Qatar tactics questioned after ‘soft power’ deals with France

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani (R) watch as their foreign ministers sign bilateral agreements in the Qatari capital Doha on Thursday, December 7, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 13 December 2017
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Qatar tactics questioned after ‘soft power’ deals with France

LONDON: Qatar signed $14.15 billion in deals with France on Thursday, including the purchase of 12 fighter jets, in what has been described as a “soft power” play. 
The deal was signed during President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Qatar with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who in 2015 as defense minister helped negotiate a deal with Qatar to buy 24 Rafale fighter jets.
Qatar exercised its existing right to purchase 12 more, bringing the total number of Rafales the Gulf Arab country will have to 36.
Middle East expert Zaid Belbagi referred to the move as a reflection of “soft power.”
“There is a more tactical way to do this,” Belbagi told Arab News. He explained that in this deal, the “real winner” is France, which has become $14.15 billion richer. According to the French government, Qatar has agreed an option for another 36 planes. In addition to the fighter jets Qatar also committed to buying 490 armored vehicles from defense firm Nexter.
Professor Anoush Ehteshami, director of the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Durham University, said that the deal was partly for show.
“This is not a military response,” Ehteshami explained, saying it marks Doha’s aim to “show they have strategic partners.”
He added, “it’s one thing to buy them and its another thing to use them — I don’t think they will buy any more anytime soon.”
Macron’s one-day trip to Doha comes a week after the Gulf Cooperation Council met in Kuwait to discuss the ongoing dispute. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut relations with Qatar over its alleged support of extremists and funding of terrorist groups. Doha denies the claims.


Maalem Financing raises $26m in debut sukuk

Updated 17 October 2018
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Maalem Financing raises $26m in debut sukuk

  • The sukuk from Maalem, a shariah-compliant commercial and consumer financing firm, is a small but novel deal
  • The three-year unsubordinated deal was sold through a private placement and Maalem could tap the market again

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Maalem Financing has raised SR100 million ($26.6 million) from a debut sale of Islamic bonds, or sukuk, as the firm seeks to develop a crowdfunding product and expand its operations, a senior executive said on Tuesday.
The sukuk from Maalem, a shariah-compliant commercial and consumer financing firm, is a small but novel deal in a market that is dominated by issuance from sovereign institutions and Islamic banks.
The three-year unsubordinated deal was sold through a private placement and Maalem could tap the market again as early as January next year, said John Sandwick, a member of Maalem’s board of directors.
“The program is for SR500 million and with 3.6 times oversubscription, there seems to be a lot of demand,” he said.
Additional sales of sukuk aimed to raise between SR100 million and SR200 million, depending on market conditions, he said, adding that Maalem may consider a dollar-denominated sukuk issuance at a later stage.
The debut transaction used a structure known as murabaha, a cost-plus-profit arrangement commonly used in Saudi Arabia. The firm hoped to use an asset-backed structure for future deals, Sandwick said.
Established in 2009, Maalem received regulatory approval to operate as a non-real estate finance company in 2016 and increased its capital in 2017 to SR150 million.
The company plans to open several regional offices by the end of 2018 and is awaiting regulatory approval for a crowdfunding license, Sandwick said.
Crowdfunding enables startup firms to collect small sums of money from many individuals as an alternative to bank loans.
Albilad Capital, the investment banking unit of Bank Albilad, served as sole lead manager and arranger of the sukuk.