Saudi Arabia’s financial regulatory authority refers five suspects to Public Prosecution

Saudi Arabia’s financial regulatory authority refers five suspects to Public Prosecution
Saudi Capital Market Authority headquarters is seen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia June 26, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 February 2021

Saudi Arabia’s financial regulatory authority refers five suspects to Public Prosecution

Saudi Arabia’s financial regulatory authority refers five suspects to Public Prosecution

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s financial regulatory authority said it has referred five suspects to the Public Prosecution accused of engaging in “manipulative and misleading” practices, a statement on state-run Saudi Press Agency said.
The Capital Market Authority of Saudi Arabia said the suspects violated Article 49 of the Capital Market Law, and Articles 2 and 8 of the Market Conduct Regulations.
It said the suspects “engaged in manipulative and misleading practices in market trading by entering buy or sell orders of shares with the aim of influencing the price of the banknote.”
It added that they “traded (bought) the shares of a number of listed companies, then promoted opinions on social networking platforms (such as) Twitter and a forum with the aim of influencing the price of the banknote.”
“Then they traded (sold) the shares of the listed companies that were affected by the opinions they had promoted about them.”
The statement said it had detected similar suspicious practices between Jan. 20 and Oct. 1 last year that had affected the prices of shares of 37 companies listed in the Saudi stock exchange.


Dubai logistics firm Tristar drops IPO plans

Dubai logistics firm Tristar drops IPO plans
Updated 15 April 2021

Dubai logistics firm Tristar drops IPO plans

Dubai logistics firm Tristar drops IPO plans
  • Tristar began its public share sale on April 4, setting a price range that implied a market capitalization of 2.64-3.24 billion dirhams
  • The company saw weak demand for its shares, said two sources familiar with the matter

DUBAI: Logistics firm Tristar has dropped plans for an initial public offering (IPO) in Dubai, with sources saying the deal did not attract enough investor demand.
The move, which confirms what the sources had earlier told Reuters, is a setback for Dubai’s bourse, the Dubai Financial Market, which has not seen a big ticket listing since 2017.
The company said “its board and existing shareholders have decided to withdraw its planned initial public offering on the Dubai Financial Market as existing shareholders’ expectations were not met.”
“The board and existing shareholders believe that greater returns can be realized executing Tristar’s current growth strategy under the established shareholder structure,” it said.
Tristar began its public share sale on April 4, setting a price range that implied a market capitalization of 2.64-3.24 billion dirhams ($719-$882 million).
The company saw weak demand for its shares, said two sources familiar with the matter. The offering was planned to close on April 15.
Part-owned by Kuwaiti logistics firm Agility, Tristar had previously intended to list in London, but plans were scrapped after turmoil at London-listed health care firm NMC shook investor confidence in Gulf companies.
Tristar said earlier this month it expected to raise between 438 million and 537 million dirhams as part of its primary offering, and another 90 to 240 million from a secondary offering.
BofA Securities and Citigroup were global coordinators and joint bookrunners on the deal.


Saudi Arabia cuts maximum subsidized housing loans by five years

Saudi Arabia cuts maximum subsidized housing loans by five years
Updated 15 April 2021

Saudi Arabia cuts maximum subsidized housing loans by five years

Saudi Arabia cuts maximum subsidized housing loans by five years
  • Targets people who earn SR14,000 or less
  • Subsidized loans first implemented in 2017

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has reduced the maximum period of subsidized housing finance from 25 years to 20 years for new applications, 2021, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing said in a circular on Tuesday. The change took effect from April 12.
The ministry said that this decision was "in line with the strategy of the housing program for the second phase, to serve the largest number of target groups,” the Al-Watan newspaper reported.
The subsidized mortgage loan program was first implemented in June 2017.
It provides a real estate loan with up to 100 percent, for those whose salary is SR14,000 or less, with a guarantee (on the amount of the profit margin) of up to SR500,000 of the financing amount.
This program targets Saudi citizens who are on the housing support lists of the Real Estate Development Fund, and who meet the Ministry of Housing conditions.


Erdogan’s new dove: Five questions for Turkey’s central bank

Erdogan’s new dove: Five questions for Turkey’s central bank
Updated 15 April 2021

Erdogan’s new dove: Five questions for Turkey’s central bank

Erdogan’s new dove: Five questions for Turkey’s central bank
  • Erdogan fired latest governor last month
  • Dismissed two days after he raised interest rates

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s fourth central bank chief in less than two years will oversee his first policy decision on Thursday, after President Tayyip Erdogan rocked financial markets by firing a well-respected governor who had hiked rates just last month.
Erdogan replaced Naci Agbal, a policy hawk, with Sahap Kavcioglu, who has openly criticized Turkey’s tight monetary stance and who shares the president’s unorthodox view that high interest rates cause inflation.
The shock decision on March 20 raised expectations that the policy rate, now at 19 percent, would soon be cut and sent investors fleeing, knocking the lira 12 percent lower. For many analysts, Erdogan’s latest intervention has left the bank’s credibility in tatters.
Here are five questions ahead of the bank’s policy decision this morning:

1. WHAT HAS HAPPENED SINCE LAST MONTH’S RATE HIKE?
On March 18, the bank under Agbal raised rates by 2 percentage points — more than had been expected — to address inflation that was headed beyond 16 percent, and to reinforce his hawkish rhetoric. Two days later, early on a Saturday morning, he was fired.
Minutes after trading began the following Monday, the lira had plunged as much as 15 percent, to 8.485 versus the dollar, leaving it just above the record low hit the day before Agbal was appointed in November 2020.
Stocks had their worst selloff since the 2008 global financial crisis as foreigners dumped nearly $2 billion in Turkish assets in a week. The cost of insuring investments using credit default swaps jumped by 150 basis points to 450 bps.
“Because the whole change of governor has come in such a surprising fashion, the market is quite skeptical,” said Reza Karim, assistant fund manager, emerging markets debt, at Jupiter Asset Management, which has CDS insurance on an already “underweight” Turkish position.
“If they stay put ... and maintain the hawkish policy then that’s a positive sign,” he said of Thursday’s rates meeting.

2. WHERE DOES THE NEW GOVERNOR STAND?
Kavcioglu, a former banker and lawmaker in Erdogan’s ruling party, wrote in a newspaper column as recently as February that high rates do not help the economy and “indirectly cause inflation to rise.”
Since taking the job, he has downplayed those views and promised tight policy for a while given high inflation.
Asked on a call about his past columns, he told investors he would now act in line with his “institutional task” and urged them to “judge me after” the April policy decision, according to sources who took part in the call.
The assurances have resonated — for now.
All but two of 19 economists polled by Reuters expect Kavcioglu to hold rates this week. Oyak Securities said the lira could weaken if the bank’s post-meeting statement removes a reference to raising rates if needed, while Morgan Stanley warns a surprise cut would trigger a 15-20 percent plunge.

3. HOW IS POLICY LIKELY TO CHANGE?
Beyond this month, Kavcioglu is expected to cut rates sooner than would have happened under Agbal, whose hawkish moves sparked a brief lira rally that reversed a years-long exodus of foreign funds.
Five of 14 poll respondents predicted policy easing before mid-year, while seven forecast a move in the third quarter. Yet over the next two years, money markets appear to be betting rates will end up higher due to inflation pressure.
Premature rate cuts that further weaken the lira could, in turn, prompt Turkey to consider adopting some form of capital controls, some analysts say. The government has firmly dismissed this option.
“If you can’t raise rates and you don’t have sufficient reserves, then you don’t have any other choice if you want to limit exchange rate depreciation,” said Morgan Stanley’s chief economic adviser Reza Moghadam, a former IMF regional head.
“A lot of central banks that have reserve difficulties get into those (controls) but it doesn’t usually end well.”

4. WHAT ARE THE RISKS FOR INVESTORS — AND FOR TURKEY?
Investors were drawn by higher yields as Agbal adopted one of the tightest monetary policies in the world. After he was fired, sparking some big losses, some investors said they would not come back.
Ratings agencies say the reaction to Erdogan’s decision — and the harm it does to monetary policy independence — raises the risk of a balance-of-payments crisis given Turkish banks and companies have some $160 billion in short-term foreign debt.
The buffer against such a crisis is thin: a costly and unorthodox policy in 2019-2020 of selling some $128 billion in dollars to support the lira has depleted the central bank’s FX reserves by about 75 percent.
The lira’s slide, along with higher oil prices, has meanwhile raised import prices and pushed inflation up to 16.2% in March. Wall Street banks predict it will reach as much as 19 percent this quarter, keeping basic living costs high for Turks hit by the pandemic and joblessness.

5. WHAT DOES ERDOGAN WANT?
Reuters reported that Erdogan ousted Agbal for two reasons: his long-held aversion to high rates, and politics.
Erdogan was uncomfortable with Agbal’s investigation into the $128 billion in FX sales undertaken during his son-in-law Berat Albayrak’s stint as finance minister, sources said.
Agbal had promised to rebuild the FX buffer and the government has promised to stick to free-market principles. But analysts say the bank could revert to FX interventions under Kavcioglu.
Erdogan — who has shoved out three central bank governors in two years — called for single-digit rates again this month.
“Comments from Erdogan confirm his desire to cut rates rapidly and so there is clear risk of a dovish surprise this week,” said Win Thin, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman.
“The economy is suffering greatly from the pandemic and Erdogan is desperate to inject some stimulus quickly,” he said.


Egypt’s petroleum sector made up 24% of GDP — minister

Egypt’s petroleum sector made up 24% of GDP — minister
Updated 15 April 2021

Egypt’s petroleum sector made up 24% of GDP — minister

Egypt’s petroleum sector made up 24% of GDP — minister
  • More than 60 international oil and gas companies operate in Egypt, including well-known names such as ExxonMobil and Chevron

CAIRO: The oil and gas sector contributed 24 percent of Egypt’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 and was one of the key sectors that helped rebuild the country’s economy in the wake of the economic challenges since 2011, according to a senior government minister.

Egyptian Petroleum Minister Tariq El-Molla said in a statement that the sector had played a significant role in the economic reforms the government had implemented, which helped to create an appealing environment for investors.

More than 60 international oil and gas companies operate in Egypt, including well-known names such as ExxonMobil and Chevron.

Egypt launched the EastMed Gas Forum in 2018, which was designed to encourage strategic dialogue between Eastern Mediterranean countries — whether they are producers or consumers — in a bid to achieve optimal economic benefits and address common regional challenges.

The minister said that the EastMed Gas Forum charter was signed in September 2020 and had succeeded in attracting the world’s attention. Several countries had expressed their desire to join the forum — including France, which had been approved as a permanent member, and the US as an observer.

El-Molla confirmed that the Natural Gas Advisory Committee has been formed with 29 members and international institutions.

He said that natural gas had emerged as an important transitional fuel due to its environmentally friendly nature and because the Egyptian government had introduced many projects as part of a bid to maximize gas use in homes and cars.

El-Molla added that hydrogen had become an important source of fuel, and gained the support of international institutions. One example was Egypt’s partnering with the EU to establish a special committee to develop a strategy for the use, production and exploration of hydrogen.


Almost half of Jeddah’s hotel rooms were booked in March

Almost half of Jeddah’s hotel rooms were booked in March
Updated 15 April 2021

Almost half of Jeddah’s hotel rooms were booked in March

Almost half of Jeddah’s hotel rooms were booked in March
  • Industry report says occupancy rates were second-highest since pandemic started

JEDDAH: The hotel industry in Saudi Arabia’s commercial center reported one of its highest monthly occupancy levels of the COVID-19 pandemic period, according to preliminary March 2021 data from the hotel management analytics firm Smith Travel Research (STR).

According to the figures, hotel occupancy in Jeddah reached 47.1 percent in March, and the revenue per available room (RevPAR) reached SR318.72 ($84.99).

March occupancy and RevPAR rates were the second-highest since February 2020, just behind figures for January 2021. However, the average daily rate for hotel rooms was SR676.36, remaining in line with the levels recorded in the second half of 2020.

Earlier this month, a report by STR found that Saudi Arabia has the world’s biggest hotel pipeline, anticipating a 67.1 percent increase in room supply over the next three years, the highest among the 50 most populated countries. The data showed 73,057 rooms in the Saudi hotel pipeline, with 16,965 scheduled to come online in 2021. 

The Jeddah hotel market is expected to increase hotel supply by more than 97 percent, with 11,198 rooms under development.