China pledges $20 billion in loans for Arab states

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Kuwaiti ruling Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, right waves after giving a speech as China's President Xi Jinping looks on during the 8th Ministerial Meeting of China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing on Tuesday, July, 10. (AFP)
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Since taking office, Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen a concerted effort to expand Chinese influence in the Middle East and Africa, including the construction of the country’s first military base in Arab League state Djibouti. (AFP)
Updated 10 July 2018
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China pledges $20 billion in loans for Arab states

  • Beijing is also prepared to provide another one billion yuan to countries in the region to “build capacity for stability maintenance”
  • The Arab states’ position at the center of the ancient trade route makes them “natural partners” in China’s new undertaking

BEIJING: China will provide Arab states with $20 billion in loans for economic development, President Xi Jinping told top Arab officials Tuesday, as Beijing seeks to build its influence in the Middle East and Africa.
The money will be earmarked for “projects that will produce good employment opportunities and positive social impact in Arab States that have reconstruction needs,” said Xi, without providing further details.
It is part of a special Chinese program for “economic reconstruction” and “industrial revitalization,” Xi told participants at a China-Arab States forum in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
Beijing is also prepared to provide another one billion yuan to countries in the region to “build capacity for stability maintenance,” Xi said, using a term commonly associated with policing and surveillance.
Since taking office, Xi has overseen a concerted effort to expand Chinese influence in the Middle East and Africa, including the construction of the country’s first military base in Arab League state Djibouti.
China has already provided vast sums to Arab countries, with Djibouti alone owing some $1.3 billion, according to estimates from the US-based China Africa Research Initiative.
The financial largesse has raised concerns both at home and abroad over the vulnerability of poor nations to such massive debt.
Last year Sri Lanka was forced to hand over majority control of its Hambantota port to China after being unable to repay its loans.
At the heart of Xi’s vision is the “Belt and Road” initiative, a $1-trillion infrastructure program billed as a modern revival of the ancient Silk Road that once carried fabrics, spices and a wealth of other goods between Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
The Arab states’ position at the center of the ancient trade route makes them “natural partners” in China’s new undertaking, he said, adding he expected the summit would end with an agreement on cooperation on the initiative.
“Chinese and Arab peoples, though far apart in distance, are as close as family,” he said, describing a romanticized history of trade along the Silk Road.
The project, which has already financed ports, roads and railways across the globe, has spurred both interest and anxiety in many countries, with some seeing it as an example of Chinese expansionism.
“China welcomes opportunities to participate in the development of ports and the construction of railway networks in Arab states” as part of a “logistics network connecting Central Asia with East Africa and the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean,” said Xi.


Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank picks Barclays to advise on merger

Updated 15 November 2018
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Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank picks Barclays to advise on merger

  • Potential merger involves ADCB, Union National Bank (UNB) and Al Hilal Bank
  • A merger of the trio could create an entity with around $113 billion in assets

ABU DHABI: Barclays has been appointed by Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) to advise on a potential merger plan involving Union National Bank (UNB) and Al Hilal Bank, banking sources told Reuters.
The merger, announced by the banks in September, is the latest consolidation among state-owned companies in the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) capital.
ADCB, majority owned by the Abu Dhabi government and the second largest bank in the emirate after First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), declined to comment. Barclays also declined to comment.
If it goes ahead, a merger of the trio could create an entity with around $113 billion in assets, according to Refinitiv data, and the UAE’s third-biggest lender after FAB and Emirates NBD.
A separate source said two banks could be created out of the consolidation, with the conventional banking units of ADCB and UNB merging to create one lender.
Another could be formed through combining the Islamic banking units of ADCB and UNB, along with Al Hilal.
AlKhaleej newspaper reported the same arrangement was being considered last month, citing sources.
The tie-up was at an early stage, UAE Central Bank governor Mubarak Rashed Al-Mansoori told reporters last week on the sidelines of a conference, adding he expected more consolidation in the future.
FAB was created by last year’s merger between National Bank of Abu Dhabi and First Gulf Bank.
The emirate of Sharjah is weighing a merger between three of its banks — Bank of Sharjah, Invest Bank and United Arab Bank, Reuters reported in September, citing sources.