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RISING OIL PRICES

Dubai: World oil market is expected to see a partial recovery in 2017 and 2018 in light of the Opec and non-Opec output cuts of 1.8 million barrels per day, Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) said in its Arab Economic Outlook. While the production cuts will help bring an oil market balance in 2017, oil demand is expected to increase by 1.2 million barrel per day this year, the AEO report said.

“These developments will support oil price increases in 2017 and 2018, compared to levels recorded in 2016 which reached $40.8 per barrel for the Opec price basket. However, the expected increase in shale oil production due to the price gains will limit the upward trend of oil prices during 2017 and 2018,” the report said. Mihir Kapadia, CEO and founder of Sun Global Investments, said: “We are now half way into the six month period of planned production cutbacks by Opec and its allied partners. Over this period, we have witnessed relative stability in the oil market. Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia indicated it could extend the production cutback period by a further six months. If this happens, it would help to support prices in the medium term.”

REINFORCING BILATERAL TRADE BETWEEN UAE & UK

A government-led delegation of UK investors and developers is arriving in the UAE as part of a drive to lure more investors to the post-Brexit country to build on bilateral investment and trade ties.

The delegation, led by Sir Edward Lister, who is the chairman of the government’s Homes and Communities Agency, will attend two set-piece events designed to reinforce investment and trade links between the UK and the Gulf as total international investment into the UK from the Middle East topped Dh15.1 billion in 2016.

Emiratis have always been strong investors not just in London, but also throughout the UK and we have always welcomed that investment, said Sir Edward. British Prime Minister Theresa May, addressing the 37th GCC Summit in Manama in December, said her government was determined that the UK and the Gulf would “build a bold new chapter in our co-operation”. The trade and investment relationship between the UK and the Gulf is already significant, with bilateral trade in 2015 worth more than £30 billion.

In Manama, the six members of the GCC and the UK agreed to establish a GCC-UK Strategic Partnership to foster closer cooperation in the fields of politics, defence, security, development and trade. Already, the UAE-UK Business Council has started to work towards an ambitious new goal of £25 billion annual trade by 2020. Oxford Business Group (OBG), quoting former British Prime Minister David Cameron, said the new trade target was set after the council reached its earlier objective of £12 billion annual trade two years ahead of schedule.

“Trade between the Gulf and the UK was worth $33 billion in 2014 -more than our trade with India or China. The UAE is our 14th biggest export market. In spite of Brexit, the underlying property dynamics in the UK remain unchanged. The demand for all types of property is enormous. The UK government target for housing is 250,000 homes a year. In a good year, we are only achieving 170,000. So, the pressure is on for housing across the country and we need with that modern office accommodation as well as industrial and distribution warehousing,” Sir Edward said.

IRAN, RUSSIA COOPERATION IN FISHERY SECTOR

TEHRAN- Iran and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the fishery sector, IRIB reported. The MOU was signed in Tehran by Hassan Salehi, the head of Iran’s Fisheries Organization, and Vasily Sokolov, the deputy head of Russia’s Federal Agency for Fishery.

Addressing the signing ceremony, Salehi said Iran and Russia are to cooperate with each other for trade and research in the fishery sector and given the large market of Russia, the ground will be prepared for boosting fish export to the neighboring country.

Also, it was agreed upon to lay the groundwork for Iran to import fish from Russia, the official added.

Iran will attend the 1st Russian Fisheries Forum & Seafood Expo Global, which will be held in Saint Petersburg in September, and Russia will participate in Iran’s International Fisheries and Seafood Industry Exhibition to be held in the Iranian calendar month Aban (October 23-Novemebr 21), Salehi announced.

Sokolov, for his part, referred to the fruitful negotiations between the two sides for the expansion of trade and research ties in the field of fishery and said Iran and Russia will exchange experiences with each other.

ITALY TO INVEST IN IRAN OIL SECTOR

TEHRAN – Italian companies are decisive to invest in renewable energy projects in southern Iran, IRNA reported quoting an Italian official as saying.

According to the head of an Italian trade delegation visiting southern Hormozgan Province, considering the regions’ geographical characteristics Hormozgan has great potentials for establishing solar and wind power plants. “We will start with small 25 megawatts (MW) solar plants as pilot, and in the next steps we’ll go for bigger plants,” the Italian official said.

Iran has also promised to support Italian companies in this regard and a 744-hectare solar farm has been considered for such projects. In April 2016, former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi traveled to Iran for economic and political talks with the senior Iranian officials and signed six cooperation agreements with Iran.

During Renzi’s visit, Tehran and Rome signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on construction of 500 MW of renewable energy power plants in Iran. The planned projects will be completed in the next four years by the Italian investing companies.

 

UAE RANKS AMONG WORLD’S SAFEST COUNTRY

The UAE is the second safest country in the world behind only Finland, according to a report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

“It is also one of the most secure destinations (2nd), and has a well-developed hospitality and entertainment infrastructure (27th),” said the report. The country continues to be the most competitive economy for developing its travel and tourism sector in the Middle East and North Africa and ranks number two globally for tourism safety, latest data from World Economic Forum shows.

The UAE, ranked 29th globally overall, well ahead of its nearest regional challenger Qatar (47th), continued to improve its performance with its score rising 1.4 per cent since 2015, the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism (T&T) Competitiveness Report 2017 said. Spain tops the 2017 edition of the TTCI global rankings for the second time, followed by France (2nd), Germany (3rd), Japan (4th, gaining five places), the UK (5th), the US (6th, losing two places), Australia (7th), Italy (8th), Canada (9th, up one) and Switzerland (10th, losing four places).

The UAE, despite these improvements, fell by a few positions in the rankings, due to exceptional performances of countries in other regions, in particular, South Korea and Greece. The report said the UAE, which welcomed 14.4 million international visitors in 2015, four million more than two years earlier, continues to offer an outstanding business environment to invest in T&T activities (5th), with advanced ICT readiness (15th) and one of the best air transport infrastructures in the world (3rd), in terms of both connectivity and quality of the service.

The report noted that to improve its competitiveness further, the UAE should focus on becoming more open (75th), expanding its health facilities, and making better use of its natural resources. The world’s 10 safest countries are including Finland, UAE, Iceland, Oman, Hong Kong, Singapore, Norway, Switzerland, Rwanda and Qatar.

SILENT CHANGE IN CONSUMER PAYMENT

Dubai: Over the last couple of months, there has been increasing visibility for fintech in the UAE. Although there have been multiple articles, there is room for explaining the fundamentals of one important aspect of fintech i.e. digital payments from a practitioner’s point of view. The Nilson Report is the go-to information source on card payments. The website indicates that in 2015, the total purchase volume from the card industry was in the region of $21.5 trillion with the bulk coming in from Asia.

Four seemingly unrelated initiatives point to a strategic shift in the payment industry. The industry is currently dominated by a couple of global giants and several aspirants at the global, regional and domestic level. In the series of articles relating to the coming change in payments, the focus will be to examine the specific changes being brought about by these four and how each one of these relates to a critical aspect of the payments value chain.

First, it is relevant to highlight four key elements of the digital payments value chain – authentication and authorisation or simply just getting to know who is making the payment and whether that entity is good for the amount. Clearing and settlement or basically collecting on an IoU. The third is interchange or the source of revenue in the value chain and finally there is interoperability and standards that allow multiple players to connect to each other. There are of course, several other factors including regulations, fraud control, liability and foreign exchange conversion management but the four mentioned are fundamental.

In each of these four, one strong challenger to the existing practices will be discussed briefly to allow fintechs to see the strategic opportunity. A relatively unnoticed evolution happened in the first few months of 2016. Safaricom is the dominant telco in Kenya. It’s half-year results (sourced from the company website) for the period ending September 2016 showed that contribution from its voice services (US$449 Million) was overshadowed by the contribution from payments and data ($511 million). Even more important, unlike its counterparts from other parts of the world, Safaricom is not getting stuck in a low or no-growth scenario. Year-on-year net profit grew at 32.4 per cent. It looks like a systemic shift both in the business model of telecom companies as well as in the payments business. It is important to note that Safaricom’s journey with M-Pesa is less than eight years old.

UAE ECONOMY TO REBOUND IN 2018-IMF

UAE’s economic growth will accelerate to 4.4 per cent in 2018 as global growth is expected to pick up steam from 2017, driven by rebound in investment, manufacturing and trade, the International Monetary Fund said.

Raising its outlook for the global economy, the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook that growth is expected to rise to 3.5 per cent this year and 3.6 per cent in 2018, compared to 3.1 per cent last year with “buoyant financial markets and a long-awaited cyclical recovery in manufacturing and trade under way.”

“Stronger activity and expectations of more robust global demand, coupled with agreed restrictions on oil supply, have helped commodity prices recover from their troughs in early 2016,” according to a statement from the IMF, which is holding its annual spring meetings in Washington, D.C. this week. For 2017, the IMF cut its forecast for Arabian Gulf oil producers’ economic growth as their output restraint deal is expected to wipe out any gains from higher oil prices in terms of government revenue.

“The expected growth improvements in 2017 and 2018 are broadly based,” said Maurice Obstfeld, Economic Counsellor and IMF director of the Research Department, but he added that “growth remains tepid in many advanced economies, and commodity exporters continue to struggle”. “Commodity prices have firmed since early 2016, but at low levels, and many commodity exporters remain challenged – notably in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America,” he added.

The IMF said that it expects real GDP growth for the seven oil-exporting countries in the Middle East of 1.9 per cent this year, which is a full percentage point lower than the 2.9 per cent growth it forecast for the group last October. Saudi Arabia’s growth is forecast to grow at just 0.4 per cent this year, compared with a forecast last October of 2 per cent, and 1.3 per cent in 2018. The UAE’s growth forecast, which is cut to 1.5 per cent in 2017 from 2.5 per cent last year, is seen accelerating to 4.4 per cent in 2018, at the fastest pace in the region.

The UAE economy has been resilient to the impact of the slump in oil prices as it has benefited from a relatively diversified economy, excellent infrastructure, political stability and ample foreign assets, according to the Institute of International Finance.

“Sentiment has improved with firmer oil prices. We expect non-oil activity to pick up modestly in 2017 as fiscal drag eases and consumption spending rises in the second half of 2017, ahead of the introduction of value added tax [VAT] in 2018,” said Garbis Iradian, Chief Economist Africa Middle East, IIF.

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