Brent Crude Oil down 14% on Virus Concerns…

In the UAE, non-oil sector GDP grew at just 1.1% last year – the slowest pace since at least 2011 – down from 2018’s 1.3%.

Brent Crude Oil down 14% on Virus Concerns…

UAE News:
The central bank estimated that UAE grew at 2.9% last year, up from 1.7% the year before. Non-oil sector GDP grew at just 1.1% last year – the slowest pace since at least 2011 – down from 2018’s 1.3%.
Inflation in the UAE fell by 1.6% in Q4 2019 vs a drop of 2.1% in Q3. The central bank stated that the decline eased due to “the pickup in non-energy growth and employment”.
Employment in UAE’s private sector increased by 2% YoY in Q4, registering the highest growth in the last seven quarters and higher than Q3’s 1.1% increase. Though the construction and real estate and business services sectors together accounted for 45.1% of the labour force, employment in the former dipped (Q4: -2.4% from Q3’s -2.3%). The central bank’s estimates are based on the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization data which excludes free zones.
UAE’s gold reserves increased to AED 5.31bn in January from December's AED 4.04bn.
Dubai Economy’s Business Registration and Licensing sector disclosed the issuance of 4692 instant licenses since the service was launched in July 2017; of this 73.5% were commercial.
Expat remittances from the UAE increased to AED 165bn (USD 44.9bn) in 2019, according to the central bank. India was the top recipient nation, followed by Pakistan, Philippines, Egypt, UK and Bangladesh.
UAE’s Ras al Khaimah emirate welcomed 11.2mn tourists last year, up 4% YoY. Revenue per available room stood at USD 114.90 – among the highest in the region – while occupancy rates averaged 74%.

MENA News:
Coronavirus is spreading in the GCC: with Iran as an epicentre (more than 40 deaths and 100s of infected), many countries including Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain have confirmed multiple cases. With around 45 confirmed cases, Kuwait has suspended schools for 2 weeks and called for its citizens to avoid travelling. Bahrain, which has 36 cases, has suspended all flights to the UAE; Oman is the only GCC nation to have not reported any coronavirus cases. The UAE has 21 cases, of which 5 have recovered: though schools and businesses remain open, the former have been advised not to hold events or schedule internal and external trips. Saudi Arabia has imposed a temporary ban on foreign Haj pilgrims. However, there are no travel restrictions on those holding employment visa, work visit visa, business visit visa and family visit visa. News reports cancellation of few sports and business events in the region while the UAE central bank has also asked banks to grant temporary deferrals on monthly loan payments and reduce fees and commissions for customers affected by the coronavirus.
The Bahraini dinar has been included as a settlement currency in the Arab Monetary Fund’s Buna payment platform, alongside the USD, EUR, Jordanian dinar, Saudi riyal and the UAE dirham.
Bahrain’s MPs approved an amendment to the 2012 Private Sector Employment Law to provide women working in the private sector two hours a day to care for their newborns for up to two years. Currently, in the private sector, a woman is permitted to take two hours off for 6 months, and an hour a day till the baby is a year old.
The natural gas sector in Egypt grew by 21% during 2018-19, also contributing 19% to Egypt’s GDP growth. According to the minister of petroleum, investments in the gas sector reached about EGP 1trn, including EGP 500bn in completed projects, EGP 280bn in under-construction projects, and EGP 220bn in planned projects.
Iraq’s parliament delayed voting on the new government last week, as it failed to convene a quorum. The former PM Abdul Mahdi remains in a caretaker capacity.
Oman plans to tender out 15 to 20 pre-approved mining blocks for exploration and commercial development during 2020.
Investments in MENA’s water desalination market will likely touch USD 4.3bn by 2022, according to a report by Ventures Onsite; currently, 48% of global water desalination projects are happening within the MENA region.

Global News:
As the coronavirus spread to nearly 60 nations, global stock markets posted their worst weekly fall since the global financial crisis and wiped about over USD 5trn from their market value. MSCI’s flagship global equity index (MSCI ACWI Index) was down nearly 10%, S&P 500 lost more than 10% since hitting a record high on Feb 19, markets in Europe were down, while in Japan, the market slide almost 4% on fears that the July-August Olympics might be called off.
Regional markets were mostly down on virus fears, with many nations reporting rapid spread after announcing first cases. On the currency front, the dollar slipped to a 20-week low vis-à-vis the JPY after Fed chair hinted a rate cut to support the economy as the coronavirus spreads. Gold price touched a 7-year high before posting its biggest one-day drop since 2013 on Friday. Oil prices fell – Brent, down 14%, posted the steepest weekly decline since 2016 while WTI fell 16%, recording the biggest weekly decline since December 2008 – ahead of the OPEC+ meeting on March 5-6 to discuss deeper output cuts. 
Most new virus cases are now being reported outside China – the origin – with South Korea, Italy, Japan, and Iran emerging as new epicentres. The WHO has stayed clear of calling it a pandemic, raising its risk assessment to “very high” (the topmost level), but the VIX (“fear”) index jumped to 49, its highest since early 2009. Events are being cancelled across the globe – Mobile World Congress, Geneva motor show, Baselworld trade show, football matches in Italy and France, and a half-marathon in Paris among others – raising worries whether the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead as planned in July-August.

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