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Etisalat 2017 net profit rises to dh8.44 billion

The UAE-based telecom giant Etisalat’s 2017 profits marginally inched up to Dh8.444 billion as against Dh8.421 billion in the previous year.

The UAE’s largest telecom operator saw its overall revenues for 2017 falling by 1.33 per cent – or Dh700 million – to Dh51.666 billion as compared to Dh52.36 billion in the previous year.

Its annual operating profits also fell to Dh11.4 billion as against Dh12 billion in the previous year.

The company, which operates in 17 countries across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, attributed the decline in revenues to the impact of unfavourable exchange rate movements in Egyptian pound against the UAE dirham.

But Etisalat’s UAE revenues increased year-on-year by 2.8 per cent as a result of growth in the subscriber base in the mobile postpaid and eLife segments, higher demand for mobile and fixed data services, and increased offering of business solutions, digital and ICT services. Its total assets, however, increased to Dh128.2 billion from Dh122.5 billion in the previous year. Etisalat’s fourth-quarter 2017 net profits fell nearly 12 per cent to Dh1.97 billion from Dh2.24 billion for Q4 2016. Etisalat’s stocks closed unchanged at Dh17.40 on Wednesday, with 692,219 shares changing hands worth Dh12 million.

Mohamed Al Hajj, strategist at EFG Hermes Research, recently said in an interview that the telecom major’s stocks could be dropped out of MSCI UAE index because the provider of equity indexes is currently consulting whether stocks that don’t offer voting rights to all shareholders including foreigners should be part of index or not.

Al Hajj said he won’t be surprised Etisalat acting pre-emptively If MSCI decides to take punitive action against companies for not allowing foreigners the right to vote. Earlier this week, Etisalat launched a new initiative – Hello Business Hub – whereby setting up a business became easier under one roof. The initiative offers easy access to all official procedures and services needed to kick start business operations under a single roof.

Al Ain square set for expansion

Abu Dhabi-based diversified group Al Qattara Investments will develop the third phase of Al Ain Square which will be spread over 200,000 square metres, said a senior executive.

Speaking to source, Ahmed Barakat, director, asset management at Al Qattara Investments, said the third phase will be a mixed-used development comprising apartments, a community centre, public park, retail, mosque and a school by Gems Education.

He, however, refused to disclose the number of residential units and investment figures as the project is pending approval from the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council. Al Ain Square is the new name of the Hazza Bin Zayed Community.

“We are in the process of finalising all the necessary authority approvals before we formally announce the details of the project. In the next 6 to 12 months, work on the project will begin. Targeted to open in September 2020, the Gems school will offer primary and secondary school education to kids from ages 4 to 18. The curriculum is yet to be finalised,” Barakat told.

Al Ain Square’s phase 1 and 2 were completed in 2014 and 2017 and it comprised a gross floor area of 450,000 square metres.

New tv show to promote UAE realty

The Dubai Land Department (DLD) and MBC Group have announced the launch of a TV programme titled ‘Mohemma Akaria’ (Real Estate Mission).

The TV show is aimed at attracting new real estate investment into Dubai and the GCC by highlighting the unique features that make Dubai and the wider region an attractive environment for property investors.

‘Mohemma Akaria’ will be aired once a week from February 17 (every Saturday) on MBC1 at 7.30pm UAE time.

Sultan Butti bin Mejren, director-general of DLD, said: “As the governmental entity responsible for regulating and promoting Dubai’s real estate sector while also spreading knowledge and a strong real estate culture, the DLD is pleased to work in partnership with a leading media group like MBC. Our partnership will help us strengthen our promotion efforts, attract more investors and consolidate real estate awareness across the region.”

Ali Jaber, group TV director of MBC Group, said: “We look forward to this pioneering television experience. This programme is the first of its kind in the region and features a unique combination of entertainment and education; we are confident that it will drive real estate investment in Dubai and across the GCC.”

‘Mohemma Akaria’ includes 15 episodes and will conclude before the holy month of Ramadan.

New villas launched in Sharjah community

Sharjah Holding, a partnership between Majid Al Futtaim – Properties and Sharjah Asset Management, has launched the final batch of homes in the Al Lilac neighbourhood in Al Zahia. Launched in 2017, Al Lilac is the third neighbourhood in Al Zahia.

The first and second releases of Al Lilac included three-bedroom townhouses, four and five-bedroom villas and three-bedroom courtyard villas, while the latest launch will see the release of 108 additional homes comprising three-bedroom townhouses and four-bedroom semi-detached villas.

Shadi Al Azzeh, development director, Al Zahia at Majid Al Futtaim – Communities, said: “To date, Al Zahia has welcomed over 250 families to its first neighbourhood, Al Jouri. In 2018, the community will hand over 566 homes in the Al Narjis neighbourhood and the Garden Apartments.”

A new payment plan will be offered, allowing buyers to secure their homes with a 5 per cent down payment, monthly installments thereafter and the remaining 75 per cent on handover.

Al Zahia has partnered with Sharjah Islamic Bank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Dubai Islamic Bank to provide buyers with financing options.

How Adnec created 22,300 jobs in Abu Dhabi in 2017

The Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (Adnec) on Wednesday said its contribution to Abu Dhabi’s economy increased 26.66 per cent in 2017 to Dh3.9 billion compared to Dh3 billion in 2016 and helped create 22,300 jobs.

Adnec venues, including the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and the Al Ain Convention Centre, collectively hosted 442 events in 2017 and received more than 2.08 million visitors, registering 36 per cent growth over 2016.

In 2017, the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and the Al Ain Convention Centre collectively hosted 54 exhibitions, including 13 new additions, representing a 25.5 per cent increase over the previous year. Meanwhile, the venues staged 14 conferences, posting a 28 per cent year-on-year revenue growth.

According to the Oxford Business Group, Abu Dhabi has seen a surge in activity in the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) sector as business travellers have become one of the emirate’s principal sources of visitor revenue. In addition, Abu Dhabi has also jumped ranks in the International Congress and Convention Association by 161 places in three years – from 234 in 2012 to 72 by 2015.

A press statement issued by Adnec on Wednesday said it supported the creation of 22,300 jobs and helped generate 692,732 guest nights for the hospitality sector in the emirate.

Furthermore, Adnec recorded a steady growth in the number of UAE nationals among its employees. The ratio reached 69 per cent in 2017, up from 60 per cent in 2016.

Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, CEO of Adnec Group, said the numbers validate the effectiveness of Adnec’s portfolio expansion into sectors prioritised in the Abu Dhabi Plan 2030 and Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 as well as the high flexibility demonstrated in successfully hosting a wide spectrum of events.

“Adnec is proud to play an integral role in consolidating Abu Dhabi’s status as an international business tourism capital. In supporting the emirate’s economic transformation, we act on our core mandate to create new opportunities for the Abu Dhabi economy through attracting more high-profile international events to our venues,” Al Dhaheri said.

In addition, Adnec achieved a customer satisfaction rating of 93 per cent, up from 92.8 per cent in 2016.


Construction, tourism and jobs growth boost Dubai’s economy

Dubai’s economy recorded stronger business activity in January on the back of faster output and new orders, driven by the construction, travel and tourism and retail sectors.

Emirates NBD’s Dubai Economy Tracker Index rose to 56.0 in January mainly on the back of faster output and employment growth after easing in the previous month. The output/business activity index rose sharply to 61.0 last month, the highest reading since July.

The employment index rose to 52.3 in January, and while this does not indicate a staggering number of new jobs created, the reading is the strongest since November 2015, Emirates NBD in its research note released on Sunday.

The survey results revealed that new orders rose sharply in January although at a slightly slower rate than in December. Stocks of pre-production inventories also increased at a slower rate, as many firms would have boosted purchased in December ahead of the introduction of value-added tax (VAT).

“The impact of the new tax is evident in the sharply higher input cost index [59.2 in January from 51.7 in December]. However, the selling price index only rose 1.7 points last month, to 52.2, suggesting that not all firms passed on the full impact of VAT to purchasers. In fact in the travel and tourism sector, prices were close to unchanged from December, suggesting that the full impact of VAT was absorbed by firms in this sector,” said Khatija Haque, head of Mena research at Emirates NBD.

After a relatively soft fourth quarter of 2017, the travel and tourism index rose to its highest level since July at 55.7. Output surged (58.1 from 52.1 in December) as did new work (58.1). Employment in the sector also increased at the fastest rate since March 2015, with this sub-index rising to 53.5 in January.

The Dubai survey data may seem to be at odds with the whole UAE PMI survey as the index rose while the UAE PMI declined slightly in January. This is likely due to the fact that construction, travel and tourism and wholesale and retail trade, which all posted faster growth in output, new work and employment in January, account for a much bigger share of Dubai’s economy relative to their share of whole UAE GDP.

“The rise in the Dubai Economy Tracker Index signals a strong start to 2018, despite the introduction of VAT putting upward pressure on both input and output prices. The construction sector had a particularly strong month in January, and this supports our view that construction will be a key driver of Dubai’s growth this year,” Haque added.

The wholesale and retail trade sector index rose 1.2 points in January to 56.1, indicating a solid rate of growth, despite the introduction of VAT.

IMF chief Christine lagarde urges Arab states to slash spending

IMF chief Christine Lagarde on Saturday urged Arab countries to slash public wages and subsidies in order to rein in spending, achieve sustainable growth and create jobs.

Speaking at the one-day Arab Fiscal Forum in Dubai, Lagarde welcomed “promising” reforms adopted by some Arab countries, but insisted much more was needed to overcome daunting economic and social problems.

Low oil prices are weighing on the finances of Arab oil exporters, while importers are battling with rising debt, unemployment, conflicts, terrorism and refugee inflows, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director said.

Almost all Arab countries have posted budget deficits over the past few years and Arab economies grew at just 1.9 percent last year, half the global rate, according to the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), which co-organised the event with the IMF.

Yet Arab public spending remains very high, especially in oil-rich Gulf states, where government expenditures exceed 55 per cent of gross domestic product, Lagarde said.

She said many Arab governments had taken steps to contain spending, but the measures have often been temporary.

Public spending reforms should focus on cutting costly subsidies and public wage bills whilst boosting efficiency in areas like health, education and public investment, she said.

“There is really no excuse for the continued use of energy subsidies,” Lagarde said.

“They are extremely costly – averaging 4.5 per cent of GDP among oil exporters and three percent of GDP among oil importers.”

All six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and many other Arab countries have reduced energy subsidies in recent years, but their cost is still high.

AMF chairman Abdulrahman al-Hamidy said the value of Arab energy subsidies dropped from $117 billion in 2015 to $98 billion last year, according to a study by his organisation.

Lagarde warned that higher growth and stringent reforms were needed to create jobs for young Arabs.

“Youth unemployment is the highest in the world – averaging 25 per cent, and exceeding 30 per cent in nine countries,” she said. “Moreover, over 27 million hopeful young people will join the workplace over the next five years.”

Hamidy said Arab economies must grow at 5-6 per cent annually to create the necessary jobs, adding that half of the Arab world’s estimated 400 million population is under 25 years old.

UAB back in the black, posts dh17 million profit

United Arab Bank (UAB) swung back into the black in 2017 with net profit of Dh17 million as compared to Dh522.6 million loss in the previous year.

The bank’s restructuring plan helped it swing into profitability as it deleveraged higher risk non-core portfolios and cut costs.

“We have substantially strengthened our balance sheet, focused on our core activities, de-risked the business and captured material cost savings,” said Sheikh Faisal bin Sultan bin Salem Al Qassimi, chairman, UAB.

Its total income fell to Dh677 million in 2017 from Dh861 million in 2016. The bank’s provisions for credit losses of Dh289 million represent a healthy reduction of 71 per cent compared to 2016.

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