UAE’s DIFC to set up global knowledge hub as financial data values soar
UAE’s DIFC to set up global knowledge hub as financial data values soar
The DIFC’s aim is to “build a regional knowledge hub by aggregating financial market insight and providing the tools to assess the pulse of the global economy,” according to a memo sent to selected financial members of the center and seen by Arab News.
The first step will be a website “as a platform by research providers and institutions… that can be used by policymakers, (economists), analysts, traders, students and others,” the memo continued.
Although the plan is at an early stage, it is a prototype of a database for financial and economic information that could become very valuable.
Just last week, it emerged that GIC, the sovereign wealth fund of the government of Singapore, was in talks with the owners of Mergermarket, a financial data service specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance and private equity.
Reports said that the GIC was interested in buying a 30 percent stake in Mergermarket, in a deal that would value the subscription-based website at as much as £1 billion ($1.3 billion).
That potential deal follows others in the field of financial information that have illustrated a rising trend in values in this specialist sector.
Zawya, the Middle East-focused information and financial-data website, was sold to Thomson Reuters for a reported $40 million in 2012, while the Financial Times, the London-based newspaper regarded as a global market leader in financial information, was sold by its then-owner, the UK conglomerate Pearson, to Nikkei of Japan for £844 million in 2015.
In between those deals, Mergermarket, then also owned by Pearson, was sold to private-equity investor BC Partners for £382 million in cash, after a fierce bidding round that saw interest
from some of the biggest private-equity investors in the world.
If the deal, currently under consideration, goes through it would represent a doubling of BC Partners’ investment in three years.
Founded in 2000, Mergermarket has expanded to 67 locations across the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East and currently boasts 190,000 subscribers.
Although DIFC’s plans are at an early stage, observers believe it is a logical step for a center often regarded as the premier financial hub in the Arabian Gulf.
“There is a lot of brainpower and information in the DIFC, and it should really be the thought-leader in financial matters in the region. The challenge, however, is to monetize all that knowledge. Subscription-based databases have to get it just right to be successful,” said one expert, who did not want to be identified.
In 2014, the DIFC announced a 10-year strategy that would see it triple in size — in terms of member firms and employees, rentable space, and value of financial assets.
Arabic cinema wins over movie-goers
- Oscar-nominated Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour premiered her short film set in Riyadh, ‘The Wedding Singer’s Daughter,’ at the Venice Film Festival
- Earlier in the year Ziad Doueiri was the first Lebanese film director to be nominated for an Oscar with his film ‘The Insult’
LONDON: Arabic cinema has increasingly captured the imagination of movie-lovers around the world this year, with Arab film-makers winning award nominations and securing high-profile screenings at major film festivals.
This month the Oscar-nominated Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour premiered her short film set in Riyadh, “The Wedding Singer’s Daughter,” at the Venice Film Festival. Al-Mansour previously wrote and directed the film “Wadjda,” which was the first foreign-language Oscar entry from Saudi Arabia in 2014.
Earlier in the year Ziad Doueiri was the first Lebanese film director to be nominated for an Oscar with his film “The Insult.”
“Arab cinema’s profile has been on the rise. There are several different Arab movies being shown at Venice (film festival) this year,” said Joseph Fahim, an Egyptian film critic and the curator of this year’s London-based Safar Film Festival, which runs on Sept. 13-18.
Daniel Gorman, the director of London’s biannual Shubbak festival, which showcases mainly contemporary Arabic culture, art and film, said he that has seen the appeal of Arabic film grow in the UK.
“There is a huge interest and appetite for creative work coming from across the Arab world and there is strong interest in the UK to hear the voices of people from across the region, in an area that is generally represented in headlines in newspapers. Film is an excellent way of doing that,” he said.
Festivals have played a vital role in boosting awareness of Arab film, he said.
“(They) are able to bring new audiences to new work as they bring this concentrated moment of activity. A festival tends to have a bit more reach in terms of media coverage and audience awareness.
“(It) brings people along to something which they might not go to as a one-off screening,” Gorman said, explaining how the Shubbak festival also works with local schools and community groups to increase access to Arabic film and art.
This year’s Safar film festival — which is in its fourth year and organized by the Arab British Center — has focused on the theme of literature and film in the Arab world.
Fahim has created a program that includes movies dating back to the 1960s that have been buried deep in their respective country’s archives, as well as new films that have not been screened in London yet.
One of the films included is the Tunisian “In the Land of Tararanni,” originally released in 1973 and based on a collection of short stories by Ali Dougai.
It was one of the more tricky recordings to track down, said Nadia El-Sebai, executive director at the Arab British Center.
“There are films in this program that audiences will have no idea how many people it took to get that film,” she said, explaining the lengthy negotiations with ministries of culture, national archives and old friends and contacts to track down the much sought-after recordings.
There were other movies they had to give up on ever finding, including those lost in Syria or Iraq, or old versions of films that have not yet been digitised by national archives, she said.
More recent festival entries include this year’s Egyptian film “Poisonous Roses,” adapted from a 1990s cult novel, as well as the European premiere of the work of an Iraqi filmmaker — “Stories of Passers Through” — which traces the stories of Iraqis exiled from their country during the Saddam Hussein regime.
The literary theme of this year’s festival was chosen as a reaction to the growing popularity of contemporary Arab cinema, with the event’s organizers wanting to delve into the history of Arabic film.
“We are delighted by the increasing access to Arabic cinema. There are more films plugged into the London film festival this year. We have other other festivals — the Shubbak festival (in London), and the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival,” said El-Sebai.
“For this year’s edition we thought we would like to take the opportunity to go a little deeper into the history and heritage of Arabic cinema, and the industry,” she said.
“Safar is taking place just before London Film Festival (LFF), which was another motivation for us to look at something a bit different as we are definitely going to see really amazing contemporary films at the London Film Festival,” she said.
The LFF — which begins on Oct. 10 — is set to feature work by Syrian filmmaker Soudade Kaadan as well as the Saudi Arabian director Mahmoud Sabbagh’s latest dark comedy “Amra and the Second Marriage,” among other Arab productions.
Fahim was also keen to use the Safar event as a way of bringing audiences’ attention to a broader range of Arabic movies, highlighting the heritage of the film industry.
“It is reminding people that Arab cinema did not spring out today — there is a long history,” he said, adding that he wanted to question audience expectations.
“There have been a flood of amazing images from Arab cinema being displayed at festivals and most critics had no idea what they were. The more I spoke to people, the more I realized that there is a certain expectation of what Arab movies should be,” he said.
“We wanted to challenge what people expect from Arab cinema … I am tired of seeing Lawrence of Arabia a gazillion times on the big screen,” he said.
He said the selected films in the festival will hopefully challenge preconceptions. He referred to the inclusion of the 1964 Egyptian film — “The Search” — based on the writer Naguib Mahfouz’s novel. “It is a crime noir. It is essentially an existential noir and I don’t think many people will expect to see that,” he said.
Arabic cinema, however, needs to be better promoted, he said, noting a dearth of adequate film critics.
“At the big festivals it sometimes feels like Arab cinema is the bottom priority for critics,” he said.
“We need more perceptive writing. I could name you on one hand the film critics who know their stuff. That needs to change. Maybe we need to have more different voices. Film criticism is still being dominated by white male writers — although it has been developing — but that is still the norm,” he said.