liveability and social. It includes plans to create 10,000 Emirati jobs, ease business license requirements, support investment and speed up contract payments. The nine new initiatives announced include –Instant license, Industrial tariffs, License for technology businesses, SME credit guarantee scheme, Corporate R&D program, Open data initiative, TAMM journeys, Sharaka platform, Ecotourism incentives.

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Business Events this Week In UAE
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Date: 2 July To 4 July 2019
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