Mideast economy recovering but social unrest on the rise: IMF

Mideast economy recovering but social unrest on the rise: IMF
A member of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement fires his gun during the funeral of some of their members who were killed during clashes in the capital Beirut's southern suburbs, on October 15, 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
Short Url
Updated 19 October 2021

Mideast economy recovering but social unrest on the rise: IMF

Mideast economy recovering but social unrest on the rise: IMF
  • "The region is going through recovery in 2021. Since the beginning of the year, we see progress in the economic performance"

The Middle East and North Africa is on track to economic recovery, but rising social unrest and unemployment are threatening to hinder "progress", the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday.


The MENA region, which includes the Arab countries and Iran, saw its real GDP growth shrink by 3.1 percent in 2020 due to lower oil prices and sweeping lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.


But with rapid vaccination campaigns, particularly in the Gulf nations, the IMF predicted that GDP growth would rise to 4.1 percent this year, a slight upgrade of 0.1 percent from the last projection in April.


"The region is going through recovery in 2021. Since the beginning of the year, we see progress in the economic performance," Jihad Azour, director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the IMF, told AFP in an interview.


But "this recovery is not the same in all countries. It is uncertain and uneven because of the divergence in vaccination... and geopolitical developments", Azour added.


The IMF said this month that while prospects for oil-exporting economies improved with higher oil prices, low-income and crisis-hit countries are witnessing "fragile" recoveries.


It warned of "a rise in social unrest" in 2021 that "could pick up further due to repeated infection waves, dire economic conditions, high unemployment and food prices".


Unemployment rates increased in MENA last year by 1.4 percent to reach 11.6 percent.


This rise exceeds that seen during the global financial crisis and the 2014-15 oil price shock, the IMF said.


The fund also warned of the longer-term risk of the uneven recovery, which could lead to a "permanent widening of existing wealth, income, and social gaps and, ultimately, weaker growth and less inclusive societies".


About seven million more people in the region are estimated to have entered extreme poverty during 2020-21 compared to pre-crisis projections, according to the IMF.


In Lebanon, the continuing drop in the value of the currency has dashed hopes that the government formed last month can stem an economic crisis, branded by the World Bank as one of the worst since the mid-19th century.


Nearly 80 percent of the Lebanese population lives below the poverty line.


"The Fund has already started technical discussions with the authorities... to develop what would be in fact that the framework within which the fund can help Lebanon," said Azour, a former Lebanese finance minister.


KSA’s Sidra fund exceeds annual target net returns

KSA’s Sidra fund exceeds annual target net returns
Updated 5 sec ago

KSA’s Sidra fund exceeds annual target net returns

KSA’s Sidra fund exceeds annual target net returns

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Sidra Income Fund, a US dollar-denominated investment fund, exceeded its annual target net return of 7.75 percent, delivering, 8.01 percent and 8.39 percent respectively in the last 24 months, said a statement.

The fund, focussed on financing supply chains, is managed by Sidra Capital, which is a Shariah-compliant investment fund regulated by Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority.

Launched in September 2019, the $50-million Shariah-compliant fund, aims to capitalize on the infrastructure boom in Indonesia, while aiming to intervene in energy and infrastructure supply chains achieving stable, unlevered high yield return uncorrelated to the stock market and global commodity prices.

“The economy of Indonesia is the largest in Southeast Asia, and is one of the leading emerging market economies of the world,” explained Hani Baothman, chairman of Sidra Capital. 

“Following 2020’s pandemic-induced recession, rising infrastructure spending and unleashed pent-up demand amid supportive fiscal and monetary policies should sustain investment for the foreseeable future.”

 


Japanese SoftBank shares fall 9% amid bad portfolio news

Japanese SoftBank shares fall 9% amid bad portfolio news
Updated 9 min 24 sec ago

Japanese SoftBank shares fall 9% amid bad portfolio news

Japanese SoftBank shares fall 9% amid bad portfolio news

RIYADH: Tokyo-based SoftBank Group’s shares dropped nine percent on Monday, hitting its sixth consecutive day of losses as valuations of its key portfolio companies fell. 

SoftBank shares sank to 5,057 yen ($45) in its largest intraday decline since March 2020, Bloomberg reported. 

The group’s Chinese portfolio company Didi Global started US delisting last Thursday, following the US Federal Trade Commission opposition to SoftBank’s Arm sale to Nvidia Corp. 

Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s founder, relies on completing the Arm deal to secure the nine trillion yen for his investment group. 

This happened as the shares of Alibaba Group Holding, the biggest Chinese internet firm and most valuable company in SoftBank’s portfolio, fell by more than eight percent, while Didi Global’s stock dropped by over 22 percent.

 


Global shipping outlook turns stable from positive

Global shipping outlook turns stable from positive
Updated 22 min 10 sec ago

Global shipping outlook turns stable from positive

Global shipping outlook turns stable from positive
  • Industry earnings will be considerably higher than pre-COVID-19 levels during the next 12 months

RIYADH: As demand slightly outstrips supply, Moody’s Investors Service has changed the outlook for the global shipping industry to stable from positive for the next 12 to 18 months.

A report issued on Monday said the change is driven by tough comparisons with the very strong cash flows generated this year rather than a deteriorating business environment. It predicted business and financial conditions to remain solid, but are unlikely to get better than they already are today.

“Earnings for container and dry bulk carriers are at record levels; however, we expect earnings to fall from their 2021 peak but remain high,” said Daniel Harlid, a vice president — senior analyst at Moody’s and the author of the report. 

“Still, limited deliveries of new vessels next year will help keep freight rates at elevated levels.”

According to the report, demand for goods and commodities remain high and will stay robust in 2022. Growth rates have most likely peaked and will start to decelerate next year. Record high profitability and cash flow generation have been used to pay down debt.

Capital spending of shipping companies will continue to increase. Therefore, Moody’s expects orders for newer and more energy-efficient ships to continue to be a theme during 2022, as shipping companies prepare for stricter environmental regulations that will gradually be phased in from 2023.


EV maker Lucid gets SEC subpoena on $24bn blank check deal

EV maker Lucid gets SEC subpoena on $24bn blank check deal
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 36 min 48 sec ago

EV maker Lucid gets SEC subpoena on $24bn blank check deal

EV maker Lucid gets SEC subpoena on $24bn blank check deal
  • The California startup joins many other electric-car makers being investigated by federal agencies and regulators

The US securities regulator has asked Lucid Group Inc. for documents related to an investigation into its blank-check deal, joining a growing list of companies that have come under scrutiny for their merger with shell companies.


Shares of the luxury electric-car maker fell about 14 percent in pre-market trading on Monday after disclosing that it had received a subpoena from the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Dec. 3.


“The investigation appears to concern the business combination between the Company (Churchill Capital Corp. IV) and Atieva Inc. and certain projections and statements,” Lucid said in a regulatory filing.


Lucid’s deal with veteran dealmaker Michael Klein’s blank-check acquisition firm had given the combined company a pro-forma equity value of $24 billion and was completed earlier this year.


It was one of the biggest in a string of deals with Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) that included electric vehicle makers such as Nikola Corp. and Fisker Inc. 


The California startup joins many other electric-car makers being investigated by federal agencies and regulators as they rush to meet production targets and catch up with Tesla Inc. which is producing nearly 200,000 cars every quarter.


Nikola Corp. is working with US regulators to pay a $125 million penalty to settle a charge against its founder Trevor Milton for using social media to repeatedly mislead investors.


Lordstown Motors is being investigated for vehicle pre-orders and its merger with blank-check company DiamondPeak Holdings.


Founded in 2007 as Atieva Inc. by former Tesla executive Bernard Tse and entrepreneur Sam Weng, Lucid is aiming to achieve production target of 20,000 vehicles in 2022 and 50,000 in 2023.


Lucid had in September secured $4.4 billion it needed until the end of next year.


It was funded initially by Chinese and Silicon Valley venture investors, with additional funding from backers like state-owned Chinese auto maker BAIC Motor and Chinese technology company LeEco. 


General Motors to invest $35bn in electric cars, president says

General Motors to invest $35bn in electric cars, president says
Updated 41 min 18 sec ago

General Motors to invest $35bn in electric cars, president says

General Motors to invest $35bn in electric cars, president says

RIYADH: US automotive company General Motors plans to invest $35 billion on manufacturing a new portfolio of electric cars using battery platform Ultium, the company’s president revealed.

General Motors will introduce 30 new electric cars by 2025, Steven Kiefer told Al Arabiya, adding that many of the new vehicles aim to cater to the Middle Eastern markets’ needs, especially Egypt and North Africa.

The company is also reviewing new partnerships to secure more supply, Kiefer added.

The strategy is expected to secure a long-term supply of electronic chips in a bid to tackle the recent logistics crisis in the sector.