Dubai’s Ruler announced that the emirate had adopted its first law governing virtual assets and established a regulator (Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority or VARA) to oversee the sector. The law did not specify which assets would come under this, but it will apply across all of Dubai other than in the DIFC. WAM reported that it is prohibited for any person in the emirate to engage in activities without authorisation from VARA, while any person wishing to practise virtual asset activities must establish a presence in Dubai to conduct business.
The DFSA, regulator of the DIFC, published a regulatory framework consultation paper overseeing crypto tokens. This covered cryptocurrencies as well as hybrid utility tokens but excludes from its regulatory scope utility tokens, NFTs and Central Bank digital currencies.
UAE’s Energy Minister reiterated the nation’s commitment to the OPEC+ agreement, after the UAE Ambassador to US tweeted that the UAE favours an increase in oil production and would encourage OPEC+ to increase output further. The latter statement saw oil record its biggest one-day fall since early-Covid days, but subsequently prices pushed back up.
Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA), which was expected to announce its intention to float last Monday, delayed the announcement.
The Dubai Chamber of Commerce revealed that over 27,800 new member firms joined in 2021, up 66.8% YoY. The total number of firms have increased to over 287k. Last year alone, the value of exports and re-exports of Dubai Chamber members amounted to AED 227bn while a total of 669,922 certificates of origin were issued.
With a 76% YoY increase in passenger numbers, Flydubai posted a profit of AED 841mn (USD 229mn) in 2021 (2020: loss of AED 712mn).
DP World declared a 26% YoY increase in revenues to USD 10.8bn in 2021, in spite of supply chain disruptions, “supported by acquisitions and new concessions including Angola, Unico, and Transworld”.
The Central Bank of Egypt expects to launch an online services project “Know Your Customer” by end of this year that would allow opening of bank accounts online without visiting the bank. An Instant Payments Project, to be launched in 2 weeks, will allow electronic transactions to be completed in real time.
Egypt is considering importing wheat from EU nations in 2022, according to the Deputy Supply and Internal Trade Minister. He also revealed that existing reserves and availability from local harvest will be sufficient for 9 months. In 2021, Russia and Ukraine accounted for 50% and 30% of the nation’s supply respectively. Wheat costs in the country have risen by 17% because of the war – relatively modest compared to other markets reporting close to 48% hike.
JP Morgan expect a devaluation of the Egyptian pound, estimating that the EGP was currently more than 15% overvalued.
Iraq was reportedly hosting another round of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia last week, according to a Reuters report. This would be the 4th round of talks hosted by the country.
With a few outstanding issues remaining, the Iran nuclear deal negotiations have been “paused” due to “external factors”. Earlier, the US disclosed that the nation has no intention of offering Russia any leeway with respect to sanctions to achieve a deal with Iran.
Lebanon’s financial system’s losses, estimated at USD 69bn in September, is expected to expand to USD 73bn, according to the Deputy PM. He stated the state’s contribution to plugging the hole would be “limited” to ensure public debt sustainability; also though the government had agreed with the IMF on the need to protect small depositors, the ceiling for defining a small depositor has not yet been agreed upon.
The CEO of the Muscat Stock Exchange disclosed that Oman plans to list 35 state-owned firms in the next 5 years, listing 1-2 oil firms this year. The Exchange has raised the limits of foreign ownership in joint-stock companies to 100%; currently foreign trading represents 14.5% of the total trading in the Muscat Stock Exchange.
Foreign investors can buy property in Oman with a First-Class Residency Card. Expat investors who buy housing units valued between OMR 250-500k will receive a first-class residence card, while those who own homes valued below OMR 250k will receive a second-class residence card.
Up to 16k volunteers from the Middle East stand ready to fight alongside Russia against Ukraine, disclosed Russia’s defence minister at a meeting of Russia’s Security Council.
Wamda reported that investment funding in MENA surged by 51% MoM and 134% YoY to USD 375mn in February, with the logistics sector raising the most funding (USD 120mn). Saudi Arabia accounted for 58% of the funding in February, followed by the UAE (USD 77.6mn) and Egypt (USD 70mn).
SAMA extended the Guaranteed Financing Programme scheme for MSMEs till March 14th, 2023. The Central Bank stated that the Guaranteed Financing Program benefited over 13,000 contracts with a total financing value of more than SAR 11bn (USD 3bn).
Saudi Arabia’s National Defense Company plans to add 1,500 employees this year, according to the CEO. As of end-2021, there were 2,500 employees of whom 22% were female.
The number of females employed at Saudi banks has been rising: the highest percentage was at Riyad Bank (27.3%), followed by Gulf International Bank (27%) and Saudi Investment Bank (23.7%).
Global markets had a rough week, with markets mostly down as the Ukraine war continues and as investors prepared for an interest rate hike from the Fed this week. Stoxx600 and FTSE posted weekly gains, after 3 consecutive weeks of losses. In the region, all oil-exporting nations gained except for Saudi Arabia and the UAE – which was open on Friday and closed lower. The dollar strengthened touching a 5-year high versus the Japanese Yen while the euro dropped. Oil prices had a volatile week, posting the biggest single-day decline (since the early days of COVID) mid-week, and ending lower between 5%-5.5% compared to a week before. Gold continued its safe-haven rally, up close to 1%.
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