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MASHREQ MARKS 50 GOLDEN YEAR OF SERVICE

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, attended Mashreq Bank’s golden jubilee celebrations in Dubai on Sunday.

The ceremony was also attended by Sheikh Hasher bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, Director-General of the Dubai Department of Information; Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Economy; and Abdul Aziz Abdullah Al Ghurair, chief executive officer of Mashreq Bank, along with a number of officials.

Sheikh Mohammed viewed a film about the bank’s progress over the past 50 years and the stages of its development until it became one of the first national banks to contribute to urban and commercial development in the country and support its economy. Its financial assets stood at about Dh123 billion compared to Dh2 billion since its inception.

Sheikh Mohammed congratulated Al Ghurair for his success in establishing and developing this national bank which, he said, plays a positive role in supporting the country’s national economy on every level.

IRAN REMAINS EXEMPTED FROM CUT OIL PRODUCTION

TEHRAN – After the 172nd official meeting of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Iran was once again exempted from the OPEC, non-OPEC deal to cut oil production. The country which was allowed to increase production under the original accord, retains the same output target, Bloomberg reported quoting Kuwait’s Oil Minister Issam Almarzooq as saying.

That deal gave the Islamic Republic room to increase output to a maximum of 3.797 million barrels a day. Nigeria and Libya will also remain exempt from making. OPEC and its allies extended oil production cuts for nine more months after last year’s landmark agreement failed to eliminate the global oversupply or achieve a sustained price recovery. The producer group together with Russia and other non-members agreed to prolong their accord through March, but no new non-OPEC countries will be joining the pact and there was no option set out to continue curbs further into 2018. The market was unimpressed as prices tumbled more than 5 percent to under $49 a barrel in New York and more than a billion barrels were traded.

Six months after forming an unprecedented coalition of 24 nations and delivering output reductions that exceeded all expectations, resurgent production from U.S. shale fields has meant oil inventories remain well above the level targeted by OPEC. While stockpiles are shrinking, ministers acknowledged the surplus built up during three years of overproduction won’t clear until at least the end of 2017. The group is prepared for a long game.

Al-Falih said the cuts are working, adding that stockpile reductions will accelerate in the third quarter and inventory levels will come down to the five-year average in the first quarter of next year. While he expects a “healthy return” for U.S. shale, that won’t derail OPEC’s goals and a nine-month extension will “do the trick,” he said. The Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee — composed of six OPEC and non-OPEC nations — will continue watching the market and can recommend further action if needed, said Almarzooq.

NEW SHARIAH STANDARDS FOR ISLAMIC BANKING

Islamic finance scholars and specialists from across the region attended the launch ceremony, which was organised by the AAOIFI and Minhaj Advisory in Dubai recently. The AAOIFI has been working in order to develop the field of Islamic banking and finance globally. This event, the first of many, plays an important role in shedding light on the new Shariah standards that are being launched for institutions that wish to comply with Shariah rules and principles.

This event corresponds to the initiative of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to position the emirates as the global capital of Islamic economy. The event was supported by the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre and sponsored by strategic partner Noor Bank and bronze partner Emirates Islamic. The AAOIFI has recently issued four Shariah standards – No.(55) Competitions and Prizes Standard, No.(56) Liability of Investment Manager Standard, No.(57) Gold and its Trading Controls Standard and No.(58) Repurchase Standard – covering a wide array of Islamic financial contracts and products, including those pertaining to banking, Islamic insurance, investment banking, capital markets and financing.

These standards are deemed important Shariah reference for the industry, including legislative bodies, regulatory authorities and financial institutions. They are also important to other professional entities such as law firms, accounting and consultancy firms, universities, academic institutions and research centres and fatwa-issuing bodies.

ACCESS TO GLOBAL MARKET THROUGH UAE

The UAE is proud to have two International Financial Centres (IFCs),underscoring the strengths and forward looking vision of the nation. The Abu Dhabi-based IFC, Abu Dhabi Global Market, or ADGM, has forged ahead on multiple strategic areas in the short time since its inception on October 21, 2015. The ADGM has rightfully looked at areas that will leverage key strategic advantages that the region has over others. For one, The 2015 Grant Thornton Global Dynamism Index (GDI), ranks the Mena region ranks well above North America, Europe and Latin America in terms of market growth opportunities. The GDI cited the UAE as the region’s leading economy with one of the best business growth environments in the world.

Another key advantage is population growth. Various estimates indicate that 50 per cent of the world’s population growth to 2050 will come from the Middle East and Africa region. Juxtapose this on PwC’s oft-quoted “The World in 2050” report which indicates that Asia and Africa will account for 60 per cent of the world’s GDP. It becomes clearly obvious that a well structured financial centre, sitting at the crossroads of these two gigantic continents will actually have a fair advantage in terms of time-zones, cultural affinity, economic ties and distances.

Two recent entries into the Guinness Book of World Records demonstrates the power of being at this crossroad. On the 43rd National Day celebrations, 100,000 students representing 119 nationalities sang the Ishy Baladi – the UAE national anthem, in unison. This year, 600 UAE residents from 101 nationalities partook of a continental breakfast at the Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar.

Factors like these make the UAE a compelling investment destination. In 2015, the UAE attracted FDI inflows of $13 billion, a 25 per cent increase from 2014. Looking around us as we travel between the Emirates, we see the strong presence of key global drivers of the economy – excellent infrastructure, the presence of a well-developed financial sector, two of the world’s largest airlines, world-class retail sophistication, tourism, logistics, shipping and strong consumer services. And of course, the available oil and gas resources.

The ADGM has considered these key strategic, economic and human capital advantages. It has built its role, as an IFC, to identify, and cater to the current and future needs of the markets in the region. A key need is financial intermediation and services such as corporate banking, treasury services, foreign exchange and capital markets.

A few areas that come to mind. It has created the first private Reit regime in the region, provided a comprehensive suite of funds and innovative investment vehicles, enabling global and local institutions to conduct activities in Abu Dhabi and the region that could only be done overseas in the past. Almost 350 financial and non-financial companies have been registered at the ADGM in less than two years.

LPG PRICE REDUCED IN UAE

Adnoc Distribution has announced a reduction of the retail price of unsubsidised LPG cylinders for the month of April 2017 in all of its service stations in the UAE. As per the announcement, made on the 10th of every month, the new reduced retail price is as follows: – Dh52 per 25lb, reduced by Dh6 from the earlier marked retail price of Dh58; – Dh104 per 50lb, reduced by Dh12 from the earlier marked retail price of Dh116; – Dh208 per 100lb, reduced by Dh24 from the earlier marked retail price of Dh232. Saeed Mubarak Al Rashdi, acting chief executive officer of Adnoc Distribution, said, “Our competitive LPG cylinder prices are re-evaluated every month bearing in mind the interests of consumers and household customers in the UAE while taking into account fluctuations in international prices for the product. In cooperation with the concerned entities in the country and taking into account the rights of all stakeholders, Adnoc Distribution is keen to apply the new prices as economically as possible.”

MOODY UPGRADES RATING OF ABU DHABI FROM NEGATIVE TO STABLE

Moody’s Investors Service has changed the rating outlook on the government of Abu Dhabi to stable from negative. Concurrently, the long- and short-term issuer ratings have been affirmed at Aa2/P-1.

The key drivers of the outlook change to stable are an effective and broad policy response to the lower oil price environment via an acceleration in the reform agenda; the economy’s growth prospects, supported by a healthy banking system; and an easing of contingent liability risk. As part of Thursday’s rating action, Moody’s has also affirmed the senior unsecured bond rating at Aa2 and the long-term and short-term MTN programme ratings at (P)Aa2 and (P)P-1, respectively.

The weaker oil price and its impact on government finances and the economy has prompted a substantial acceleration in reforms containing fiscal pressures and supportive of the emirate’s diversification strategy.

The authorities have enacted broad subsidy reforms and expenditure cuts. Reductions in capital expenditures and transfers allowed Abu Dhabi’s government spending to shrink by 23 per cent over two years. Further progress has also been made in diversifying revenue. Moody’s believes that the UAE is better-prepared than its GCC neighbours to implement a new value-added tax in 2018. In addition, a new municipal fee on rental contracts of the expatriate population has been levied, and the authorities are reportedly considering the introduction of a corporate income tax.

During the up-phase of the commodity cycle, the Abu Dhabi government had already taken active measures to reduce the economy’s sensitivity to oil price shocks by sponsoring major infrastructure projects, fostering a conducive business environment and distributing resources to government-related entities to invest at home and abroad. As a result of the reform programme and stabilising oil prices, Moody’s expects Abu Dhabi’s fiscal deficit to come down to two per cent of GDP in 2017 and 0.3 per cent of GDP in 2018, after its estimates of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co’s dividend to the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia), and the Adia’s investment income are taken into account. The rating agency considers that the emirate’s fiscal buffers have not been materially impacted by the recent deficits and, with sovereign-wealth fund assets estimated at more than 200 per cent of GDP, those buffers continue to provide ample shock absorption capacity.

In Moody’s view, the move by the emirate to multi-year fiscal plans marks a significant institutional improvement because it reinforces the predictability of fiscal policy, with the authorities currently targeting a balanced budget by 2022 based on their definition, which excludes sovereign-wealth fund transactions. In addition, a new risk management strategy ensures that the emirate contains liquidity risks related to the public debt’s maturity structure, whilst increased cooperation between the department of finance, sovereign wealth funds and the UAE central bank ensures that ample liquidity covers the government’s financing needs.

UAE FIRMS VULNERABLE TO CYBER ATTACK

“Cyber-incidents were even more commonplace with 90 per cent of executives surveyed saying their company has suffered a cyber incident over the past 12 months. Over eight in 10 [82 per cent] reported the occurrence of at least one security incident over the course of the year,” the survey said.

Senior or middle management was cited as key perpetrators in two-fifths (36 per cent) of fraud cases, followed by junior staff (34 per cent). Third-party entities were also considered to have significant roles in most fraud incidents, with joint venture partners, vendors, suppliers and agents names by around a quarter of respondents. Former employees were also identified as responsible for 20 per cent of incidents reported.

Over half of respondents (56 per cent) said insiders were the key perpetrators of security incidents, with permanent employees the most common of these (24 per cent).

“This year’s Kroll Global Fraud and Risk Report has the highest proportion of companies reporting fraud and rising levels of cyber and security breaches. The impact of such incidents is significant, with punitive effects on company revenues, business continuity, corporate reputation, customer relations, and employee morale, as well as the risk of regulatory intervention,” said Tom Everett-Heath, regional managing director.

With fraud, cyber and security incidents becoming the new normal for companies all over the world, it is clear that organisations need to have systemic processes in place to prevent, detect, and respond to these risks if they are to avoid reputational and financial damage.

As important is the need for effective, thorough and timely responses when incidents are detected, said Everett-Heath.

In the Gulf, a broad range of cyber-incidents were reported. The single-most common types of incident reported was a virus or worm infestation, reported by almost one-third of all companies (30 per cent) and data deletion or loss due to system issues (30 per cent).

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