Dubai Pepsi bottler loses fizz ahead of sugar ‘sin tax’

Dubai Refreshment, the company that bottles Pepsi in Dubai, reported a fall in second-quarter sales. (Reuters)
Updated 14 August 2017
0

Dubai Pepsi bottler loses fizz ahead of sugar ‘sin tax’

LONDON: The Dubai-based Pepsi bottler lost some of its fizz in the second quarter as sales retreated.
Dubai Refreshment, which bottles Pepsi and other sodas such as Mountain Dew and 7Up, reported a 12 percent fall in second-quarter profit to 24.7 million dirhams ($6.7 million) as sales also declined by about 1 percent to 229.3 million dirhams.
Soft-drink sales have boomed across the Gulf helped by the region’s youthful population, but the rollback of government subsidies and moves to encourage healthier diets, while reducing levels of obesity, have put soda-makers in the crosshairs of regulation.
Pepsi last month reported a second-quarter profit that topped analyst estimates as sales ticked up by about 2 percent.
But the company flagged up higher raw material costs driven by the strong US dollar and operating cost inflation in some Middle East, North African and Asian markets.
“Consumption of sugary soft drinks is high in the region, and will in all likelihood continue to grow for the foreseeable future,” said Euromonitor International analyst Matthew Berry in a January 2017 report. “However obesity in the Gulf is a ticking time bomb and governments are starting to move to avert the looming public health crisis.
“This could potentially make these countries some of the most promising markets for health-positioned drinks in the world, but it will also pose a threat to sugar-heavy categories that have found the Gulf states to be a rare bright spot at a time of anti-sugar feeling.”
The cost of fizzy drinks in the Gulf have been among the lowest in the world historically, but consumers will soon have to get used to paying more with the introduction of both sugar taxes and value-added tax (VAT).
The UAE Federal Tax Authority said in May that energy drinks would be hit with a 100 percent tax in the last quarter of the year while sugary fizzy drinks would also be targeted with a 50 percent tax. That move follows the decision by Saudi Arabia to impose a special tax on sugary drinks, as well as on cigarettes, starting last June.


UAE’s bad loan days ‘are behind us,' says country’s top banking head Abdul Aziz Al-Ghurair

Updated 56 min 54 sec ago
0

UAE’s bad loan days ‘are behind us,' says country’s top banking head Abdul Aziz Al-Ghurair

  • Many of the UAE’s larger banks have posted substantial increases in profits, a trend most analysts forecast to continue for at least the next year. 
  • Al-Ghurair says the country’s financial institutions are now far more able to weather any deterioration in assets due to the UAE’s more diversified economy.

LONDON: The UAE banking sector is well-positioned for future growth, with the days of “bad loans” dragging down bank balance sheets “behind us,” according to the country’s top banking head Abdul Aziz Al-Ghurair. 
“I think banking in the UAE is in a very good position,” said Al-Ghurair, who is the CEO of Mashreq Bank in Dubai and the chairman of the UAE Banks Federation. 
“Our capital adequacy is at 17 percent so this is pretty high around the world. The cost to income ratio is below 40, which is a really fantastic number so ability to generate profit is high,” he said, speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of a conference in London.
“There will always be bad loans, but it is healthy to have some bad loans, because you really are pushing the envelope. If you have zero bad loans, you are not lending enough and so the economy will also suffer. As long as (it is) affordable that is ok,” he said. 
His comments came as many of the UAE’s larger banks posted substantial increases in profits, a trend most analysts forecast to continue for at least the next year. The four of the largest banks — First Abu Dhabi Bank, Emirates NBD, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Dubai Islamic Bank — posted a combined net profit of 8 billion dirhams ($2.2 billion) in the second quarter of 2018, up 21 percent compared to the same period last year. 
A note from the ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service issued in August said: “We expect core profitability to stablize over the next 12-18 months. We expect profitability for the large UAE banks to remain broadly stable as their interest earnings hold steady at current levels.”
While banks are expected to maintain high levels of profitability, there are signs that non-performing loans are beginning to trouble some institutions, particularly the smaller entities. 
Non-performing loans ratio to gross loans (NPL) reached 6.7 percent at the end of 2017 compared to 6.4 percent the previous year, according to UAE Central Bank statistics. Preliminary data suggests this could edge up to 7 percent for the second quarter of this year. 
“We expected this (increase in NPLs) given the relatively slow growth in 2017, which tends to have a lagging effect on banks’ asset quality,”  said Mik Kabeya, lead analyst for UAE banking system at Moody’s. 
“The weakening asset quality is manageable for banks given their buffers in terms of capital and profitability but we do expect an uptick. It will be primarily driven by soft performance on the retail, SMEs and mid-corporates segments.”
Chiradeep Ghosh, financial institutions analyst at Sico Bank in Bahrain, said it was a mixed picture for non-performing loan volumes. 
“We did not see any clear trend with UAE banks’ asset quality in the second quarter of 2018, with some banks reporting pick-up in delinquencies while others report improvement,” he said. 
Ehsan Khoman, head of Mena research and strategy at the Dubai branch of MUFG Bank, said the banks have remained stable despite signs of looming problem loans. 
“The UAE banking system remains benign owing to a buoyant economic operating environment, notwithstanding the recent pick-up in non-performing loans,” he said in an emailed note. 
Al-Ghurair said the country’s financial institutions are now far more able to weather any deterioration in assets due to the UAE’s more diversified economy.