Lebanon has yet to give IMF figure for financial losses, central bank governor says

Lebanon has yet to give IMF figure for financial losses, central bank governor says
Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh speaks during an interview for Reuters Next conference, in Beirut, on Tuesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 November 2021

Lebanon has yet to give IMF figure for financial losses, central bank governor says

Lebanon has yet to give IMF figure for financial losses, central bank governor says
  • Disagreements in Lebanon over the size of the losses and how they should be distributed torpedoed IMF talks last year
  • Salameh reiterated denials of wrongdoing as judicial authorities in France and Switzerland investigate money laundering allegations against him

BEIRUT: Lebanon has yet to give the IMF its estimate of losses in the financial system as discussions on the issue continue, but is working hard to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Fund by year-end, governor Riad Salameh told Reuters on Tuesday.
Disagreements in Lebanon over the size of the losses and how they should be distributed torpedoed IMF talks last year. The central bank, banks and political elite rejected figures set out in a government plan that was endorsed by the IMF at the time.
The issue has obstructed attempts to chart a way out of the crisis that has devastated Lebanon since 2019, sinking the currency by more than 90 percent, causing poverty to skyrocket and leading many Lebanese to emigrate.
Speaking in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference, Salameh also said the bank had $14 billion of available liquidity in its reserves, and reiterated denials of wrongdoing as judicial authorities in France and Switzerland investigate money laundering allegations against him.
Salameh said an IMF program was essential for Lebanon to exit the crisis, noting the external financing it would unlock and discipline that would impose reforms.
Therefore the central bank would accept the figures for the losses as decided by the government, he said.
“We are, at this stage, still in the process of gathering the data that is requested by the IMF and the issue of the losses — the number of these losses — are not going to be a hurdle for these negotiations, at least from the side of the central bank,” he said.
Asked whether there was agreement yet on who will bear the burden of the losses — such as depositors, bank shareholders, the government and the central bank itself — Salameh said no decision had been taken “because we don’t have yet the final figures that are agreed with the IMF for the total losses.”
Last year, several sources said Salameh dug in his heels over the losses which the previous government’s plan suggested were in the $70 billion range, although higher figures have been cited. Ruling parties and commercial banks also objected to the figures, saying they were too big.
Asked when the figure would be ready, Salameh said Prime Minister Najib Mikati had set a deadline for signing the IMF memorandum of understanding by the end of 2021, which the government and central bank were working “very hard to achieve.”
Salameh became Banque du Liban (BDL) governor in 1993 and managed a pegged exchange rate that underpinned the import-dependent economy from 1997 until the meltdown.
As Lebanon’s currency sunk, the reserves were depleted as BDL provided dollars at heavily subsidised exchange rates to finance imports including fuel, food and medicine.
Salameh noted that this policy had now been largely phased out — the only imports for which dollars are being provided at subsidised rates today are medicines for some chronic illnesses and wheat, while BDL sells dollars for gasoline imports at a small discount to the market exchange rate.
“Our expectation is that if we stay on this model, for the next 12 months ... the BDL will have to fund $2.5 billion,” he said. BDL might recoup $300-$500 million from its foreign exchange platform, Sayrafa, in that timeframe, he said.
The reserves were recently boosted by the sale of over $1 billion of IMF Special Drawing Rights.
Salameh is being investigated by authorities in four European countries, including the Swiss inquiry over alleged “aggravated money laundering” at BDL involving $300 million in gains by a company owned by his brother, Raja Salameh.
Last week, he said he had ordered an audit of transactions and investments that had been the focus of media reports and this had shown no public funds were used to pay fees and commissions to the company owned by his brother. Raja Salameh has not publicly commented on the accusation.
Salameh gave the prime minister a copy of the audit last week but declined to provide Reuters with one. “In this report, it is clear that there was no embezzlement or money laundering on my side or under my guidance at the central bank,” he said.


Turkey Dream Games triples in valuation after raising $255m in funding

Turkey Dream Games triples in valuation after raising $255m in funding
Updated 19 January 2022

Turkey Dream Games triples in valuation after raising $255m in funding

Turkey Dream Games triples in valuation after raising $255m in funding
  • Turkish mobile gaming start-up Dream Games raised an unprecedented $255 million in its latest Series C funding round

RIYADH: Turkish mobile gaming start-up Dream Games raised an unprecedented $255 million in its latest Series C funding round, almost tripling its valuation to $2.75 billion in six months, MAGNiTT reported.

This round of funding was led by Index Ventures, subscribed by returning investors such as Makers Fund, IVP, Kora, Balderton Capital and managed by BlackRock.

The company plans to use the funds for doubling its headcount to 200 people and launch a new game this year.

Founded in 2019, Istanbul-based Dream Games is a mobile gaming company that developed Royal Match — one of the highest grossing mobile games.


UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar top competitive economies in the Arab World: AMF

UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar top competitive economies in the Arab World: AMF
Updated 19 January 2022

UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar top competitive economies in the Arab World: AMF

UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar top competitive economies in the Arab World: AMF
  • The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar were ranked the most competitive Arab economies

RIYADH: The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar were ranked the most competitive Arab economies for the period between 2017 until 2020, according to a report launched by the Arab Monetary Fund.

The fifth Arab economies competitiveness report showed that the UAE maintained its top ranking in the general index as it benefited from high scores in the business environment and infrastructure category as well as the organizational and government governance category.

The Kingdom ranked second after having performed well in the overall economic index, the external activities sector and the official reserves index.

Qatar followed in third place, after attaining first place in the real economy sector, the inflation index and GDP per capita index.

Four Arab nations advanced in terms of competitiveness compared to the previous period, including Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, and Mauritania.

Arab states and other non-Arab countries — such as Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey — are included also in the calculation of the index.

The report monitors the economic competitiveness of Arab countries and sheds light on the economic and political measures applied by decision makers for that purpose.


TRSDC closes financing for $3.76bn loan from four Saudi banks

TRSDC closes financing for $3.76bn loan from four Saudi banks
Updated 19 January 2022

TRSDC closes financing for $3.76bn loan from four Saudi banks

TRSDC closes financing for $3.76bn loan from four Saudi banks

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's The Red Sea Development Co., or TRSDC, announced the financial closure of a SR14.12 billion ($3.76 billion) loan with four Saudi banks.

The financing will be in a form of a term loan facility and a revolving credit facility.

TRSDC, which is developing the world's largest sustainable tourism project, has obtained the loan from Saudi National Bank, Riyad Bank, Banque Saudi Fransi, and Saudi British Bank, according to a statement.

“This year, we have proceeded at pace with the delivery of our flagship project, all the while mindful of our commitment to not only reduce our impact on the environment but actively deliver a 30 percent net conservation benefit by 2040,” explained John Pagano, chief executive officer of The Red Sea Development Company.

GFC Media Group have recently awarded TRSDC’s Green Financing as Project Finance Deal of Year in the Capital Markets Saudi Arabia Awards.


Egypt achieves a $204m initial budget surplus in six months 

Egypt achieves a $204m initial budget surplus in six months 
Updated 19 January 2022

Egypt achieves a $204m initial budget surplus in six months 

Egypt achieves a $204m initial budget surplus in six months 

RIYADH: Egypt’s general budget achieved an initial surplus of 3.2 billion Egyptian pounds ($204 million) during the first six months of the 2021/22 fiscal year, the minister of finance said. 

Mohamed Maait added that revenues grew by 10.3 percent on an annual basis during that period, while tax revenues increased by 15.7 percent, the Middle East News Agency reported. 

He also said that Egypt targets a budget deficit of 6.6 percent in the 2021/22 fiscal year and a primary surplus of 1.5 percent of gross domestic product. 

The minister’s comments came during the cabinet meeting held on Wednesday by the prime minister Mostafa Madbouly, to review the financial performance indicators during the six months period. 


UAE Barakah nuclear plant to reduce 22.5m tons of annual carbon emissions

UAE Barakah nuclear plant to reduce 22.5m tons of annual carbon emissions
Updated 19 January 2022

UAE Barakah nuclear plant to reduce 22.5m tons of annual carbon emissions

UAE Barakah nuclear plant to reduce 22.5m tons of annual carbon emissions

The UAE-based Barakah nuclear power plant is to reduce carbon emissions by a total of 22.5 million tons annually.

The figure represents a 6 percent increase when compared to previous calculations, however.

“The UAE's decision to add nuclear energy to the portfolio of energy sources shows its positive results today. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation is moving forward to make the largest contributions aimed at achieving the goals of climate neutrality in the country by 2050,” WAM reported, citing Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi, managing director and CEO of the nuclear energy firm.

Carbon emissions in Abu Dhabi are expected to decrease by 50 percent by 2025 as a result of operating the four Barakah plants at full capacity, launching new and large-scale solar energy projects, and increasing the efficiency of water desalination operations in the city.

Barakah will provide more than 85 percent of green electricity in Abu Dhabi by 2025.

When fully operational, Barakah will produce 5.6 gigawatts of electricity without any carbon emissions.