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TRAVEL BAN, EMIRATES BOOKING DIPS BY 35 PERCENT

Emirates, the world’s largest long-haul carrier, said it was concerned President Donald Trump’s latest travel order will still deter Muslim visitors to America, after booking rates on US flights fell 35 per cent following January’s ban.

Trump signed a new executive order on Monday, which takes effect on March 16, keeping a 90-day ban on travel to the US by citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. However, the order applies only to new visa applicants, meaning about 60,000 people whose visas were revoked by the previous order will now be permitted to enter. It also removed Iraq from the list.

“I am concerned. It’s the tone of it. We have brought millions of Muslims to the United States, but now they may not feel welcome, they may look at going on holiday elsewhere,” President Tim Clark told journalists in Berlin on the sidelines of the ITB travel fair. Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Gulf rival Qatar Airways, said on Wednesday his airline had not seen a drop in demand for US flights. “I make sure that when I deploy my planes, they are full, that the passengers are allowed to go into and out of a country,” he said.

RUSSIA TO PURCHASE 5 MILLION TON OF IRANIAN OIL

TEHRAN – Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that Russia is considering the purchase of up to five million tons (mt) of Iranian crude oil on an annual basis, IRNA reported.

Addressing the press, the official noted that for the time being Russia plans to imports a daily amount of 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) which will be about 5 million tons a year. “The two sides are making efforts to reach an agreement in this regard and hopefully in near future we will see the results,” he said.

QATAR ASKS BANKS TO OBEY NEW FX LIMITS

DUBAI: Qatar’s central bank told commercial banks on Thursday that they would have to obey new restrictions on their open positions in foreign currency by April 1.

In April 2016, the central bank had said it planned to introduce a ceiling on total foreign currency positions – surplus or deficit – of 30 per cent of each bank’s capital and reserves.

On Thursday, the central bank said the rule, which would “limit the risks of foreign currency open positions”, would also apply to Qatari banks’ foreign branches. But it will not apply at the level of banks’ subsidiaries, or to hedging transactions.

Under previous regulations, lenders’ foreign currency assets were required to be at least equal to their liabilities.

UAE BANKS READY TO FACE NEW REGULATIONS

Dubai: The UAE banks’ minimum common equity tier 1 capital (CET 1) ratio could increase to 12 per cent and capital adequacy ratio to 15.5 per cent by 2019, according to the new central bank regulations. But with the already strong capitalisation levels, most UAE banks are prepared to meet the requirements and deadlines, according to analysts.

Tier 1 common capital ratio is a measurement of a bank’s core equity capital compared with its total risk-weighted assets (RWA) that signifies a bank’s financial strength. It is a measure of strength and solvency in times of financial stress. Tier 1 common capital excludes any preferred shares or non-controlling interests when calculating Tier 1 common capital ratio.

Announcing the new capital requirements the central bank said that it seeks to promote the effective and efficient development and functioning of the banking system. “To this end, banks are required to manage their capital in a prudent manner. It is important that banks’ risk exposures are backed by a strong capital base of high quality in order to contribute to the stability of the financial system of the UAE,” the central bank said in a statement.

The new capital regulations announced by the UAE Central Bank require banks to maintain a minimum CET 1 of 7 per cent by 2017 with the counter-cyclical capital buffer (CCB) increasing each year until full implementation in 2019. Including these buffers, common equity tier 1 capital ratio threshold increases to 8.25 per cent in 2017, 8.88 per cent in 2018 and 9.5 per cent in 2019.

 

UAE ISLAMIC BANKING ASSETS INCREASED BY 42 PERCENT IN THREE YEARS

Abu Dhabi: Saif Hadef Al Shamsi, Assistant Governor for Monetary Policy and Financial Stability at the UAE Central Bank, has said that total Islamic banking assets in the UAE have increased to approximately Dh520 billion in the past few years.

Al Shamsi added that Islamic banking’ assets account for around 20 per cent of Dh2.6 trillion of the total assets of the state’s banks, noting that there are seven Islamic banking and financial institutions operating in the country. The assistant governor pointed out that UAE Islamic banking institutions account for about 7 per cent of the total assets of Islamic banking around the world which approximately amount to a total of $1.5 trillion (Dh5.5 trillion).

He further explained that Islamic banking deposits increased by 42 per cent over the past three years, compared to an 18 per cent growth rate in conventional banking institutions, and that lending by Islamic banks increased by 54 per cent.

UAE, SAUDI ARABIA DISCUSSION ON SELECTIVE TAX, TRADE

ABU DHABI: The UAE and Saudi Arabia joint-meeting on customs concluded its activities on Thursday last. The meeting, held as an outcome of the recent high profile UAE-Saudi Arabia joint retreat, discussed a myriad of topics related to selective tax, facilitating movement between the two countries’ entry and exit points, boosting trade, combating smuggling and developing customs systems.

The meeting, attended by senior officials from both nations, also touched on ways to address obstacles facing trade between the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Ali Al Kaabi, Head of the Federal Customs Authority (FCA), said that the officials reviewed the possibility of synchronising the implementation of the selective tax agreement and combating smuggling. He pointed out that a unified procedures guide has been approved for implementing selective tax at entry and exit points, and that a joint plan was approved to curb smuggling.

Al Kaabi added that both nations agreed on unifying customs clearance procedures in joint entry and exit points, and specifying mechanisms for customs clearance procedures at the first entry point. The meeting also agreed on activating the electronic link between UAE and Saudi Arabia for the exchange of customs-related information between the FCA and Saudi Arabia. The e-link is expected to be completed sometime before April, 2018.

DUBAI PRIVATE SECTOR GROWTH ON TRACK

DUBAI: The Emirates NBD Dubai Economy Tracker Index (DET) February data signalled a further improvement in overall business conditions across Dubai’s private sector economy, supported by sharp rises in output and incoming new work.

The latest index reading at 56.2 was slightly down from January’s 23-month high of 57.1, but was above the series average of 55.1, signalling an acceleration in economic growth at the start of this year. Output and new work growth continued to expand at a very strong rate in February, although the output index eased to 61.0. New work (62.4) increased at the fastest rate in two years, with firms citing stronger demand and successful marketing and promotional strategies.

BANKING SECTOR POST 10 PERCENT GROWTH THIS YEAR

ABU DHABI: The banking sector is expected to grow around five to 10 per cent this year amid signs of steady economic growth this year, according to the chief executive officer of Union National Bank (UNB).

“The growth this year will be slightly better than last year and we expect the banking sector to improve between five to ten per cent depending on the stability of the financial position. There will be a steady growth in the UAE economy,” Mohammad Nasr Abdeen told reporters late on Wednesday following the bank’s annual general meeting.

The comments come as the UAE economy minister Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori, expressed optimism about the growth of the economy this year boosted by higher oil prices.

Al Mansoori said earlier this week that the UAE economy is expected to grow between 3.5 per cent and 4 per cent depending on the stability in the region and political scene globally.

Oil prices rose by more than 10 per cent following the accord between Opec and non-Opec members at the end of last year to cut production by about 1.8 million barrels per day that is expected to positively impact economies in the Gulf region

INDONESIA LURES MIDDLE EAST

With visit by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to Southeast Asia winding down this week, Indonesia has won pledges of $1b in development finance

As one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies and the most populous Muslim nation in the world, Indonesia is billing itself as a natural home for Middle Eastern investment at a time when the US is turning inward. With a landmark visit by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz to Southeast Asia winding down this week, Indonesia has won pledges of $1 billion in development finance and signed agreements to cut trade barriers. That’s on top of a $6 billion oil refinery deal between Saudi Aramco and Indonesia’s PT Pertamina signed in December.

As the largest supplier of crude to Indonesia and with muted oil demand in developed markets, Saudi Arabia has plenty of economic reasons to build stronger ties with the Southeast Asian nation. With the US hardening its attitude toward some Muslim-majority nations, Indonesia also sees the potential for tighter links with the Middle East on the basis of religious bonds. “Politically, it probably also makes sense for the Middle Eastern petro-states to diversify their investments geographically into Asia,” said Thomas Lembong, head of the Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board. “In Muslim-majority countries like Indonesia, Middle Eastern investors would enjoy added comforts such as the inherent respect and feelings of sanctity towards investment from the very cradle of Islam.”

NEW BAGGAGE RULES IN DUBAI

Dubai: Operators in the travel industry have advised passengers flying out of Dubai International to adhere to the new baggage regulations that go into effect today, March 8, to avoid delays. Starting today, bags that don’t have at least one flat surface will be rejected at check-in, including irregularly shaped and oversized items, as they can bog down the luggage handling process.

“Customers are being asked to not bring round bags to DXB as they can jam our baggage system, delay baggage delivery and inconvenience other passengers. Please ensure baggage has at least one flat surface,” the airport authority said in its latest passenger alert.

An Emirates spokesperson said the airline is also advising its customers to check its website for all baggage enquiries, to avoid confusion. “We are quite specific and detailed with our passengers when it comes to baggage dimensions even when we have exceptions.” With the new changes announced only last week, some passengers are still likely to show up with non-compliant bags.

UAE, SINGAPORE SIGN A NUMBER OF MoUs.

Abu Dhabi: The UAE-Singapore joint committee meeting was held in Abu Dhabi, concluding with the signing of a number of Memorandums of Understanding.

The meeting was chaired by Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minster of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, and Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Foreign Minister. Al Gergawi pointed out that non-oil trade between the UAE and Singapore was valued at $4.1 billion in 2016, which is a 12 per cent drop from the $4.7 billion recorded in 2015. Al Gergawi said that this drop is an extra motive to work on advancing economic relations in order to achieve the outlooks of both countries’ leaderships.

For his part, Balakrishnan said the UAE is Singapore’s key partner in the Middle East, and is its biggest partner in terms of trade, with Singaporean investments in the UAE valued at $1.6 billion 2014. At the conclusion of the meeting, a number of cooperation agreements and MoUs were signed. An MoU was signed between Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore for cooperating in the field of FinTech. Also signed were two MoUs between ADGM courts and the Supreme Court of Singapore for cooperation in the field of judiciary work and mutual recognition on the implementation of judicial rulings.

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