Turkey appoints a new finance minister amid plunge in currency

Special Turkey appoints a new finance minister amid plunge in currency
On Nov. 30, the lira plunged as low as 14 to the US dollar, and hit 15 to the euro, rendering it the worst performing currency of all emerging markets. (AFP)
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Updated 03 December 2021

Turkey appoints a new finance minister amid plunge in currency

Turkey appoints a new finance minister amid plunge in currency
  • Plummeting to record lows against foreign exchanges, Turkey’s beleaguered lira has lost about 45% of its value so far this year, toppling household savings

ANKARA: In an overnight decision on Dec. 2, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appointed Nureddin Nebati as the country’s new minister of treasury and finance in place of Lutfi Elvan, adopting orthodox policy rather than monetary easing.

Elvan, having disagreed with Erdogan over the decrease of interest rates, reportedly stepped down from the post voluntarily. He was a figure acclaimed by market players despite fluctuations in the country’s economic management.

How the new minister, known as a loyalist, will be received by investors remains to be seen.

Plummeting to record lows against foreign exchanges, Turkey’s beleaguered lira has lost about 45 percent of its value so far this year, toppling household savings.

On Nov. 30, the lira plunged as low as 14 to the US dollar, and hit 15 to the euro, rendering it the worst performing currency of all emerging markets. The Central Bank of Turkey quickly intervened by selling substantial amounts of foreign exchange reserves to prop up the lira, Bloomberg reported.

Nebati, who served three years as a deputy finance minister before taking on this role, became the country’s third finance minister in just over a year.

He is known as a bureaucrat and a former businessman close to Erdogan, and he ardently supports keeping rates low in the face of soaring inflation, as they both believe that high interest rates result in high inflation.

However, according to Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of Teneo Intelligence in London, the appointment is expected to pave the way toward considerable spending in the months ahead to boost the government’s ratings ahead of the 2023 elections.

“Fiscal discipline, which has traditionally differentiated Turkey from most emerging markets, is soon likely to become history,” he told Arab News.

Experts anticipate that the economy could be accelerated through cheap credits.

Piccoli believes that the government will announce two support programs to prop up exports and the job market, along with additional initiatives to be disclosed in the months ahead in order to consolidate the government’s position.

“It is likely that the government can use its funds to provide loans to businesses as well,” he added.

The new minister, coming from a political science background in academia, took part in the youth organizations affiliated with Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

“My God, make it easy, do not make it difficult. My God, make its outcome useful. Give us truth in our work, make us successful,” Nebati tweeted upon his appointment.

Before becoming a AKP lawmaker between 2011-2018, he was also an active figure on the board of the pro-government Islamist business association, MUSIAD. He is also known as a figure very close to Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak.

“In the recent past, former minister Lutfi Elvan had hinted that improvements in the current account balance should be handled with structural changes in the production structure rather than with rate cuts,” said Selva Demiralp, a professor of economics at Koc University in Istanbul, and a former economist at the Federal Reserve.

“Meanwhile, the government insists on the argument that rate cuts will be used as a way to stimulate exports and reduce imports. With the appointment of the new minister, it looks like there will be better coordination between monetary and fiscal policy in keeping interest rates low,” she told Arab News.

In a recent interview wtih state-run broadcaster TRT, Erdogan said that more interest rate changes should be expected in the coming period and Turkey would turn a surplus in 2022, while he warned that there is no “turning back” from the new policy path.

“In this way, there will be an improvement in exchange rates ahead of the elections,” he said.

According to the latest official data on Tuesday, the Turkish economy grew by 7.4 percent year-on-year in the third quarter, thanks to exports, manufacturing and retail demand.

In another speech to Parliament last month, Erdogan hinted at a forthcoming change of finance minister, saying “I’m sorry to our friends who defend (high) interests but I cannot and will not walk the same path as them.”

Elvan was the only one who did not join the crowd in applauding these remarks.

According to economist Demiralp, more rate cuts will push deposit rates further into negative territory, which may bring another wave of dollarization and increase the pressures on the lira.

“Thus, it would limit the banks’ ability to transmit further rate cuts into their borrowing and lending rates. When the monetary transmission mechanism comes to a halt, the government may reconsider its easing cycle,” she said.

On Thursday, the central bank governor met with domestic and international investors and economists via videoconference.

Since September, the central bank has cut rates by 400 basis points to 15 percent against inflation that reached about 20 percent.

The recent steps taken by Ankara to mend ties with its previous regional competitors are also seen as part of a larger attempt to reap economic gains and attract investments from such overtures.


Middle East investors eye London property on back of weak pound

Middle East investors eye London property on back of weak pound
Updated 10 August 2022

Middle East investors eye London property on back of weak pound

Middle East investors eye London property on back of weak pound
  • Thanks to the favorable exchange rate, a £1 million home in London that would have cost $1.7 million in 2014 currently costs only about $1.2 million
  • Exchange rate forecasts predict sterling will strengthen against the dollar between now and 2026, suggesting that now is the perfect time for overseas buyers to take the plunge

LONDON: The declining strength of Sterling has created a window of opportunity in London for investors from the Middle East, according to property consultancy JLL.

Sterling buyers are paying 35 percent more now for London properties than they were eight years ago but those purchasing in US dollars are paying 3.8 percent less.

In June 2014, a US buyer would have had to pay $1.7 million for a £1 million property in London. The weaker pound means at the end of June this year, a £1 million property in the city would have cost only $1.2 million.

Exchange rate forecasts from Oxford Economics predict the pound will strengthen against the dollar between now and 2026, suggesting that this is the perfect time for overseas buyers to take advantage of the currency-exchange benefits that are available.

Analysis of passenger arrivals at London’s Heathrow Airport show that the number of visitors from the Middle East has recovered to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, the number of passengers arriving from the region in May was 1 percent higher than the pre-pandemic average, and 2 percent higher in June.

“The weaker sterling, alongside the safe-haven status usually associated with UK real estate, is driving and will continue to drive investment here,” said JLL’s Alex Carr.

“This return of overseas demand at present is particularly apparent among purchasers from the Gulf states, who are traveling back here for the first time in two years.

“London has always, historically, been a safe haven for wealthy individuals from Gulf states who are looking to diversify their assets, being one of the most resilient and transparent property markets in the world.”

London’s upscale Kensington district reportedly has experienced a significant increase in inquiries and applications from buyers in the Middle East.

“It was evident in May that demand was building, with increased communications from prospective (Middle Eastern) buyers who were preparing for their return to the UK following two years of travel restrictions,” said JLL’s Thomas Middleditch.

“A lot of these individuals have kept in touch over the course of the pandemic to stay informed on the market, yet as most are tangible buyers they have waited until they are in a position to physically return to the UK before inquiring about specific properties.

“Kensington has always been popular among Middle Eastern buyers and considered a low-risk investment given its location and established address.”


Heathrow owner Ferrovial studies options for stake in Britain’s biggest airport: Sources

Heathrow owner Ferrovial studies options for stake in Britain’s biggest airport: Sources
Updated 09 August 2022

Heathrow owner Ferrovial studies options for stake in Britain’s biggest airport: Sources

Heathrow owner Ferrovial studies options for stake in Britain’s biggest airport: Sources

LONDON: Spain’s Ferrovial is looking at options for its 25 percent stake in London’s Heathrow, two sources told Reuters, and has held preliminary talks with external advisers on the future of its holding in Britain’s biggest airport.

The early stage discussions come amid interest in Ferrovial’s stake from private equity firm Ardian, which has held talks with its own advisers on a possible joint proposal with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, these sources and another person familiar with the matter said.

Ferrovial has yet to take a final decision and the discussions may not result in a sale, all the sources said.

HIGHLIGHTS

Heathrow is worth about €24.3 billion ($25 billion), including debt.

Qatar Investment Authority, which has a 20 percent stake in Heathrow, is the second biggest investor in the busy British airport.

Shares in the Madrid-listed firm rose as much as 4.2 percent on the Reuters report. At market close they were up 3.7 percent, scoring their second best day in five months and making them the third best performing stock across the pan-European STOXX 600 index.

Ferrovial and Ardian both declined to comment while PIF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Heathrow is worth about €24.3 billion ($25 billion), including debt, JPMorgan analysts calculated in May. By JPMorgan’s estimates, Ferrovial's Heathrow holding has an equity value of €611 million.

But Insight Investment Research analyst Robert Crimes had a less conservative approach and told Reuters the equity value of Ferrovial’s 25 percent stake in Heathrow could be close to €2 billion, well above analysts’ consensus. He said Ferrovial’s stock has yet to reflect the post-pandemic recovery in traffic volumes and inflation-linked returns.

Heathrow, which Aviation data firm OAG said was the world’s fifth busiest airport in July, was hard hit by coronavirus lockdowns, but raised its 2022 traffic forecast to 54.4 million passengers in June after a travel rebound.

Last month Heathrow, like some other airports in Europe, asked airlines to stop selling tickets for summer departures and capped passenger numbers to limit queues, baggage delays and cancellations as it struggled with pent-up demand.

Madrid-based Ferrovial, which controls Spanish transport infrastructure developer Cintra and has stakes in motorways in the US and Canada, has been invested in Heathrow airport for 16 years and ranks as its single largest investor.

Qatar Investment Authority, which has a 20 percent stake in Heathrow, is the second biggest investor in the busy British airport, while Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Singapore’s wealth fund GIC and China Investment Corp. also have sizeable holdings.

QIA declined to comment while CDPQ, GIC and China Investment Corp. were not immediately available.

 


Oil up as Russian pipeline halt revives supply fears

Oil up as Russian pipeline halt revives supply fears
Updated 09 August 2022

Oil up as Russian pipeline halt revives supply fears

Oil up as Russian pipeline halt revives supply fears

NEW YORK: Oil edged up on Tuesday, reversing an early decline as worries about tightening supply were revived after Russia said oil exports to Europe on the southern leg of the Druzhba pipeline had been suspended since early August.
Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft said Ukraine had suspended oil flows via the pipeline leg because Western sanctions had prevented a payment from Moscow for transit fees from going through.
“Not that we need it at this point, but it’s another reminder of how tight the market is and how sensitive the price is to supply disruptions, particularly those from Russia,” said Craig Erlam of brokerage OANDA.
Brent crude was up $1.01, or 1.1 percent, to $97.66 a barrel at 11:30 a.m. EDT (1503 GMT), a sharp rebound from the session low of $94.90. US West Texas Intermediate crude gained 75 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $91.51 a barrel, bouncing from the session low of $89.05.
Oil also got a boost from a weaker US dollar. The dollar index, which measures the currency’s value against a basket of peers, was 0.23 percent lower at 106.09 at 10:25 a.m. ET (1425 GMT). Traders awaited a US inflation report on Wednesday.
Until the Druzhba news, mounting fears that a recession could cut oil demand had offset support for crude prices from tight supply and progress in talks to revive the Iran nuclear accord.
“Early selling had been prompted by a renewed prospect of Iranian nuclear discussions that could eventually facilitate resumption of oil exports out of Iran,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates LLC in a note, but added that he considered an imminent deal unlikely.


GAC approves Zamil Development Co.’s acquisition of Itqan Capital

GAC approves Zamil Development Co.’s acquisition of Itqan Capital
Updated 09 August 2022

GAC approves Zamil Development Co.’s acquisition of Itqan Capital

GAC approves Zamil Development Co.’s acquisition of Itqan Capital

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Competition on Tuesday announced its approval for Zamil Development Co.’s acquisition of Itqan Capital.

Itqan Capital is a Saudi closed joint-stock company. 


South Korean group join hands with Aramco for Mideast expansion

South Korean group join hands with Aramco for Mideast expansion
Updated 09 August 2022

South Korean group join hands with Aramco for Mideast expansion

South Korean group join hands with Aramco for Mideast expansion

RIYADH: South Korea’s steel firm SeAH Group has partnered with Saudi Aramco to boost its expansion plans in the Middle East, according to the Korea Economic Daily. 

The group’s special steel maker, SeAH Besteel Corp. has established the joint venture SeAH Gulf Special Steel Industries with the Saudi oil giant.

The JV is set to start building the factory, with an annual capacity of 17,000 tons, in the fourth quarter of 2022. Commercial operations are likely to begin in the first half of 2025.

“We will actively explore the Middle East market with various products such as stainless steel precision tubes and seamless stainless steel pipes,” said a SeAH Changwon official.