CGI Gulf Insights of the Week

  • ByCGI Gulf Insights of the Week
  • Monday, 07 January 2019
  • Published inJanuary 2019
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Country Risk Update
United Arab Emirates

Risk Indicator - DB3b
Risk Level - Slight
Ratings Trend - Stable

Access to global markets from Dubai will be among the best in the world. The UAE will continue to strengthen its position as a regional safe haven and business hub. As the oil price slumps, risks will be raised slightly; growth will slow, the fiscal and budget surpluses will fall and liquidity will be curtailed.
Market Overview
Dubai-based Launches First AI Insurance Service In The Region
Dubai- based insurance technology company has announced the launch of a new Artificial Intelligence-enabled Platform for small and medium businesses to manage their group health insurance (Aqeed People). Aqeed People is a simple and refreshingly intuitive People platform that combines insurance with a suite of other features including payroll and HR for small and mid-sized businesses. A technology company focused on making insurance simple for customers has raised $18 million and launching its core platform in April of 2018, Aqeed has also expanded its offering to allow customers to purchase not only car insurance online but also Home, travel and 9 other insurance products.  “Our assistive AI bot will not only allow companies to get the best medical insurance quotes from the market, manage their members and renew their group health insurance policies, it will also allow their People to get answers for all their medical insurance needs, by interacting with our proprietary AI bot, they will be able to find what they are covered for and where they are covered instantly”, said Hadi Radwan, Chief Product Officer of Aqeed.
Yallacompare kicks off 2019 with a new $8 Million funding round
UAE–based startup 
yallacompare, a website that allows users to compare and pick the best product, secured $8 million in a new funding round from a group of investors, bringing the company’s total funding over $18.1 million to date. The latest round was led by existing investors STC Ventures which is managed by Iris Capital; and Wamda Capital, in addition to a new significant investor Argo Ventures, the early- and growth- stage investment arm of international insurance company Argo Group. Founded in 2011 and formerly known as compareit4me, yallacompare is the Middle East’s leading comparison site by its share of online insurance sales. Using its platform, consumers can compare and buy insurance policies online, as well as apply for bank accounts, credit cards, loans, cars and more in nine markets across the MENA region. The new investment will be used to offer new financial products and expand the company's operation across the region in 9 countries including UAE, Kuwait, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Oman, and Qatar. “We are delighted with this latest round of funding, which represents a ringing endorsement of our direct-to-consumer financial services model,” remarked Jon Richards, CEO, yallacompare.
Explained: the UAE's first year of VAT in numbers
A total of 296,000 businesses have registered with the VAT system in the UAE during the first year of operations, it was announced on 5th January 2019. The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) also said that 176 Tax Agents were accredited and the number of tax returns received from businesses registered for VAT purposes exceeded 650,000 in the 12 months since January 1 2018. The FTA said the total number of queries it answered about the new tax regime exceeded 453,500 during the first year while the Federal Tax Authority was among the eight most searched names in the UAE on global search engine Google in 2018. Khalid Ali Al Bustani, director general of the FTA, said the VAT system has been praised by experts and local, regional and international official bodies, adding that a "seamless and flexible tax system" has been rolled out. His comments came in a statement issued by the FTA to mark the first anniversary of the introduction of VAT in the UAE at a 5 percent rate on the supply of most goods and services in the country.
Saudi banks said to seek advisors on $182bn merger
 National Commercial Bank and Riyad Bank are seeking advisers for a potential merger that would create the Gulf region’s third-biggest lender with $182 billion in assets, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The banks have sent out the so-called request for proposals to firms including Citigroup, Credit Suisse Group, Goldman Sachs Group, HSBC Holdings, JPMorgan Chase & Co and UBS Group, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Formal advisers for the deal, which could be the biggest bank merger for almost three years, could be appointed this month, the people said. The proposed combination has the backing of the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund that owns about 44 percent of National Commercial Bank and 22 percent National Commercial Bank, which has a market value of about $38 billion, last month said it started talks with Riyad Bank, which is worth about $ of Riyad Bank, the people said. No final decisions have been made and the banks may choose other advisers, they said. Saudi Arabia is exploring mergers to boost its financial services industry after the combination of Saudi British Bank and Alawwal Bank.15.7billion after Bloomberg News reported the kingdom was weighing more bank combinations. 
Dubai bank said to win right to swap Abraaj debt for fund stakes
Noor Bank, which provided a $100 million loan to the collapsed Abraaj Group, won the right to swap the debt for stakes in some of the Dubai-based buyout firm’s funds, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Privately-held Noor Bank won approval from a court in the Cayman Islands, where Abraaj is undergoing a supervised restructuring, to take ownership of stakes in the funds that were pledged against the loan, the people said, asking not to be identified because the process is private. Noor Bank will hold the stakes alongside other investors and limited partners, the people said. The lender may eventually be able to recover more than it lent to Abraaj when the assets in the funds are sold, one of the people said. Abraaj was one of the most high-profile private equity companies in the Middle East until its dramatic collapse last year. The firm owes banks more than $1 billion and is being restructured after it defaulted on loans and was found to have borrowed money from some of its own funds to meet operating expenses without investors’ consent, people with knowledge of the matter have said. Asset sales - 
Court-appointed liquidators are now seeking to sell its funds and assets to repay investors. Noor Bank declined to comment, while Abraaj’s liquidators, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers, didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.
Commodity Tracker
Business Events this Week In UAE
Sign and Graphic Imaging Middle East
@ Dubai World Trade Centre
Date: 13th January 2019 - 15th January 2019
Business Updates
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