Lebanon’s soaring inflation led by 250 percent jump in fuel costs amid currency slump

Lebanon’s soaring inflation led by 250 percent jump in fuel costs amid currency slump
Lebanon's economy was in crisis even before COVID-19 hit in 2020. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 18 September 2021

Lebanon’s soaring inflation led by 250 percent jump in fuel costs amid currency slump

Lebanon’s soaring inflation led by 250 percent jump in fuel costs amid currency slump
  • Lebanese CPI jumped 123 percent in the year to July 2021
  • Food and non-alcoholic beverages prices rose 248 percent

DUBAI: Lebanese residents were forced to pay more than double for consumer goods in July compared with a year earlier as prices soared amid a partial lifting of fuel subsidies and a record plunge in the local currency.

The latest data from Lebanon’s Central Administration of Statistics shows the consumer price index leaped 123 percent year-on-year last month as officials struggled to contain an economic meltdown the likes of which have not been seen since the end of the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.

The biggest contributor to surging prices has been the cost of transportation, which soared by 253 percent from July 2020, reflecting the rise in fuel costs after the previous government priced gasoline at the exchange rate of 3,900 pounds to the dollar in June. Two months later, the central bank began providing fuel importers with dollars at an exchange rate of 8,000 pounds to the dollar.

The Lebanese pound has been officially pegged at 1,507.5 pounds to the dollar since 1997, but is worth a lot less on the black market. Following the resignation of former Prime Minister-Designate Saad Hariri in July, it plummeted to a record 24,000 per dollar.

This pushed prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages up by 248 percent in the year to July 2021, while health care services rose by 178 percent. Prices at restaurants and hotels grew 246 percent and clothing and footwear prices almost doubled.

The formation of Najib Mikati’s government last week, following a 13-month political vacuum, provided Lebanese with slight reprieve.

The pound stabilized at around 14,000 to the dollar on Thursday amid the new government’s pledges for reforms and a resumption of talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which had hit a dead-end following bickering over the size of the banking sector’s losses.

Reforms demanded by the international community include a forensic audit of the central bank’s accounts and a restructuring of the banking sector.

On Thursday, a meeting took place at the Economy Ministry with the president of the syndicate of supermarket owners and the president of the syndicate of food importers to discuss lowering the prices of goods.

The meeting touched on a new pricing mechanism for goods in the wake of the Lebanese pound’s surge, with new economy minister Amine Salam saying that ” both unions have committed to start reducing the prices of commodities.”

“The ministry will not tolerate this issue and will be strict in monitoring price,” he said.


China raises $4bn in U.S. dollar bond after attracting strong investor demand

China raises $4bn in U.S. dollar bond after attracting strong investor demand
Getty Images
Updated 14 sec ago

China raises $4bn in U.S. dollar bond after attracting strong investor demand

China raises $4bn in U.S. dollar bond after attracting strong investor demand
  • The strong appetite came after finance ministry officials told investors on a call on Monday they were confident cash-strapped developer Evergrande posed no systemic risk

China has raised $4 billion through a U.S. dollar sovereign bond issue, a term sheet showed, with the offer attracting robust demand from offshore investors despite an ongoing regulatory crackdown across industries and problems in the property market.


Investor bids for the four tranche deal reached $23.2 billion, nearly six times the amount raised, official statistics published by advisers showed on Wednesday.


The sale comes at a tricky time for China: its economy is slowing, while investors are worried about a regulatory crackdown and potential contagion from China Evergrande Group's debt problems.


The strong appetite came after finance ministry officials told investors on a call on Monday they were confident cash-strapped developer Evergrande posed no systemic risk, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

The sources could not be named as the information had not been made public.


The Finance Ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for a comment.


A People's Bank of China official also said on Friday that the spillover effect of Evergrande's debt problems is controllable and individual financial institutions' risk exposures are not big.


Evergrande shares remain in a trading halt on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange after it missed a number of offshore bond interest repayments in the past few weeks. It is grappling with more than $305 billion worth of liabilities.


The pricing for China's dollar-denominated sovereign bond was set at 6 basis points (bps) above U.S. Treasuries for the three-year tranche, 12 bps over for the five-year, 23 bps higher for the 10-year and 53 bps above for the 30-year tranche.


Final pricing for the deal was significantly lower than first flagged.


Initial pricing guidance was given to investors at 35 bps over Treasuries for the three-year tranche, 45 bps on the five-year tranche, 55 bps on the 10-year tranche and 85 bps on the 30-year tranche.


The spreads on each of the tranches were the lowest ever for a sovereign bond issue from China, the three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.


The three- and 10-year tranches each raised $1 billion, the 5-year raised $1.5 billion and the 30-year $500 million, the term sheet showed.


Asian banks were strong buyers of the shorter dated bonds because of their capital requirements, while U.S. investors were more active in purchasing the longer dated tranches, statistics on the deal showed.


The bond offering comes as the world's second-largest economy posted its slowest pace of growth in a year in the third quarter, hurt by power shortages, sporadic COVD-19 outbreaks and a weakening property sector.


Investors questioned the economic implications of the power cuts but were assured China's fundamentals remained strong, the sources with direct knowledge said.


The finance ministry also flagged that China would likely carry out a euro denominated bond before the end of the year, copying the pattern of issuance it initiated in 2020, the sources said.


The ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 


Iraq oil minister sees oil prices at $100 in early 2022

Iraq oil minister sees oil prices at $100 in early 2022
Updated 10 min 37 sec ago

Iraq oil minister sees oil prices at $100 in early 2022

Iraq oil minister sees oil prices at $100 in early 2022

Crude oil prices could reach $100 per barrel in the first or second quarter of next year as global inventories are at their lowest level, Iraqi Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar said on Wednesday.


UAE-based Fintech Galaxy closes $2m seed round for Open Finance development

UAE-based Fintech Galaxy closes $2m seed round for Open Finance development
Updated 22 min 5 sec ago

UAE-based Fintech Galaxy closes $2m seed round for Open Finance development

UAE-based Fintech Galaxy closes $2m seed round for Open Finance development

RIYADH: The first UAE-based open finance platform, Fintech Galaxy, has successfully raised $2 million in its latest funding round, MAGNiTT reported.

Payouts were led by Jordan’s Ahli Fintech, with Saudi Raz Holding Group, OMQ Investments, EFG EV Fintech Fintech, and INSEAD Saudi Angel Investors also contributing.

Fintech Galaxy plans to utilize its newly acquired funds to further bolster the development and rollout of its Open Finance platform, as it looks to expand its reach and boost financial inclusion across key Middle East and North Africa (MENA) markets.  

Founded in 2018, the platform will provide access to customer data from partner banks through its Open Banking APIs, while allowing developers to build new apps and services. 

This comes as Open Finance is the next step in the Open Banking journey, which is widely adopted now in many countries, including Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) is launching a framework for Open Banking in the Kingdom during the first half of 2022, according to MAGNiTT.

By the third quarter of 2021, every fourth transaction in the UAE was closed by a UAE-based FinTech, observing more than 700 percent year-on-year growth in funding to rank as the top industry by volume of funding and number of deals, according to a MAGNiTT report.

Major rounds by Tabby, BitOasis, and Sarwa paved the way for an impactful conversation around the new generation of finance in MENA, the report revealed.


Fertiglobe sets mid-range IPO price, gross proceeds of around $795m

Fertiglobe sets mid-range IPO price, gross proceeds of around $795m
Updated 26 min 21 sec ago

Fertiglobe sets mid-range IPO price, gross proceeds of around $795m

Fertiglobe sets mid-range IPO price, gross proceeds of around $795m
  • Its shares are expected to list on the Abu Dhabi stock market on October 27

 Fertiglobe, a joint venture between Abu Dhabi National Oil Co and chemical producer OCI, said its initial public offering was priced at 2.55 dirhams ($0.6943) a share, raising around $795 million for its shareholders.

The price is in the middle of the 2.45-2.65 dirhams per share range the company had set out and gives it a market capitalisation of about $5.8 billion, Fertiglobe said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The final offer price was set in the middle of the range by the selling shareholders, with the objective of providing an attractive investment opportunity for new shareholders," the statement said.

The maker of fertilisers and clean ammonia products said the offering received strong demand from international, regional and local investors.

Its shares are expected to list on the Abu Dhabi stock market on October 27, the statement said.
 


G20 leaders summit to focus on climate, pandemic recovery: Italy's Draghi

G20 leaders summit to focus on climate, pandemic recovery: Italy's Draghi
Getty Images
Updated 39 min 18 sec ago

G20 leaders summit to focus on climate, pandemic recovery: Italy's Draghi

G20 leaders summit to focus on climate, pandemic recovery: Italy's Draghi
  • The Rome summit is seen as particularly important because it comes just before the United Nations COP26 climate change conference

 The summit of the G20 leaders scheduled in Rome at the end of this month will focus on the fight against climate change, coronavirus and the measures required for a global recovery after the pandemic, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Wednesday.


"Without the involvement of the world's largest economies, we will not be able to comply with the Paris Agreement and limit global warming," Draghi told Senate in remarks ahead of this week's European Council meeting.


The Rome summit is seen as particularly important because it comes just before the United Nations COP26 climate change conference to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, where the position of G20 nations will be critical.