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Iraq’s banking sector is looking up as it profits from an upturn in regional trade deals, but local institutions remain under-capitalised, leaving them too weak to play a big role in the large-scale financing deals expected to materialise as reconstruction accelerates. Some consolidation is needed to address this challenge, bankers told GSN.

Iraq
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The Lootah Group is one of the oldest merchant families in the UAE and joins a string of investors that have recently signed agreements in Somalia and its neighbouring countries. Despite a brutal civil war between Islamic insurgents and Ethiopian military forces, some areas of the fractured state remain relatively sheltered and are seen as ‘virgin territories’ ripe for exploration and investment.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Issue 841 - 21 November 2008

Crédit Suisse increases Saudi presence

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Swiss investment bank Crédit Suisse has expanded its presence in Saudi Arabia after announcing it had taken a majority 55% stake in its Saudi Swiss Securities joint venture, which it renamed Credit Suisse Saudi Arabia (CSSA).

Saudi Arabia
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Qatar-headquartered Al-Khalij Commercial Bank, which offers Islamic and conventional banking services, has bought the French branch of Lebanon's Banque Libanaise pour le Commerce (BLC). In 2007, Al-Khalij announced it was in advanced negotiations to buy the assets of BLC bank in the UAE, which has branches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Al-Khaimah and Sharjah. The final deal however, has been extended to include all of the bank's operations, including its business in Paris. The value of the deal has not been revealed. The

United Arab Emirates (UAE) | Qatar
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QNB Al-Islami, fully-owned by Qatar National Bank (QNB), has opened its first branch outside Qatar in Sudan. Sharjah Islamic Bank (SIB) says it has suspended mortgage lending for ready properties to individuals. Private, joint-stock Unicorn Investment Bank (UIB) is establishing a new Islamic bank in Bahrain.

Bahrain | Qatar
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According to the latest Moody’s Investors Service report, Islamic finance is enjoying soaring demand, but requires more sophistication. Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank chief executive Tirad Mahmoud has said that Islamic finance will continue to grow despite the current global financial crisis. Jeddah-based Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) has announced plans to establish an Islamic bank. The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has agreed to lend Tunisia a $195m to build two gas turbines.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) | Saudi Arabia | Tunisia
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The ever hungry QIA plans to take advantage of the global property slump in its bid to diversify its asset base.

Qatar
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One of the region’s strongest financial systems has weaknesses to address despite its successful management of last month’s mini-crisis.

Kuwait
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For long a significant player in project finance and emerging markets, BNP Paribas (BNPP) has become a bigger force still on the Africa and Middle East energy scene with the acquisition, announced on 6 October, of Belgian/Dutch giant Fortis Bank NV/SA and some of its affiliates.

Qatar
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An increasingly assertive Abu Dhabi is looking to draw in international partners and assets, to consolidate its traditional position as the UAE’s federal capital and engineering hub, and to emerge as the Gulf city that uses its wealth to plan development with respect for social traditions and environmental constraints while emerging as a significant new international player. GSN examines the oil-rich emirate’s growth strategy and attitudes towards spending money – at home and on less wealthy emirates.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Issue 840 - 07 November 2008

UAE banks may be forced to consolidate

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Despite good asset quality, profitability, and capital positions, the strained liquidity positions are clearly visible,JP Morgan Securities said of the outlook for UAE banks in a report published on 29 October (visit the Subscriber Reference Library). Analysing the financials of Emirates-National Bank of Dubai (ENBD), National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD)

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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While the Abu Dhabi economy diversifies, with an expanded private sector role, the traditionally critical role of government remains centre stage when it comes to development strategy and the senior emirate’s undisguised ambition to present itself as a model for environmentally aware development in the Middle East. The Urban Structure Framework Plan – called Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 – is spectacularly ambitious, and also a significant turning point in its attempt to shift the balance of development away from the present coastal waterfront.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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New structures are required, and participating bank numbers may be reduced, but the GCC’s syndicated loan market should hit its stride again in 2009, according to project financiers canvassed by GSN.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Finance Minister Mustapha Al-Shamali and Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) managing director Bader Al-Saad have reportedly been asked by Kuwaiti investment companies to set up a fund worth KD300m ($1.1bn) to help settle their debt in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Kuwait
Issue 839 - 25 October 2008

Dubai Inc confronts the crunch

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Dubai has been exceptionally aggressive in opening up to foreign investment. With little oil wealth, and now evidently in a lot of debt, it has developed real estate, tourism and financial services to drive the boom. Observers have long noted this model is vulnerable to anything that might cause foreign investors to run away, perhaps a terrorist attack.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)