UAE’s Network International shrugs off Brexit to list shares in London

Network International, the UAE payments processor, has committed to a London IPO next month. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2019
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UAE’s Network International shrugs off Brexit to list shares in London

  • The planned share sale comes at an uncertain time in the UK
  • The company, which operates hospitals in the Middle East, was said to be also considering listing in the US or Singapore

DUBAI: Network International, the UAE payments processor, has committed to a London IPO next month in what would be the UK’s first big share sale of the year.
The company intends to have a free float of at least 25 percent and admission to the London Stock Exchange is expected to take place in April, Network International said in a regulatory filing on Thursday.
The planned share sale comes at an uncertain time in the UK where there is still no clarity around whether Britain will leave the EU or not at the end of the month.
VPS Healthcare, the Abu Dhabi-based hospital operator, is reconsidering plans to list in London due to uncertainty surrounding Brexit, Bloomberg reported on Thursday citing a person familiar with the matter.
The company, which operates hospitals in the Middle East, was said to be also considering listing in the US or Singapore.
Emirates NBD, Dubai’s biggest bank, owns 51 percent of Network International while Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic jointly own the rest.
The share sale will be a key test of investor demand for new listings in London after a subdued 2018 across most European markets.
“Volatility has continued in recent months, driven by the uncertainty around trade between the US and China, the wider geopolitical climate and the potential end of the current bull run,” said Peter Whelan, partner and UK IPO Lead at PwC in a recent report.
“We are seeing a healthy number of companies preparing for an IPO in 2019 despite the ongoing Brexit negotiations which have clearly impacted IPO activity on the London market.”
The payment processor reported earnings of $298 million last year according to its website, up from $262 million a year earlier. It does not disclose net income figures.
The company handles digital payments across the Middle East, which generate three quarters of its total earnings.
Last year it processed some $40 billion in payments for more than 65,000 merchants.
Its key markets in the region include the UAE and Jordan it says that Saudi Arabia offers “significant opportunities.” It also offers services in 40 African countries with Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa being its most important segments on the continent.


China wins Belt and Road fans but criticism persists

Updated 5 min 17 sec ago
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China wins Belt and Road fans but criticism persists

  • The initiative envisages massive investments in maritime, road and rail projects across 65 countries
  • China added a key nation to its roster when Italy became the first G7 member to sign on to the project
BEIJING: President Xi Jinping will lead a hard sales push at a Beijing summit this week, to corral more countries into a global infrastructure project at the core of China’s superpower ambitions and win over those who see a strategic threat.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) envisages massive investments in maritime, road and rail projects across 65 countries from Asia to Europe and Africa that collectively account for 30 percent of global GDP.
If fully realized, it could shape the world economic and geopolitical landscape for decades to come.
But its scope and ambition have divided Europe, while US officials have called it a “vanity project,” and detractors have warned that it is laden with debt risks and opaque deals favoring Chinese firms and labor.
Despite the criticism, momentum appears to be on Xi’s side, with leaders from 37 countries flocking to Beijing for the three-day summit beginning Thursday.
It’s the second such event, with an inaugural 2017 summit bringing 29 leaders together.
China added a key nation to its Belt and Road roster when Italy became the first G7 member to sign on to the project last month.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will participate in the summit and Switzerland appears set to sign on with President Ueli Maurer flying to Beijing.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and other leaders from Europe, Asia and Africa will also attend, but major EU nations are sending ministers and the United States said it would not have a high-level delegation.
Since Xi launched Belt and Road in 2013, China has invested $90 billion in projects while banks have provided between $200 billion and $300 billion in loans, according to Xiao Weiming, a Chinese government official overseeing Belt and Road.
Examples of debt trouble abound.
Sri Lanka turned over a deep-sea port to China for 99-years after it was unable to repay loans. Pakistan needs an international bailout. And Montenegro has had to make difficult choices after taking on crushing Chinese debt to pay a Chinese company to build a new highway.
It has also become an election issue in some countries.
Chinese officials say the projects foster development in poor countries and Xiao dismissed “debt trap” warnings as repeating “the same old tune.”
Foreign Minister Wang Yi denied last week that the project was a “geopolitical tool,” though he admitted that “jointly building the Belt and Road is a developing process, it won’t happen overnight, and there will inevitably be some troubles.”
Italy rolled out a red carpet for Xi Jinping in Rome last month and signed a memorandum of understanding on the Belt and Road, with Beijing planning to invest in Italian ports.
The NATO member country’s ascension drew consternation in Brussels and Washington, and even within the leadership of Rome’s ruling coalition — Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said Italy would be “no-one’s colony.”
For China, the initiative is both a practical solution to economic issues at home and a way to expand its global influence — a key concern for Xi, who frequently trumpets the goal of a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
It “alleviates a lot of the built up excess industrial capacity that results from the Chinese economic model,” said James Bowen of the Perth US-Asia Center.
“Chinese workers need jobs and China has materials that need to be exported and built out in other countries rather than in China.”
The World Bank estimates that Belt and Road funded infrastructure could marginally boost trade and officials there say it is offering funding in areas where it is sorely needed.
But the money comes as loans instead of aid, requiring countries to pay China back for the massive projects its companies and people build.
Pushing back has proved a successful election issue in Asia, including in Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Malaysia, as the trademark infrastructure push is used to whip up fears about eroding sovereignty.
In the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih claimed victory last year on the back of an anti-corruption campaign targeting the opaque deals with Beijing and “China’s colonialism.”
Opposition candidates in Sri Lanka and Malaysia similarly wielded the debt laden deals to victory.
The new Malaysian prime minister canceled some and renegotiated a rail project cutting 30 percent off the price tag.