Dubai’s PMI nudged up by 0.1 point to 51 in March, as output expanded, and the new orders sub-index rose slightly to above 50. The impact of global supply shortages were evident: a reduction in input availability led to the sharpest rise in prices since November 2018. Travel and tourism stayed below-50 while the construction sector saw major improvements as projects were allowed to restart.
Foreign trade in Dubai touched AED 1.182trn (USD 321.8bn) in 2020: exports increased by 8% to AED 167bn while imports and re-exports fell by 13.8% and 21.7% respectively. Trade with its largest trade partners China and India declined by 5.3% and 34% to AED 142bn and AED 89bn respectively.
The deadline for UAE’s Federal Tax Authority to issue a decision to reduce or exempt administrative fines is amended to 40 working days (from 20 previously) from the date of receiving the order.
Without specifying a value, Mubadala’s CEO stated that a record amount had been invested by the company last year (it had invested USD 18.5bn in 2019 and USD 19.1bn in 2018). He also revealed that Emirates Global Aluminium is “well-placed” for an IPO and a decision would be made shortly regarding this move.
Dubai Customs announced that 5mn transactions were completed in Q1: this was double the number completed in Q1 2019 and 20% YoY.
US will proceed with its USD 23bn weapon sales to the UAE, with the spokesperson stating that the US will “continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials” related to the use of the weapons.
Dubai attracted FDI inflows worth AED 7bn (USD 6.73bn) in 2020, supporting 455 projects and creating an estimated 18,325 new jobs on the back of inbound FDI, according to FT’s FDI Markets.
The Sharjah Electricity, Water and Gas Authority extended payment periods for utility bills: those with bills AED 1k or lower can pay one month within the billing date without penalties where those with bills above AED 1k will have a 15-day grace period instead.
Zand, the first fully independent digital bank in the UAE, is awaiting final regulatory approval and will be “launched immediately” for retail and corporate clients, revealed the bank’s chairman (Emaar Properties founder and former chairman Mohamed Alabbar).
The IMF’s latest Regional Economic Outlook report forecasts real GDP for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to grow by 4% this year (up 0.9 percentage points from the projection in October 2020) after having slumped by 3.4% in 2020 (vs an estimate of a 5% drop in the October 2020 edition). Growth outcomes and prospects will still be centred on how the pandemic progresses in the region amid the pace of vaccination rollouts.
The value of mergers and acquisitions in the MENA region grew by 19% YoY to USD 17.1bn in Q1 2021, according to Refinitiv. Egypt was the main recipient of M&A activity, with USD 3bn of investment, closely followed by Oman and Qatar. Debt issuances spiked by 61% YoY to USD 34.8bn – the best start to the year since 1980 – with Saudi and UAE the most active issuer nations (USD 12.3bn and USD 7.5bn in bond proceeds).
Start-ups in MENA recorded venture capital investment of more than USD 1bn last year, according to MAGNiTT. While Bahrain saw a tripling of capital deployment in start-ups, UAE accounted for the maximum share in terms of total funding and number of deals followed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Oman started implementing a 5% VAT on most goods and services, starting last Friday. About 488 basic commodities have been exempt from VAT; it was also disclosed that departing tourists could claim a VAT refund on personal purchases provided the value of these goods are not less than OMR 25 (not inclusive of VAT).
Qatar approved a draft law to allow foreign investors to fully own companies listed on the exchange. This pushed the stock market up by 2.8% on Thursday – its biggest intra-day gain since last April – with banks leading the gains.
Qatar will maintain Central Bank liquidity support for local banks, and exemptions from utility fees for sectors affected by the pandemic will be extended till end-September.
In a bid to host a COVID-free event, Qatar’s foreign minister disclosed that programs are under development to provide vaccination to all attendees of World Cup 2022.
Starting from 12th April, Saudi Arabia reduced the maximum period of subsidized housing finance to 20 years from 25 years for new applications. The program provides a real estate loan with up to 100%, for those whose salary is SAR 14k or less, with a guarantee (on the amount of the profit margin) of up to SR500k of the financing amount.
Home completions in Saudi Arabia increased by 4% YoY to almost 345k last year; new housing finance provided to Saudi families increased to 295,590 contracts with a value exceeding SAR 44bn (USD 72bn).
In a bid to boost Saudization in the industrial sector, 50% of the wage will be provided for hiring, training and qualifying Saudi citizens to take up jobs in industrial firms (capped at SAR 3,000).
Sudan will receive USD 400mn from Saudi Arabia and UAE to fund agricultural production inputs for this year.
Capital market euphoria continues into another week, this time on strong economic data: Wall Street’s S&P 500 and Nasdaq as well as DAX and Stoxx600 climbed to new highs, FTSE crossed 7,000 points to its highest since February 2020 and the MSCI All-World index touched an all-time peak. In the region, Qatar was the biggest gainer, after its announcement of allowing 100% foreign ownership of listed companies. Among currencies, both GBP and EUR gained with the dollar at a 4-week low; both oil and gold prices increased from the week before.
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