SPACs may reshape Gulf financial markets

Special SPACs may reshape Gulf financial markets
Last week, Abu Dhabi’s stock exchange, known as ADX, introduced its first SPAC framework, paving the way for these types of firms to launch on the bourse. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 10 March 2022

SPACs may reshape Gulf financial markets

SPACs may reshape Gulf financial markets
  • Blank check companies allow for diversification, says former DIFC chief economist

RIYADH: SPACs may reshape Gulf financial markets, bringing together savvy investors and disruptive startups.

Last week, Abu Dhabi’s stock exchange, known as ADX, introduced its first SPAC framework, paving the way for these types of firms to launch on the bourse.

A SPAC, also known as a blank check company, is a special purpose acquisition company that goes public despite having no real business. It raises money from investors to buy into another company, but backers may not necessarily know the name of a specifically targeted firm, just general areas the acquisition company is interested in buying into.

“SPACs also allow for diversification in listed sectors, which are too concentrated on banks, real estate, and telecoms,” former chief economist of the DIFC business district Nasser Saidi told Arab News. “They will bring support for startups, especially those in disruptive sectors and later-stage growth companies.

“Target companies will certainly include promising technology ones, financial technology firms, the media industry, and health and education, as well as renewable energy and clean tech.”

Driven by strong liquidity and high technology sector growth, SPACs have boomed recently. There were 613 listings around the world totaling $145 billion in 2021, compared to $80 billion for 247 SPACs the year before, according to figures from the consultancy Nasser Saidi & Associates.

These vehicles generally have around two years to find an acquisition target, or face being wound up and returning money to investors.

Being bought by a SPAC can be an easier way for a private company to go public, as disclosure rules are more relaxed.

Yet, SPACs are not without problems. The US Securities and Exchange Commission said last December it was poised to tighten the scrutiny around these firms after launching several investigations into these listings.

SEC chair Gary Gensler said in a speech that, in some SPAC launches, there was “inconsistent and differential disclosure” among the various parties.

“Currently, I believe the investing public may not be getting like protections between traditional IPOs and SPACs.”

The SEC is exploring whether fee structures incentivize bank underwriters on SPAC listings to push ahead with unsuitable deals and then, at a later stage, the same bank may act as an adviser recommending the deal to unsuspecting investors.

The Dubai Financial Services Authority, the market regulator of the DIFC, has issued guidelines for listing SPACs to mitigate some of these risks. As an example, the listing of each investment vehicle will be considered on a case-by-case basis. It will also require it to ring-fence proceeds raised from investors.

Another problem is that, often, SPAC cash can spend a long time looking for a home.

“If you look at the 2021 cycle, 82 percent of 2021 SPACs are still searching for deals and only 3 percent of the SPACs realized their deals,” Saidi added.

SPACs also face a shifting financial environment as central banks tighten global monetary policies to battle inflation.

The fact that regional economies will profit from spiking oil prices does not necessarily mean that this cash will be injected into SPACs, but instead be used to buy into government initial public offerings, Saidi pointed out.

“The process in Gulf Cooperation Council countries will be more institutionalized, given that regulatory frameworks will look at the US example and avoid mistakes that were done there.”

This has not eaten into the regional appetite for SPACs.

Last July, Shuaa Capital said it planned to set up three SPACs, with $200 million in capital. Mubadala Capital unveiled a $200m blank check company IPO last August, which will seek acquisitions in the media and technology sectors, according to Saidi.

Satellite launch company Virgin Orbit, which is also backed by the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, agreed to go public through a SPAC deal with the NextGen Acquisition Corp. II, which floated earlier this month with a $3.2 billion valuation.

Also, Saudi Tadawul CEO Khalid Al-Hussan said last December, that the stock exchange was considering whether to allow SPACs to list along with 50 IPOs in its pipeline.

Saidi said: “SPACs’ future remains promising because the region has many young dynamic companies. SPACs will fill the gap, given the under-developed venture capital and private equity sector in the region.”

Decoder

SPAC

A SPAC, also known as a blank check company, is a special purpose acquisition company that goes public despite having no real business. It raises money from investors to buy into another company, but backers may not necessarily know the name of a specifically targeted firm, just general areas the acquisition company is interested in buying into.


Egypt In-Focus — Annual headline inflation rises 1%; M&A activity amounts to $3.2bn in H1


Egypt In-Focus — Annual headline inflation rises 1%; M&A activity amounts to $3.2bn in H1

Updated 11 August 2022

Egypt In-Focus — Annual headline inflation rises 1%; M&A activity amounts to $3.2bn in H1


Egypt In-Focus — Annual headline inflation rises 1%; M&A activity amounts to $3.2bn in H1


CAIRO: Egypt’s annual headline inflation rose to 15.6 percent in July, up from 14.6 in June, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.

CAPMAS attributed the rise in inflation to the increase in food and beverage prices that grew by 23.8 percent, along with growth in commodity and services prices.

M&A activity

Egypt reported a total of 65 mergers and acquisitions deals, valued at $3.2 billion, during the first six months of 2022, according to the EY MENA M&A Insights report.

Deal activity has surged thrice year-on-year during the first half of 2022. The report attributed the surge to “favorable government initiatives including granting a special license to foreign investors.” 

Port agreements

Egypt on Thursday signed two initial agreements for the development of port facilities with Hutchison Ports, Cosco and CMA CGM, Reuters reported citing a Cabinet statement.

The agreements with the international consortium could see investments of up to 800 million, it added.

Gas consumption 

Egypt has launched a plan to rationalize gas consumption in electricity plants in a bid to save foreign currency and achieve financial returns from gas export, according to Daily News Egypt. 

Maersk to invest $500m in Egypt

Danish shipping company Maersk is planning to invest  $500 million in Egypt to operate a new 1,000-meter container berth adjacent to the existing 500-meter berth in East Port Said. 

The company also aims to increase the number of cranes to 30 winches, all powered by electricity instead of diesel, according to a statement. 

This came at the end of  the head of the Suez Canal Authority Osama Rabie’s tour to the Netherlands and Denmark, which lasted 4 days, from Aug.7 to 10.

 


Oil rises as IEA hikes 2022 demand growth forecast

Oil rises as IEA hikes 2022 demand growth forecast
Updated 11 August 2022

Oil rises as IEA hikes 2022 demand growth forecast

Oil rises as IEA hikes 2022 demand growth forecast

LONDON: Oil prices rose by over 2 percent on Thursday after the International Energy Agency raised its oil demand growth forecast for this year as soaring natural gas prices lead some consumers to switch to oil.

Brent crude futures gained $2.39, or 2.5 percent, to $99.79 a barrel by 1348 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose $2.65, or 2.9 percent, to $94.58.

“Natural gas and electricity prices have soared to new records, incentivizing gas-to-oil switching in some countries,” the Paris-based agency said in its monthly oil report, in which it raised its outlook for 2022 demand by 380,000 barrels per day.

By contrast, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Thursday cut its 2022 forecast for growth in world oil demand, citing the economic impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, high inflation and efforts to contain the pandemic.

OPEC expects 2022 oil demand to rise by 3.1 million bpd, down 260,000 bpd from the previous forecast. However, it still sees a higher overall global oil demand figure than the IEA for 2022.

A rise in US oil inventories last week and the resumption of crude flows on a pipeline supplying central Europe capped further price gains.

US crude oil stocks rose by 5.5 million barrels in the most recent week, the US Energy Information Administration said, more than the expected increase of 73,000 barrels.

Gasoline product supplied rose in the most recent week to 9.1 million barrels per day, though that figure shows demand down 6 percent over the last four weeks compared with the year-ago period.

The premium for front-month WTI futures over barrels loading in six months’ time was pegged at $4.38 a barrel on Thursday, the lowest in four months, indicating easing tightness in prompt supplies.

The resumption of flows on the southern leg of the Russia-to-Europe Druzhba pipeline further calmed market worries over global supply.


Egypt to ration electricity to boost gas exports

Egypt to ration electricity to boost gas exports
Updated 11 August 2022

Egypt to ration electricity to boost gas exports

Egypt to ration electricity to boost gas exports

CAIRO: Egypt’s Cabinet has approved a plan to ration electricity to save natural gas that it will instead divert to the export market to generate foreign currency, it said on Thursday.

Egypt has suffered from an acute foreign currency shortage since Russia's February invasion of Ukraine, which pushed up global commodity prices, led to the collapse of tourism from the two countries and drove up the cost of borrowing.

Under the draft plan, shops and malls will have to limit their use of strong lights and keep their air conditioning at no cooler than 25 degrees Celsius.

Ministries and government facilities will have to turn off lighting at the end of working hours, the statement added. Street lighting will also be reduced.

The government last month postponed a planned increase in electricity prices by six months. The higher prices would have been intensely unpopular among a population that over the last few years has endured a series of harsh austerity measures.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said the government hoped to reduce the amount of gas used to generate electricity by 15 percent. He said domestic power plants bought their natural gas at one-tenth the price that it could fetch on international markets.

Europe has been seeking alternative sources of gas to cut its reliance on Russian gas as the war in Ukraine escalates.

Rapid growth in Egypt’s natural gas supplies, boosted by the discovery of the Mediterranean’s largest field, turned it from a net importer to an exporter in late 2018.

Egypt exported 9.45 million cubic meters of liquid natural gas in the first seven months of 2022, up 44 percent from a year earlier, according to Refinitiv data. 


Ethiopia starts power generation from second turbine at mega-dam

Ethiopia starts power generation from second turbine at mega-dam
Updated 11 August 2022

Ethiopia starts power generation from second turbine at mega-dam

Ethiopia starts power generation from second turbine at mega-dam

RIYADH: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed kickstarted electricity production from the second turbine at its controversial mega-dam on the Blue Nile on Thursday, despite continuing objections by Egypt and Sudan over the project, according to AFP.

Abiy also confirmed that a third filling of the multi-billion dollar Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was under way, a development that led Egypt last month to protest to the UN Security Council.

Thursday’s move came even though there is still no agreement between Ethiopia and its downstream neighbors Egypt and Sudan about the GERD’s operations.

Abiy insisted that the third filling of the $4.2 billion dam — set to be the largest hydroelectric scheme in Africa — was not causing any water shortages for the two countries.

“We have repeatedly told downstream countries, especially Egypt and Sudan, that by generating power we’re developing our economy, as well as (our desire) to see our citizens who live in the dark see light,” he said.

There was “no aim to sideline and harm” those countries, he added.

Ethiopia first began generating electricity at the dam in February. Currently, the two turbines, out of a total of 13 at the dam, are generating 750 megawatts of electricity.

We are ready to face all scenarios after Ethiopia completes the third filling phase of the Renaissance Dam, and we expect an unprecedented rise in the Nile waters after the gates of the dam are opened, the Sudanese Minister of Irrigation Yasser Abbas told Asharq.  

 


Macro Snapshot — Romania inflation exceeds expectations; Singapore downgrades GDP in Q2

Macro Snapshot — Romania inflation exceeds expectations; Singapore downgrades GDP in Q2
Updated 11 August 2022

Macro Snapshot — Romania inflation exceeds expectations; Singapore downgrades GDP in Q2

Macro Snapshot — Romania inflation exceeds expectations; Singapore downgrades GDP in Q2

CAIRO: Romania's headline inflation exceeded expectations in July yet smaller rate hikes are still expected, while China’s July vehicle sales surged by 30 percent from a year earlier. Singapore downgraded its gross domestic product in the second quarter of this year as risks grew further, whereas the Federal Reserve officials stated the need for additional rate hikes despite the slowing inflation rates. 

Romania inflation overshoots expectations in July

Romania’s headline inflation rate rose above expectations in July but is showing signs of flattening out and analysts expect the central bank to continue to slow the pace of monetary tightening.

The year-on-year inflation rate in Romania hit 14.96 percent in July, just off a 19-year high and above a forecast of 14.4 percent in a Reuters poll.

It came down from 15.05 percent in June but analysts say there is still a chance it could creep slightly higher in the next two months.

Singapore downgrades gross domestic product in Q2

Singapore’s economy expanded less than initially estimated in the second quarter and the government revised its growth projections for 2022 lower, flagging risks to the global outlook from the Ukraine war and inflation.

The gross domestic product grew 4.4 percent year-on-year in the second quarter, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said, slower than the 4.8 percent growth seen in the government’s advance estimate.

“Downside risks in the global economy remain significant...further escalations in the Russia-Ukraine conflict could worsen global supply disruptions and exacerbate inflationary pressures through higher food and energy prices,” said Gabriel Lim, permanent secretary of MTI at a media briefing.

Fed officials say more rate hikes needed, despite slowing inflation

Slowing US inflation may have opened the door for the Federal Reserve to temper the pace of coming interest rate hikes, but policymakers left no doubt they will continue to tighten monetary policy until price pressures are fully broken.

A US Labor Department report Wednesday showing consumer prices didn’t rise at all in July compared with June was just one step in what policymakers said would be a long process, with a red-hot job market and suddenly buoyant equity prices suggesting the economy needs more of the cooling that would come from higher borrowing costs.

The Fed is “far, far away from declaring victory” on inflation, Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari said at the Aspen Ideas Conference, despite the “welcome” news in the CPI report.