Middle East sovereign investors target infrastructure projects

Middle East sovereign investors target infrastructure projects
Construction works of the Hong Kong section of Guangzhou Shenzhen Hong Kong express rail link. Sovereign investors are being attracted by infrastructure projects in Asia. (Shutterstock)
Updated 09 July 2018

Middle East sovereign investors target infrastructure projects

Middle East sovereign investors target infrastructure projects

LONDON: While equities remain at the center of most global sovereign investors’ portfolios, a survey conducted by asset manager Invesco found that average allocation to alternatives has doubled in the past five years, reaching a high of 20 percent last year.
In the Middle East, sovereign investors increased their allocations into private credit by 44 percent and infrastructure by 33 percent over the past three years. Exposure to private equity and real estate increased at a lesser rate, the survey published on Monday found.
The study was based on face-to-face meetings with 126 individual sovereign investors and central bank reserve managers from around the world, representing $17 trillion-worth of assets.
“Private markets are favored by many sovereign investors, thanks to the long term and illiquid nature of many asset classes within this market. However, investing in private markets has been a consistent challenge for sovereign investors, and as a result many remain underweight,” said Zainab Kufaishi, head of institutional sales for Middle East and Africa at Invesco.
“Good opportunities are seen in infrastructure and in private credit, but respondents are seeing fewer attractive opportunities in private equity because of increased competition for assets and bidding up of prices. Over three fifths (61 percent) of respondents raised concern that private equity is becoming over-valued.”

 

The dominance of equities in investors’ portfolios has been growing over the past few years, with the average global investor allocation to equities rising to 33 percent this year from 29 percent in 2017.
Equity returns stand at 8.7 percent, according to survey respondents, compared to 9.4 percent in 2017 and 4.1 percent in 2016.
The survey found that nearly half of all sovereign investors are now incrementally or materially overweight in equities.
More than a third said they were considering whether to reduce equity weightings in the medium term, with plans to make “small” rather than “significant” cuts.
Investors cited concerns about a possible trade war and other geopolitical risks as potential risks to the future of the equities markets.
The Invesco survey also found that sovereigns are looking increasingly at new regions rather than maintaining a traditional bias towards their home markets.
Asia Pacific has become an attractive region for infrastructure investment, due to large projects such as the Belt and Road initiative — a transport and infrastructure project designed to improve trade links — to China. Around 64 percent of sovereigns surveyed said that this region presented opportunities.
Under half (41 percent) of investors said North America was an attractive region for investors, and that the market’s appeal would depend on US President Donald Trump implementing his infrastructure plans.

FASTFACTS

Middle Eastern sovereign investors have ramped up their exposure to private credit and infrastructure in the last three years, a survey found, reflecting a wider global trend as investors increase their allocation to alternatives.


Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months
Updated 22 June 2021

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months
  • Program aims to support small and medium-sized enterprises still struggling due to the pandemic
  • More than 106,000 contracts have benefited since it was launched in March 2020 with a value of approximately SR167 billion

RIYADH: The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) announced on Tuesday that it is extending a deferred payment program for a second time to help support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are still struggling during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
SAMA said the program — one of the bank’s initiatives to support private sector financing — will be extended for another three months from July 1 through Sept. 30.
The move is part of SAMA’s role in maintaining the stability of the financial sector, enabling it to promote economic growth and maintain employment levels in the private sector, especially within micro enterprises and other SMEs.
More than 106,000 contracts have benefited from the program since it was launched in March 2020 while the value of the deferred payments for those contracts has amounted to approximately SR167 billion ($44.5 billion).
SAMA has also offered a secured financing program for SMEs as more than 5,282 contracts have benefited from that program with a total financing value of more than SR10 billion, the bank said in a statement.
These programs are meant to support the private sector and the levels of liquidity in the financial sector. They enable financing agencies to provide support while mitigating the economic and financial effects on the SME sector, the bank said.
This is the second time SAMA has extended the two programs to support SMEs. It renewed the deferred payment program for three months last March, while it also extended the guaranteed financing program for an additional year until March 14, 2022.


Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats
Updated 22 June 2021

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats
  • Living in the Lebanese capital as an expat has now become more expensive than living in Tokyo, Zurich, or Shanghai

DUBAI: Beirut has become the most expensive city for expats in the Middle East and North Africa region, and the third globally, based on the latest “Cost of Living” survey by consultancy Mercer.
Jumping 42 places in global rankings, Beirut has been at the center of Lebanon’s economic and political collapse, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the port explosion last year.
Living in the Lebanese capital as an expat has now become more expensive than living in Tokyo, Zurich, or Shanghai. Turkmenistan’s Ashgabat ranked first, in the list of most expensive cities for expatriates, followed by Hong Kong.
Mercer comes up with the annual list by comparing the cost of more than 200 items in each city, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.
Riyadh has become the most expensive city in the Gulf at 29th globally. Jeddah ranked 94th, the report showed.
Dubai dropped to 42nd in the list, down from 23rd last year, and Abu Dhabi ranked 56th from 39th a year earlier.
Other cities in the Gulf also became more affordable this year, the report revealed, with Bahrain dropping to 71st from 52nd, while Muscat fell to 108th from 96th. Kuwait City dropped two places to 115th and Qatar at 21 places to 130th.


Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work
Updated 22 June 2021

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work
  • Remote work can now be done under normal circumstances, the department said

DUBAI: Dubai Municipality has become the first government agency in the UAE to approve job titles for remote work, state news agency WAM has reported.
Remote work can now be done under normal circumstances, the department said, parallel to its other work setups such as its shifting system.
The move comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has made private, and even public, workplaces rethink ways to continue their operations despite the crisis.
Workplace innovation is not new to Dubai Municipality, as it pioneered flexible work systems for government departments in the UAE in 2007.
The pandemic has also made the municipality accelerate its smart transformation, to make the remote work system effective.


Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage

Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage
Updated 22 June 2021

Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage

Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage
  • Tuesday’s expansion is in addition to the company’s previously announced plan to invest $1.4 billion in 2021 alone to expand its manufacturing capacity

SINGAPORE: Chipmaker GlobalFoundries said on Tuesday it will spend $6 billion to expand capacity at its factories in Singapore, Germany and the United States amid a chip shortage that is hurting automakers and electronics firms globally.
The US-based company, owned by Abu Dhabi’s state-owned fund Mubadala, said it will invest more than $4 billion in Singapore, and $1 billion each in the others over the next two years. The unlisted company’s Singapore operations contribute about a third of its revenue.
“I think the next five to eight years, we’re going to be chasing supply not demand as an industry,” GlobalFoundries CEO Thomas Caulfield told a media briefing. He added that the company was prioritising automotive customers.
Tuesday’s expansion is in addition to the company’s previously announced plan to invest $1.4 billion in 2021 alone to expand its manufacturing capacity.
The chip shortage, which began in earnest in late December, was caused in part by automakers miscalculating demand for semiconductors in the pandemic. It was aggravated by electronics manufacturers placing more chip orders as work-from-home practices fueled a surge in sales of computers and other devices.
Large chipmakers including Intel Corp. have warned that the shortage will last well into next year. Intel announced in March a $20 billion plan to expand its advanced chip making capacity, while Taiwan’s TSMC said in April it will invest $100 billion over the next three years.
As well, governments, including those of the United States and Japan, have intervened to urge faster supplies. Earlier this month, the United States approved $54 billion in funds to increase US production and research into semiconductors and telecom equipment.
Caulfield said funding for GlobalFoundries’ expansion plan included investments from governments and pre-payments from customers.
The $4 billion investment in Singapore is the first of a phased expansion program planned by the company for the next five to 10 years, the CEO said. He did not specify a total amount.
The new Singapore fab will add capacity of 450,000 wafers per year, taking the campus’s total to 1.5 million, and the company expects to begin production in early 2023. Most of the added production will come online by end 2023.
The factory will make chips for cars and 5G technology, with long-term customer agreements already in place. It will add about 1,000 jobs in Singapore.


Sudan to abolish official customs dollar exchange rate

Sudan to abolish official customs dollar exchange rate
Updated 22 June 2021

Sudan to abolish official customs dollar exchange rate

Sudan to abolish official customs dollar exchange rate
  • The customs dollar exchange rate has been problematic for importers historically as it has valued the local currency at a higher rate

RIYADH: Sudan has taken the decision to abolish the official customs dollar exchange rate, Asharq Business reported, citing unnamed sources.
Sudan’s Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim earlier pledged that the government was committed to canceling the so-called customs exchange rate used to determine import duties. It comes amid ongoing fiscal reforms that have been encouraged by the International Monetary Fund and other donors.
The customs dollar exchange rate has been problematic for importers historically as it has valued the local currency at a higher rate than reflected by the black market.
Ibrahim said the government would press ahead with its liberalization program until the country’s economy recovered from previous distortions.
He also said that the subsidy for wheat, cooking gas and fuel oil that is used in the production of electricity will not be canceled this year.
Devaluing the currency is one of a number of economic reforms that Sudan hopes will help it emerge from an enduring economic crisis.