UAE announced 100% foreign ownership in 122 economic activities across 13 sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, renewable energy, e-commerce, transportation, arts, construction, entertainment among others. Local governments will determine the ownership percentage of foreign investors in these activities.
The Dubai Financial Market is planning a platform that would allow free zone companies to tap capital markets, disclosed DFM’s COO. He also revealed that that two free zone companies are already considering a listing on the proposed platform.
Dubai will receive the lion’s share of VAT revenues collected last year – AED 11.34bn or 42%, according to Moody’s. Abu Dhabi and Sharjah will receive 18% and 6% respectively. The total VAT collected touched AED 27bn last year, and of this 30% will go to the federal government.
UAE is now India’s third largest trading partner after the US and China. UAE-India bilateral trade touched USD 57bn in late 2018, rising from USD 52bn in 2017.
The DIFC introduced a new license classification called “Prescribed Companies”, aimed at consolidation, expansion and fee reduction for intermediate special-purpose vehicles and special purpose companies. Fintech firms, family offices, holding and investment firms are some that could be eligible to establish a prescribed company.
Dubai welcomed 7.16 million visitors during January-May 2019, with average occupancy rates touching 77% in May (vs 82% in May 2018). During the January-May period, India remained the largest source market with 846k visitors (though it was down 12% YoY) while visitors from Oman and China posted increases of 27% and 8% respectively (5th and 4th largest source markets).
The annual HSBC Expat Explorer survey ranks UAE 9th globally, with career prospects, financial security and high living standards cited as the key reasons for relocation to the country. The top-most financial priorities for the UAE expats remain saving and investing for retirement (82%), children’s education (47%) and property (43%). The list is topped by Switzerland, Singapore and Canada while from the region Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are at 11 and 29 respectively.
Halliburton and state-owned Kuwait Oil Co signed a KWD 181.4mn (USD 597mn) contract to explore for oil off the coast of Kuwait, which is expected to add an estimated 100,000 barrels to Kuwait’s daily production capacity.
Lebanon received an exemption from interest hikes from the World Bank; it is the only country exempted from this increase among countries of the same developmental category.
Oman issued four new laws – Foreign Capital Investment Law (which will give foreign investments similar rights as local projects), Privatisation Law, Law for Partnership between the Public and Private Sectors (a Public Authority for Privatisation and Partnership will also be established to enhance the role of the private sector), and Bankruptcy Law (also containing a pre-settlement clause called a “restructuring period”).
Oman and Iraq have signed an MoU outlining cooperation in the oil and gas sector, including the building of a shared refinery in Oman for processing imported Iraqi crude.
The Saudi Aramco IPO is expected in 2020-21, disclosed Saudi Arabia’s energy minister last week. Aramco’s USD 69.1bn acquisition of a 70% stake in petrochemicals firm Sabic, along with a recent USD 12bn bonds sale were cited as the main reasons for the IPO delay.
Foreign investments into Saudi Arabia surged by 19.7% YoY and 9.36% QoQ to a record high of SAR 1.628trn (USD 434.05bn) in Q1 2019, supported by the 45.25% growth in portfolio investment inflows to SAR 413.42bn (USD 110.25bn).
Equity markets in the US gained in the first half of last week on expectations of a rate cut this month, though retreating on Friday after a strong payrolls reading; Europe’s biggest stocks entered a bull market, while Asian stocks mirrored the US. In the region, Kuwait continued to see gains from the MSCI upgrade announcement from the week before, while Egypt ended 4 days of gains on Thursday. The dollar index ticked up to an almost 3-week high, and the euro and pound fell vis-à-vis the greenback. Oil prices rose on the extension of output cuts by OPEC+ while gold moved down from its 6-year highs to record its biggest single-day drop of 2019 on Friday (-1.8%).
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