Dubai hits target in wealth management ambitions

The bright lights of Dubai are attracting some of the biggest names in global finance. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 September 2018
0

Dubai hits target in wealth management ambitions

  • Dubai is fast becoming a global center for wealth management, according to new figures from the emirate’s financial hub.
  • Fidelity International, the Bermuda-based investment management group, announced it too was to set up in the DIFC

The Dubai International Financial Center on Sunday announced it had passed a landmark of 200 firms in the fast-growing wealth and asset management sector that had chosen to be based in the center, a rise of 6 percent from the halfway point last year. Some 13 of the top 25 firms in the wealth management sector are included in that total.

The number of financial funds under management by DIFC entities has leapt by 240 percent in the same period, from 25 to the latest figure of 60, making it the largest funds domicile in the region, the DIFC said. 

Arif Amiri, chief executive of DIFC, said: “The wealth and asset management sector is a cornerstone of a thriving financial services industry, and as the DIFC has developed into a top global financial center, it has become one of our hallmarks. Major financial institutions see Dubai and the DIFC as a preferred platform to access investment opportunities and sources of investment across regional and global markets.

“To date, the center has seen consistent and significant growth in this field, reflecting the industry’s ongoing confidence in Dubai and the DIFC. We expect to see this growth continue as we introduce new regulations to our attractive legislative and business environment in line with our ambitious 2024 Strategy. Our flexible structures, which also benefit private wealth management and family trusts, continue to give us the edge,” he added.

The DIFC is committed to a ten-year strategy of trebling in size by 2024 in terms of the number of member firms and employees as well as the value of assets under management.

In the first half of 2018, the DIFC attracted three of the biggest names in global finance, Chinese firm Everbright Group and American giants State Street Global Advisers and Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

 

 Last month, Fidelity International, the Bermuda-based investment management group, announced it too was to set up in the DIFC.

“These companies benefit from three types of fund structures, as well as tried-and-tested special-purpose companies and insurance special-purpose vehicles, used in structured financing transactions or related to entities of substance. The DIFC’s international-standard regulatory framework and flexible business environment are already paying dividends to global and regional companies within the Center’s community,” the center said.

In total, the DIFC reported a 17 percent rise in new financial institutions registering in the first half of the year, bringing the total to 2,003 with a combined workforce of nearly 23,000.

That period coincided with the decline of Abraaj Capital, the private equity fund manager that has been at the heart of the DIFC since it opened in 2004, but which was ultimately owned by a Cayman Islands holding company.

Financial and legal experts believe there will be no significant damage to Dubai from the Abraaj affair. Habib Al Mulla, one of the UAE’s leading corporate lawyers, told Arab News recently: “I don’t believe Dubai’s reputation has been damaged. The DIFC entity is not involved. There are various Abraaj entities which are subject of different jurisdictions.”

Nigel Sillitoe, chief executive of market research group Insight Discovery, which specializes in wealth and asset management sectors, said: “In the past quarter our company has received more requests than ever to support asset management companies within the DIFC.

“The recent woes at Abraaj did make us think that business might slow down but so far we haven’t seen any impact.” 

The center enacted two new laws in March: The trust law, which provides an appropriate environment for the operation of trusts in the DIFC, and the foundations law, a new regime to provide greater certainty and flexibility for private wealth management and charitable institutions.

FASTFACTS

FASTFACT

The DIFC reported a 17 percent rise in new financial institutions registering in the first half of the year, bringing the total to 2,003 with a combined workforce of nearly 23,000.


Saudi Arabia seeks stable, not soaring, oil prices

Updated 22 September 2018
0

Saudi Arabia seeks stable, not soaring, oil prices

  • Due to market tightness, Brent rose to nearly $80 per barrel but deteriorated to $78.80 on Friday.
  • The average price for Brent crude per barrel over the past five months has been between $72.11 and $76.98

RIYADH: Oil prices rose this week on continuing market tightness. With the price rise, some Saudi-bashing has begun. Bloomberg reported that increasing prices were due to Saudi Arabia’s comfort with Brent crude above $80 per barrel. Such “analysis” is hogwash.

Due to market tightness, Brent rose to nearly $80 per barrel but deteriorated to $78.80 on Friday. WTI rose above $70 per barrel for the first time in three months and settled at $70.78 per barrel by the week closing.
The average price for Brent crude per barrel over the past five months has been between $72.11 and $76.98. As may be noted in those numbers, the Brent crude price has been resisting the psychological barrier of $80 per barrel. The fact is that, since October 2014, the Brent monthly average has never gone above $80.
The oil price outlook might be raised as a result of this upward tendency and the continuing tight oil market. For instance, with the latest numbers in hand, HSBC has revised its oil price forecast upward with Brent to average $80 per barrel in 2019 and $85 in 2020, before settling at about $75 in 2021.
Bloomberg was inaccurate about Saudi Arabia’s comfort with a Brent price above $80 per barrel. The Kingdom has never been among the bulls when it comes to oil prices. Again and again, Saudi Arabia has been a major advocate for stable oil prices, not increasing oil prices, which it views as unsustainable and damaging to the global economy. Bloomberg is also predicting that Saudi Arabia will follow its allegedly bullish nature and refrain from ramping up production to compensate for the oil lost once the US sanctions on Iran come into effect.
US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has confirmed that Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US are well able to add enough crude oil supply into the market to compensate for Iran. Indeed, the Kingdom has begun to increase output to adjust for market needs, from 9.87 million barrels per day (bpd) in April to 10.42 million bpd in August.
The upward movement in oil prices came after strong fundamentals showed market tightness that spurred record levels of speculative traders, with nearly all betting on higher prices. The price rise also recognized that total US inventories are below the five-year average for the first time since May 2014. Oil prices have been gradually trending upward with gentle fluctuations. There have not been any steep surges or declines. There is nothing artificial about the trend. In reality, it is boringly predictable.
Last month, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported OECD commercial crude oil inventories at 32 million barrels below the five-year average. Stocks at the end of Q2 2018 were up 6.6 million barrels versus the end of 1Q 2018, the first quarterly increase since 1Q 2017. The IEA also noted that global refinery throughputs in the second half of 2018 are expected to be 2 million barrels higher than in the first half of the year. These refined products stocks will draw down before building again in 4Q 2018.
Global crude oil inventories peaked in 2016. The OPEC+ agreement that worked for market balance was the reason for a fall in inventories. Since May 2017, global oil stocks have been on the decline and now global crude oil stocks are below the five-year average. Product stocks are also below that level, with strong demand and healthy refining margins.
Inventories have kept falling despite American producers pumping at all-time highs last month. It is only the massive flood of oil from the US which has kept crude oil prices at low levels from early 2015 to the end of 2017 — along with a resulting lack of upstream investment in the oil industry. Therefore, the IEA predicts that in 2022 spare production capacity will fall to a 14-year low.
Global oil markets are rebalancing. Oil prices started their upward momentum from the end of October 2017. They went above the psychological barrier $60 a barrel after 10 consecutive months of tireless efforts by OPEC and non-OPEC nations that started on January 2017. The market rebalancing will continue through the end of 2018, and beyond.
Such upward momentum in oil prices isn’t artificial movement because it came after many months without steep price fluctuations. In 2016, the Brent price average was $43. The 2017 Brent price average was $54, and prices just surpassed $60 in October 2017. The Brent average surpassed $70 in late March 2018 and has been hovering between $72 and $78 since. There is no evidence of a steep fluctuation or an artificial movement.
The claims of an artificial price movement have come just at the time when OPEC and the world are reaping the positive outcomes of 24 nations collaborating in output cuts that managed to successfully rebalance the oil market in a situation where global oil inventories were running at record highs. Also, these false claims came when the oil industry needs capital inflows to reactivate upstream investments for major international oil companies. Such investments are essential for the price stability that benefits oil producers and consumers globally. Low oil prices result in low investment in discovery and production of petroleum resources, which damages various industry sectors and energy needs. That leads to a vicious cycle of up-and-down price fluctuations.