The United Arab Emirates will move its weekend to Saturday and Sunday for state employees, breaking ranks with the rest of the Gulf as it accelerates a push to draw in international investment and business. Like other Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia, it currently has a Sunday-to-Thursday working week. The changes, which the government said will allow the UAE to align more closely with global markets, will come into effect on the 1st of January and apply to the public sector and schools. There will be a 4 1/2-day working week with Friday -- a holy day in Islam -- being a half-day, the federal government said in a statement.
The French President’s visit to the UAE resulted in the signing of multiple agreements: UAE ordered 80 Rafale fighter jets and 12 military helicopters, to be delivered from 2027 onwards; Abu Dhabi state holding company ADQ signed an investment agreement worth EUR 4.6bn with the French Ministry of Economy and Finance; sovereign wealth fund Mubadala agreed to invest EUR 1.4bn (USD 1.58bn) in French funds.
Petrol and diesel prices will inch down by 1.0-1.4% MoM in December, according to the UAE’s fuel price committee.
Visitors to the Expo totaled 4.77mn as of 28th Novemver: multiple promotions including the November Weekday Pass resulted in attracting more guests; a new Festive Pass valid till end-December along with National Day celebrations is likely to clock in a good reading in December as well.
Hotel occupancy rates in the UAE surged to 78.8% in October, the highest October reading since 2015, according to CBRE. Dubai’s hotels posted the highest occupancy rates (80.7%), while hotel room rates and revenue per available rooms jumped by 13.6% and 44.9% in UAE.
Real estate deals in Dubai touched AED 3.2bn (USD 871mn) from 1,186 deals in the last week of November, with the highest value transaction at AED 60mn for land sold in Island 2.
Dubai private school enrolments are climbing to pre-pandemic levels: data show 289,019 pupils were enrolled in 215 schools at the start of the new academic year, up from 279,191 for the 2020-21 term. This compares to 295,148 children studying at 208 schools in 2019-20.
UAE updated Green Pass Protocol on the Al Hosn app: starting from the 5th December, a negative PCR test validity will be reduced to just 14 days instead of the current 30 after which the status will turn grey (restricting access to many public places).
UAE approved over 40 new laws and legislative amendments, in its largest-ever legislative reform: this includes a Law on Commercial Companies that will allow for SPVs and SPACS supporting the listing of companies as well as M&As as well laws like Crime and Punishment Law, the Online Security Law and Electronic Transactions and Trust Services among others.
The GCC will grow at 2.6% YoY this year, according to the World Bank’s latest update, thanks to rebounds in both the oil and non-oil sectors. It highlighted the large public sector wage bills as a threat to the fiscal stance and a potential drag on private sector growth.
Bahrain’s Economic Development Board launched the investment platform invest.bh allowing investors to access investment opportunities, covering industrial, infrastructure, tourism and housing projects.
Egypt’s non-oil commodity exports surged by 40% to USD 29.7bn in January-September 2021 while imports grew by 16% YoY to USD 61bn. Exports to the G20 nations crossed USD 14bn while EU states exports touched USD 9.6bn. As for imports, China (16%), Saudi Arabia (8%) and Germany (7%) accounted for the top source nations.
The WHO disclosed that seven Eastern Mediterranean nations have vaccine coverage of less than 10%, making them a high-risk setting for potential future variants.
FDI inflows into Saudi Arabia increased by 56% YoY to USD 1.4bn in Q2 2021. In H1 2021, FDI grew by 33% YoY (excluding Aramco’s USD 12.4bn infrastructure deal) and is already above targets for the year, according to the Investment Minister.
Bank lending to the private sector in Saudi Arabia grew by SAR 24.1bn or 1.2% MoM to SAR 2trn in October. Credit disbursed to SMEs slowed in Q3: loans to SMEs grew by 12.9% to SAR 186.2bn in Q3 (Q2: 25.3%).
Saudi Arabia issued licenses to 16 fintech firms in Q3 2021, 13 of whom work in payments and electronic wallets while the other 3 are in the insurance and finance sector.
The Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources issued 60 new industrial licenses in October, with a volume of investments surpassing SAR 1.5bn (+0.18% MoM). Food products industry firms obtained 10 licenses followed by 7 for non-ferrous metal products manufacturing. The industrial sector contributed to the employment of 8,630 workers in October.
By launching 100 projects and 34 initiatives, Saudi Arabia’s Heritage Commission plans to create opportunities for private investments into the sector.
S&P introduced a national credit rating scale for Saudi Arabia and will identify the creditworthiness of local loan takers.
Equity markets were very volatile last week, with worries about the Omicron variant alongside Fed’s recent hawkish turn (Powell surprised markets by stating it was a good time to retire the word transitory and that “the risks of higher inflation have moved up”); markets have wiped off USD 5.4trn off global equity valuations from the November peak. Tech-heavy Nasdaq closed lower after the disappointing US jobs report, while the China-US tensions (and tech regulation) came into the limelight again with Didi planning to delist from New York and list in Hong Kong instead. Europe’s Stoxx600 was down by 0.3% and the Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) all-world index fell by 1.3%. Among regional markets, most markets ended in the red; Saudi Tadawul slumped by 4.5% on Sunday posting the biggest single-day fall in nearly two years. Safe-haven currencies – Japanese yen and Swiss franc– gained towards the end of the week. Oil prices fell for the 6th straight week on worries of a fall in global oil demand if the Omicron variant spreads.
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