Lego to build up presence in Mideast with Dubai office

Lego sees growth potential in the Middle East. (AP)
Updated 07 March 2018
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Lego to build up presence in Mideast with Dubai office

LONDON: The Danish toy company Lego is planning to ramp up growth in the Middle East with the opening of an office in Dubai toward the end of this year, according to the company’s CEO Niels Christiansen. 
“The market there is already big, it is already growing … We believe we can accelerate that by now putting people on the ground in Dubai who can develop the region further,” he said at a press conference on March 6.
His comments come as the toy brick-maker announced that its 2017 profits were down compared to the previous year, with full-year net profit dropping to 7.8 billion Danish kroner ($1.3 billion) compared to 9.4 billion kroner in 2016. 
Revenues decreased by 8 percent to 35 billion kroner in 2017 compared to 37.9 billion kroner last year.
The reduced revenues were partly blamed on too much inventory already sitting in shops and warehouses that needed to be sold off. Global consumer sales were flat in 2017, moving upward in the final months of the year benefiting from the Christmas season. 
“2017 was a challenging year and overall we are not satisfied with the financial results,” Christiansen said. 
“However, we ended the year in a better position. In December, consumer sales grew in seven of our 12 largest markets and we entered 2018 with healthier inventories. In 2018, we will stabilize the business and invest to build sustainable growth in the longer term,” he said. 
He said there was “no quick-fix” to the company’s fortunes. “It will take some time to achieve longer-term growth,” he said. 
While revenues declined in the company’s established markets of North America and Europe, Lego saw “significant” revenue growth in China. 
The company is planning to further expand in the country, and last year signed a partnership deal with one of the country’s largest Internet companies, Tencent, to work together to develop online games for Chinese children.


Lebanon finance minister urges new reforms after Moody’s report

Updated 14 December 2018
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Lebanon finance minister urges new reforms after Moody’s report

  • Lebanon credit default swaps surge
  • Political wrangling adds to fiscal woes

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s finance minister said on Friday that a decision by Moody’s rating agency to change the country’s outlook to negative from stable proved the need to form a government and launch reforms.
Moody’s changed Lebanon’s outlook on Thursday while affirming its B3 rating, reflecting what it called an increase in risks to the government’s liquidity position and the country’s financial stability.
Saddled with a stagnant economy and the world’s third-highest rate of debt as a proportion of gross domestic product, Lebanon is also mired in political wrangling, with rival parties unable to form a government since May’s parliamentary election.
“Moody’s report today... confirms the importance of forming a government and starting reforms to restore confidence, reduce risks and reduce the deficit,” Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil wrote in a tweet.
“This is possible now, but we may lose the opportunity in months if the outlook remains negative,” he added.
The cost of insuring Lebanese sovereign debt against default this week rose to its highest level since the global financial crisis of 2008.
Overnight interbank rates for Lebanese pounds hit a 2018 high of 75 percent on Thursday. Two sources Reuters spoke to on Friday familiar with the rate said it had stayed at that level, while two others said it had dropped a bit.
The rates have not been this high since November 2017, when Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri announced, and then rescinded, his resignation in a declaration that Saudi Arabia was widely believed to have coerced him into making.
“Once you have a government, it will have a positive impact on the market. Demand for dollars will decrease and things will go down again to the normal situation,” said one trader.