Qatar in talks over possible BNP stake"
Qatar is in talks with BNP Paribas on taking a possible stake in France's biggest listed bank, a source close to the deal based in Qatar said. Resource-rich Qatar has also been holding similar talks with other French banks, which have seen their share prices halved over the summer on fears they are undercapitalized and overleveraged in the face of the Eurozone debt crisis. 'They (Qatar) have been talking to banks across France, given the tremendous need for capital,' the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. A Mideast investment in French banks would have echoes of the peak of the financial crisis in 2008, when Qatar and Abu Dhabi bought stakes in British bank Barclays as part of a capital increase that helped the lender stay independent while rivals Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds ended up being part-nationalized. A spokeswoman for BNP Paribas declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Societe Generale also declined to comment while spokeswomen for Credit Agricole and Natixis were unavailable for comment. Source: Reuters"
Abu Dhabi gets tough on units' finances"
Abu Dhabi's department of finance has accelerated its review of public spending by government entities in recent weeks, three sources said, a move likely to mean more changes to top management at state-run companies. At least nine Abu Dhabi-controlled companies have already seen top managers exit this year, including investment vehicle Mubadala and developer Aldar as the government seeks to manage its vast wealth more effectively. The sources said a plan to centralize fundraising and crack down on undisciplined issuance in the emirate, reported by Reuters in May, had gathered pace. 'It has been a project for a while ... accelerating now though,' said one of the sources, who declined to be identified. One other source, who is familiar with the matter, confirmed a renewed push in the last month to go through firms' debt numbers. 'This is fresh in the sense of the way that the weight is being thrown behind the evaluation and the analysis of the GREs' (government-related entities) debts -- bonds, loans, everything,' said a third source. 'There is a massive trawling through of the Abu Dhabi balance sheet with a fine tooth comb.' The department of finance declined to comment. Abu Dhabi sits on 10% of global oil reserves and accounts for 90% of the UAE's oil output, making it one of the world's wealthiest economies. Source: Reuters"
Lebanon included in HSBC restructuring plans"
HSBC has embarked on a major global restructuring program that will include its operations in Lebanon. “HSBC branches in Lebanon will eventually witness some restructuring as part of the plan set by the administration in London,” the source said. This restructuring may include laying off some staff and even closing some branches. Europe’s largest bank announced in August of this year that it intends to lay off 30,000 employees over the next 10 years. But HSBC Lebanon chief executive officer Francois Pascal de-Maricourt assured The Daily Star in an interview over the telephone that he was quite satisfied by the performance of his bank in Lebanon, stressing that HSBC has been one the first banks to operate in Lebanon, opening over 50 years ago. Source: The Daily Star"
Bahrain sets framework for $9bn bond issue"
Bahrain has set up a framework to issue up to 3.5 billion dinars ($9.3 billion) in bonds, the state news agency BNA reported in late September. ""The finance minister is authorized to issue in accord with Bahrain's central bank up to 3,500 million dinars in public treasury bonds ... called development bonds and Islamic sharia-compliant instrument in the kingdom or abroad,"" said a decree issued by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa, BNA said. Issuance can begin after the official publication of the decree, it said, without giving a time frame. Bahrain faced ratings downgrades after anti-government protests in February. In March, Bahrain delayed a planned $1 billion sovereign bond issue, after its debt insurance costs hit 18-month highs. Source: Bahrain News Agency"
Global unit eyes Turkey, GCC PE funds"
Global Capital Management, the alternative asset management arm of Kuwait's Global Investment House (GIH), is planning a $350 million private equity fund in Turkey, one of two funds the firm is eyeing for launch, its managing partner said in mid-September. 'We plan to raise $350 million for a fund dedicated to Turkey,' Rajiv Nakani told Reuters on the sidelines of a private equity conference. 'We'll be going up to the market again in early 2012 to talk about a GCC fund.' Nakani said both funds would invest in consumer-centric sectors such as financial services, logistics, retail, healthcare and manufacturing. In May, Global Capital Management's Global Buyout Fund acquired a stake in Turkey's Yargici, an upscale women's apparel and accessories retailer. Nakani said the company is also in discussion to exit its investment in Kuwait's Al Rayan Holding, although he did not provide a timeframe on any deals. Source: Reuters"
UAE banking sector on recovery track"
The UAE banking sector will continue to steadily recover into the next year, reveals a latest forecast. According to a Business Monitor International (BMI) report on commercial banking in the UAE, the business environment and infrastructure is very favorable and regulators are well regarded. “Lending to the government, a segment that has largely been closed to the foreign banks, has been exploding. It should continue to grow, if at a more measured pace. At some stage, the privatization of former state-owned enterprises should resume. This should provide opportunities for both commercial banks and investment banking affiliates”, it said as reported in 'Khaleej Times'. Considering the latest central bank data and Q1 statements, the report said the UAE’s banking sector continues to trudge along on its slow road to recovery. “The most noticeable development in the industry over the past three months has been the marked improvement in underlying liquidity conditions, which has been driven in large measure by a fundamental reappraisal of risk sentiment that has solidified the economy’s reputation as a ‘safe haven’ in a volatile region,” the report said. In the first four months of the year, the total stock of loans in the economy increased by only 3.2% y-o-y, well below rates of credit growth seen in Saudi Arabia or Qatar. Source: Business Monitor International"
HSBC sees $1bn Gulf project bond in 6 months"
A $1 billion project bond from a Gulf borrower is likely to be issued in the next six months, an HSBC executive said, adding Qatar's Barzan gas project was a 'likely candidate' for the sale. Jonathan Robinson, HSBC's regional head of project finance, said the project bond would be in the hydrocarbons or power and utilities sector. The Barzan gas project is a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum and Exxon Mobil. Last month, Reuters Loan Pricing Corp reported that proposals for a $4.7 billion loan financing for the project were due at the end of August. Source: Reuters"
Oman branching into Islamic banking"
Since issuing a decree to establish an Islamic financial services sector in May, Oman has seen a flurry of activity as banks have started gearing up to move into the new market. As well as the establishment of new Islamic banks, the sector is also seeing an upsurge of sharia-compliant services at convention institutions as well as movements in other financial services to offer Islamic products, Global Arab Network reports according to Oxford Business Group. Bank Nizwa was the first institution to be granted a license from the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) to become a fully-fledged Islamic bank. In mid-August, Bank Al Izz, which had been granted a conventional license in September 2010, followed suit and decided to pursue an Islamic license instead. Ali Hamdan Al Raisi, vice-president of Oman’s central bank, expects the banks to open in one or two years. “It takes some time for them to establish,” Al Raisi said. “They are in the process of being established and will become operational as soon as formalities such as regulatory requirements, raising of capital and constitution of management are met,” he told Reuters. Preparations are now under way. Bank Nizwa is looking to open its doors by early next year at the latest, though there are some suggestions that it could launch before the end of 2011. It is expected to have a capital base of at least $390 million and will conduct an initial public offering next year, in line with CBO regulations, with 40% of its shares to be made available. A number of Oman’s conventional lenders are also preparing to offer Islamic banking products so as to broaden the base of their operations and take advantage of the new development. One of these is BankMuscat, the Sultanate’s largest bank, whose chairman announced on July 30 that the bank would be entering the sharia-compliant sector. Source: Oxford Business Group"
Oasis500 secures $1m Turkish funding"
Oasis500, a premier early stage and seed investment company in the region, said it has secured a $1 million investment from Turkey-based Timar Ventures to fund the fast-growth and investment-ready early stage companies. Announcing this at a press conference, Dr. Usama Fayyad, executive chairman of Oasis500, said, ""This investment is targeted at the first funding round of Oasis500 Ventures 1, the investment arm of Oasis500, and will be invested directly into startup companies, either during the initial $15,000 funding stage or beyond. Source: TradeArabia News"
Albaraka Turk closes $350m loan facility"
Bahrain-based Albaraka Banking Group (ABG) said its Turkish unit Albaraka Türk Katılım Bankas has successfully closed a $350 million dual-currency syndicated murabaha financing facility. Several major banks including ABC Islamic, Emirates NBD, Noor Islamic and Standard Chartered acted as the initial mandated lead arrangers and the book runners for the transaction. A prominent Islamic bank, ABG said the murabaha facility was aimed at raising funds for Albaraka Türk's expansion activities in the Arab country. Launched at $150 million, the facility was oversubscribed to close at $350 million with participation from 25 banks from across the globe. It is the largest Islamic Structured Murabaha syndicated financing ever raised by any Turkish financial institution till date, according to an ABG statement. 'The floating rate dual currency facility carries a profit rate of 150 bppa over the relevant benchmark,' the statement said. Source: TradeArabia News"
Allianz, MedGulf in strategic tie-up"
Allianz Takaful has entered into a partnership with MedGulf (Bahrain), which will see Allianz transferring 75% of its takaful business to MedGulf in a move to further develop their insurance platforms. In this new partnership, Allianz Takaful will continue to sell the whole range of takaful and insurance products in Bahrain and life and health products in Qatar. ""This is a positive move for both parties,"" said Allianz Central and Eastern Europe and Mena regional chief executive officer Bruce Bowers. Source: TradeArabia News"