Financial shares drag most Gulf markets, Dubai lead losses

The Tadawul index has reduced its gains for the year to 2.9 percent as the US-China trade dispute and regional geopolitics hurt investor sentiment. (AFP)
Updated 08 September 2019

Financial shares drag most Gulf markets, Dubai lead losses

  • The market’s 2019 gains were as high as 20 percent in May

DUBAI: Most Gulf markets fell on Sunday, pulled down by financial shares, while Dubai’s stock market unperformed regional peers as its top lender Emirates NBD broke a four-day winning streak.

In Saudi Arabia, the index reversed course to close roughly flat as financial stocks also slipped back into negative territory. Samba Financial Group and Saudi British Bank both fell 2.4 percent. 

The market’s 2019 gains were as high as 20 percent in May, outperforming most regional markets ahead of the inclusion of Saudi stocks in the MSCI that attracted billions of dollars from foreign investors, who have been net buyers every month this year. 

However, the index has reduced its gains for the year to 2.9 percent as the US-China trade dispute and regional geopolitics hurt investor sentiment. 

Middle East funds plan to reduce investment in Saudi Arabia, a Reuters poll showed late last month. 

Dubai’s index closed 0.7 percent lower with Emirates NBD falling 2.9 percent. The bank’s shares have risen in recent sessions after NBD raised its foreign ownership limit to 20 percent from 5 percent and announced its intention to further hike the limit to 40 percent in future. 

Dubai’s developers also weighed on the index as DAMAC Properties and contractor Arabtec Holding both shed 1.2 percent. 

Dubai house prices are expected to decline sharply this year and next as a slowdown in the economy and an oversupply of housing units pose big downside risks to their already weak outlook, a Reuters poll found.

Dubai’s property prices have contracted by 25-35 percent since a mid-2014 peak.  In Abu Dhabi, the index was down 0.2 percent in a drag led by market heavyweight Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, which lost 1.6 percent. 

However, Al Dar properties closed 0.9 percent up after launching a residential project on the Saadiyat Island that it said would be open to all nationalities. 

This is the first development on the Saadiyat Island since the introduction of new laws enabling foreign buyers to own freehold land in investment zones in Abu Dhabi. 

In April, Abu Dhabi amended its real estate law allowing foreigners to own land and property in investment areas on a freehold basis. 

Qatar’s index closed 0.2 percent higher with blue-chip petrochemical maker Industries Qatar and Masraf Al-Rayan gaining 1.5 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively. 

Egypt’s blue-chip index traded flat amid a couple of weak corporate earnings. 

Cleopatra Hospital fell 2.7 percent after posting a 38.7 percent decline in the second-quarter profit, while Egyptian Resorts lost 1 percent after reporting a wider loss for the same period.


Indonesia hails ‘historic’ $22.9bn mega-investment deal with UAE

Updated 17 January 2020

Indonesia hails ‘historic’ $22.9bn mega-investment deal with UAE

  • Leaders agree initial $6.8bn projects plan, including initiative to build a replica of Abu Dhabi grand mosque in Java

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s business community on Thursday welcomed the UAE’s pledge to pump tens of billions of dollars into a wide range of key sector projects.

President Joko Widodo and his entourage secured an overall $22.9 billion deal during an official two-day visit to Abu Dhabi earlier this week covering the fields of energy, logistics, port construction, mining, and agriculture.

It was also revealed that the delegation brokered a UAE commitment to assist in establishing an Indonesian sovereign wealth fund.

At a bilateral meeting, the Indonesian leader and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan witnessed the signing of 11 business accords between the two countries. Indonesia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi said the UAE had committed to investing $6.8 billion out of the total agreed spending package into the initiatives.

Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s chief minister for maritime affairs and investment, described the UAE’s pledges as possibly being “the biggest deals in Indonesia’s history, secured with the UAE within only six months,” referring to the crown prince’s visit to Indonesia last July.

While most lauded the deal, some Indonesian business leaders remained cautious over the long-term prospects for the projects.

Fachry Thaib, head of the Middle East Committee and OIC at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, said the schemes could trigger a wide-ranging domino effect through job creation and other business ventures.

“The government needs to have a strong lobbying team that can follow up these deals and push them into investment realizations. We have had such commitments from other Gulf countries, but there was no further lobbying and the pledges were hardly realized,” he told Arab News.

Zaini Alawi, a businessman who exports and imports between Indonesia and the Middle East, said: “It would set a good precedent to attract other Gulf countries to invest here if Indonesia shows it could aptly manage these investment deals.”

Director for Middle East affairs at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, Achmad Rizal Purnama, told Arab News that the $6.8 billion commitment from the UAE was only the first phase of a long-term program.

Widodo and the crown prince also witnessed the signing of five government cooperation agreements in health, agriculture, Islamic affairs, and counterterrorism.

Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs Fachrul Razi said one of the main aspects of the cooperation agreement would be the promotion of religious moderation and raising awareness of the dangers of extremism.

FASTFACT

The UAE has pledged to assist in establishing an Indonesian sovereign wealth fund.

Noting that the UAE had pledged to fund the construction of a replica of the Abu Dhabi grand mosque in Solo, the president’s hometown in Java, the minister pointed out that the grant was part of a commitment by the two countries to establish a mosque that welcomed all people and served a pivotal role in promoting the middle path of Islam.

Riza Widyarsa, a Middle East expert at the University of Indonesia, told Arab News that the cooperation deal could help more Indonesians to understand that not all countries in the Middle East observed conservative Islam. “They are also very active in countering religious extremism and radicalism,” he said.

In addition to the multi-billion-dollar projects, Purnama said Indonesia had also secured the UAE’s commitment to assist in establishing an Indonesian sovereign wealth fund into which the UAE, the US International Development Finance Corporation, and Japan’s SoftBank would inject funding.

And according to Pandjaitan, the UAE had pledged to be “the biggest contributor” to the fund.

The fund would be used to finance Indonesia’s ambitious infrastructure development projects and the construction of its proposed new capital in East Kalimantan, a relocation that has been estimated to cost $33 billion and of which Indonesia could only afford 19 percent.

He said all parties involved would meet in Tokyo soon to set up the structure of the fund and to finalize the plan, which the government expected to launch by mid-2020, a year after the crown prince proposed the idea to Widodo.

“This could be the first time that big capitalists work together in a single project,” Pandjaitan added.