Turkey appoints a new finance minister amid plunge in currency

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.


Electric car construction will drive aluminum prices to 30 year high: Mining company CEO

Electric car construction will drive aluminum prices to 30 year high: Mining company CEO
Updated 28 January 2022

Electric car construction will drive aluminum prices to 30 year high: Mining company CEO

Electric car construction will drive aluminum prices to 30 year high: Mining company CEO

Aluminum is set to reach its highest price for more than 30 years, according to the CEO of mining company Eurasian Resources Group.

In 2021, the price of the metal surged to a 13-year high, gaining over 40 percent year-on-year.

Benedikt Sobotka believes a combination of Chinese demand, a global focus on renewables, and rising electric vehicle production will further push up the cost of aluminum over the upcoming 12 months.

In a report, he said: “We believe that aluminum has strong potential to outperform other LME base metals in 2022, having again breached the important milestone of USD 3,000/tonne at the start of this year. The market will remain in a sizable deficit for the second consecutive year, with visible inventories at the lowest level since the global financial crisis.”

His comments came after a year in which the cost of metals and other commodities rose, with copper, iron ore and natural gas prices hitting all-time highs.  

“The main driving forces for these markets were supply chain disruptions, production restrictions in China, the energy crisis, a stimulus-led consumption boom in the US and depleted inventories,” said Sobotka.

As well as aluminum, Sobotka forecasts an increase in the cost of cobalt, saying that its 119 percent price surge through the course of 2021 emanates “a very loud and clear message: the market is severely short of the blue metal.”

“As we move into the New Year, there are no discernible signs of any fundamental easing, with prices remaining on an upward trajectory as consumers skirmish to secure sparsely available spot units – a situation that will undoubtedly persist throughout 2022 and beyond,” he added.


Gold demand hits highest level in more than two years

Gold demand hits highest level in more than two years
Updated 28 January 2022

Gold demand hits highest level in more than two years

Gold demand hits highest level in more than two years

Rising inflation and the post-pandemic economic uncertainty has sent demand for gold to a two year high, according to the World Gold Council.

The organisation’s latest report shows the appetite for the metal  reached 1,147 tonnes in the last three months of 2021, its highest level since the second quarter of 2019 and an increase of almost 50 percent year-on-year.

Gold bar and coin demand rose 31 percent to an eight-year high of 1,180 tonnes, while the  jewellery sector rebounded to match 2019’s pre-pandemic total of 2,124 tonnes.

For the twelfth consecutive year, central banks were net purchasers of gold, adding 463 tonnes to their holdings — 82 percent higher than 2020. 

Central banks from both emerging and developed markets added to their gold reserves, lifting the global total to a near 30-year high.

Louise Street, a senior analyst at the World Gold Council, said: “On the investment side, the tug of war between persistent inflation and rising rates created a mixed picture for demand. Increasing rates fuelled a risk-on appetite among some investors, reflected in ETF (exchange-traded fund) outflows. 

“On the other hand, a search for safe haven assets led to a rise in gold bar and coin purchases, buoyed by central bank buying.

“Declines in ETFs were offset by demand growth in other sectors. Jewellery reached its highest level in nearly a decade as key markets like China and India regained economic vibrancy.”

Street added that the World Gold Council is expecting demand to fluctuate in 2022, with how central banks deal with persistent high levels of inflation a key factor affecting the sector.

Likewise, the jewellery market’s strength could be hampered if new COVID variants once again restrict consumer access.

 


Alturki migrating recently-bought US drilling firm to Dhahran

Alturki migrating recently-bought US drilling firm to Dhahran
Updated 28 January 2022

Alturki migrating recently-bought US drilling firm to Dhahran

Alturki migrating recently-bought US drilling firm to Dhahran

DAMMAM: Investment firm Alturki Holding is shifting the base of a US drilling firm it recently acquired to Dhahran, according to the head of the company.

Speaking to Arab News, Alturki’s CEO Rami Alturki said the move was related to Newsco International Energy Services, which it snapped up in October 2021 for an undisclosed amount. 

The comments came on the sideline of the Saudi Aramco hosted In-Kingdom Total Value Add forum, held in Dhahran.

Referring to Newsco, Alturki said: “We are in the process of migrating the company to be based here in Dhahran.” 

Alturki also commented on another of his firm’s subsidiaries, Sawafi Borets, which was awarded a contract to create a $50 million facility in King Salman Energy Park, or SPARK, to assemble electrical submersible pumps.

“We're also very involved on the construction side, building facilities for Aramco across the Kingdom,” he added. 


Iraqi ‘super app’ Baly raises $10.5m in funding round

Iraqi ‘super app’ Baly raises $10.5m in funding round
Updated 28 January 2022

Iraqi ‘super app’ Baly raises $10.5m in funding round

Iraqi ‘super app’ Baly raises $10.5m in funding round

RIYADH: Iraq’s first super app Baly raised an historic $10.5 million in its latest funding round — the most ever for a tech startup in the country. 

Baly launched ride-hailing as its first service in Baghdad last month, and already boasts thousands of rides each day, according to a press release. 

Additional services, like food and grocery delivery, will go live in the next few weeks, and Baly will expand to cover more cities in the country.

The startup will be able to use the new funds to support its scaling efforts in operations and market growth, the company said.

Baly Managing Director Matteo Mantovani said: “Iraq is home to 40 million people, with over 90 percent smartphone penetration amongst those aged 17-40. 

“With a young, urbanized population, it is the perfect place to revolutionize the economy through digital services.

Arnd Lodowicks, chief financial officer of investor Rocket Internet, said: “Baly is for us a world-class team in an extremely exciting and promising market. We are looking forward to supporting  the company on its mission to become the leading super app of Iraq.”

Venture capital funding in Iraq reached record highs in 2021, despite the political and socio-economic challenges in the region, according to Baly.

It crossed the $5 million mark over five deals in 2021, recording a 170 percent year-on-year jump in VC funding.

Kingsway Capital, MSA Capital, Global Founders Capital, Vostok Ventures, Majid Al Futtaim, and March Holding all participated in the funding round for Baly.


HP wins fraud case against UK tech tycoon Mike Lynch

HP wins fraud case against UK tech tycoon Mike Lynch
Updated 28 January 2022

HP wins fraud case against UK tech tycoon Mike Lynch

HP wins fraud case against UK tech tycoon Mike Lynch

LONDON: Hewlett-Packard won the majority of its civil case against British tech tycoon Mike Lynch over its acquisition of Autonomy in 2011, a London judge said on Friday, though damages will be considerably less than the $5 billion claimed.
The court’s decision comes on the same day as Britain has to decide whether or not to extradite Lynch to the United States after almost a decade of bitter wrangling over who was to blame for the failure of Hewlett-Packard’s $11 billion takeover of Lynch’s Autonomy.
HP had sued Lynch, arguing that he had fraudulently inflated the value of Autonomy before he sold it to the US tech giant. Lynch had argued that HP mismanaged the acquisition.
High Court Justice Robert Hildyard said HP had substantially succeeded in their case but the damages would be less than they were demanding.
Lynch faces separate criminal charges in the US, including wire fraud and securities fraud.
A year after acquiring Autonomy, HP threw out the architect of the deal which was supposed to help transform the computer and printer maker, one of Silicon Valley’s original companies, into a more profitable group centered on business software and services.
It wrote down the value of Autonomy by $8.8 billion and sought damages of around $5 billion from Lynch and his colleague Sushovan Hussain, alleging they inflated the value of Autonomy before selling it. Hussain was convicted in the United States in 2019.
Lynch has denied all the allegations.
Lynch is due to hear on Friday whether Britain’s interior minister Priti Patel has approved the extradition request to the United States.
A court has given Patel until midnight on Friday to make a decision, although Lynch could appeal any ruling that goes against him. The US charges carry a maximum term of 20 years imprisonment.
Lynch is one of Britain’s leading tech bosses. He founded Autonomy which was capable of searching and organizing unstructured information, such as telephone conversations.
The 56-year-old’s doctoral thesis remains one of the most consulted at Cambridge University and his success, including the around $800 million he made from his stake in Autonomy, elevated his position in Britain, giving him a place on government advisory boards.
Lynch was also central to the creation of DarkTrace , a cybersecurity firm that listed on the stock market last year. Lynch and his wife Angela Bacares own nearly 16 percent of DarkTrace, according to Refinitiv