Issue  No. 178
4 June 2018

This report is designed to give you a snapshot about the MENA region tackling multiple issues:


       76.32 USD         1,294 USD


Economic Outlook
  • Yasser El-Kady, minister of communications and information technology, stated that the ICT sector achieved growth rates of 14%, y-o-y, in Q1-2018; the achieved growth was 9.5% for the communications sector and 4.5% for the information technology sector. He pointed out that last fiscal year, the sector took the lead of the country's economic growth, pushed by the investments of companies and the communication licenses issued by the government.
  • The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects that Egypt substantial natural gas discoveries (the Zohr and Atoll fields and the West Nile Delta (WND) project) may potentially boost production and allow Egypt to become a net exporter again in the medium term. The EIA stated in its report that Egypt plays a central role in the transit of crude oil between the Gulf states and the Mediterranean region, pointing to how natural gas is exported at much smaller volumes because domestic energy needs have taken priority over trade. The report explained that Egypt produced approximately 4.0 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d) of dry natural gas and imported 1.0 bcf/d in 2016. Peak production is estimated at 2.7 bcf/d and is expected to be reached by the end of 2019.
  • Egypt, the world's biggest wheat importer, has rejected a Russian wheat cargo for excessive levels of the common grain fungus ergot, which is a plant disease and its toxicity cannot be reduced through processing. Any flour or feed made from ergot-infected cereals such as wheat will be toxic. The 63,000-tonne cargo, sold to state grain buyer GASC, contained 0.06% ergot, just above the 0.05% limit permitted according to Egypt state tender rules.
  • The Egyptian finance ministry announced that Egypt will keep its customs exchange rate unchanged at 16 EGP per USD for June 2018. The price of the customs dollar floats around 90% of its common price in the banking markets.
  • The UAE Central Bank expects that its GDP will increase 2.7% in 2018 compared to 1.5% increase in 2017. The growth rate of non-oil GDP is expected to increase to 3.9% this year, while oil GDP growth will slow down, recording 0.3%, in the same period.
  • Tourist arrivals in Abu Dhabi and Dubai grew 3.6% during Q1-2018 with an increase of 1.2% in hotel and 5.7% in room occupancy in both emirates. Hotel room returns increased 3.9% in Abu Dhabi and 4.8% in Dubai in Q1-2018. According to the figures, the number of tourists arriving in Dubai and Abu Dhabi during Q1-2018 is up 1.8% and 11% respectively.
  • The Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammad Al-Jaber announced that the Saudi government plan is to set up a new international airport in the Yemeni city of Ma'rib. The project aims to facilitate the transport of goods and passengers to revive local economy and create job opportunities.
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared that Bahrain must urgently reform its finances to cut a large state budget deficit and support its currency. It is worthy to mention that the government would cut the deficit to 11% of GDP in 2018 compared to 14% in 2017.
  • Aluminum Bahrain (Alba) will have the capacity to produce 1.5 million metric tons (mt), or 25% of total output across the GCC, once its 3 BN USD Line 6 Expansion Project is complete. The new line, which will make Alba the biggest single-site facility in the world, is set to take the GCC total production to around 6 million mt a year, equivalent to roughly 10% of the global aluminum output.
  • Amman was ranked the most expensive city in the Arab world and 28th worldwide, exceeding some of the main Gulf, European, and North American cities such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, London, Rome, Washington DC and San Francisco. The inflation rates have increased by 50% between 2006 and 2017, but the incomes did not increase at a proportionate pace.
Political Events
  • President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi took the oath of office in front of Parliament in the presence of all its members and government members, issuing his second presidency term. The president gave a speech, asking Parliament to stand a moment of silence for the martyrs. He promised new employment opportunities, adding that social programs have already been exerting a great effort in this scope.
  • The US Embassy in Cairo issued a warning to internet users in Egypt, stating that the US government has identified malware from North Korea that may pose a risk to security in Egypt. According to the warning, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in collaboration with US government partners, have identified two worries of malware used by North Korean hackers, with Egypt being one of the countries where infected IP addresses have been registered.
  • Emirati citizens will not need a visa to visit Canada for up to six months starting from June 5, effectively bringing the UAE passport to the 14th rank of the Passport Index power ranking. The UAE has strong ties with Canada, with nearly 40,000 Canadians living and working in the nation, and some 150 Canadian companies with strong operational presence in the UAE.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed of UAE signed a declaration on a strategic partnership agreement to continue cooperation in the oil and gas sphere. This cooperation is aimed at providing balance and stability on the global oil market.
  • Saudi Arabia King Salman named a private sector businessman Ahmed bin Suleiman al-Rajhi as labor and social development minister in a move to diversify the economy away from oil and create jobs for an overwhelmingly young population.
  • A United Nations aid agency purchased about 100,000 tons of wheat expected to be sourced from the Black Sea region to be shipped to east Africa and Yemen. The wheat was purchased for shipment to Djibouti, Berbera and Yemen.
Major Companies Transaction
  • National Bank of Egypt (NBE) plans to pump 200 MM EGP into its retail product portfolio in the coming weeks before the end of fiscal year 2017/2018. NBE retail product portfolio amounted to 47.8 BN EGP during mid-May. The portfolio is comprised of credit cards worth around 3.7 BN EGP, personal loans of 22.3 BN EGP, and car loans of EFP 1.9 BN EGP. Moreover, real estate loans reached 3.5 BN EGP at the end of April, including 3.3 BN EGP as part of the Central Bank of Egypt's (CBE) initiative.
  • Stella Di Mare Egyptian Hotels & Resorts will start this year the construction of its first hotel outside Egypt in Dubai, to tap the Gulf country's profitable tourism market. Founded in 2000, Stella Di Mare Hotels & Resorts is the hospitality arm of Egyptian Stock Exchange-listed Remco Tourism Villages Construction. Remco's chairman Ayoub Adly Ayoub declared that the five-star hotel will contain 380 rooms, located in the Dubai Marina area and built by the company as a joint venture with a UAE-based tourism investment firm.
  • In the UAE, the number of companies registered with Ajman Free Zone (AFZ) until the end of Q1-2018 increased to 12,362, showing a significant growth of 28% over the corresponding period last year as the free zone is growingly becoming an essential hub for many companies operating in different sectors, such as trade, services, jewelry, consultancy and others.
  • Abu Dhabi Etihad Airways is seeking to raise debt to help finance upcoming deliveries of Boeing BA.N aircraft on order worth more than 1 BN USD. The state carrier sent requests for proposals to banks about a month ago for 12-year secured funding for the delivery of 787 Dreamliner aircraft and a cargo plane.
  • Sadara Chemical Company (Sadara) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Veolia Middle East SAS (Veolia), a Paris-based group and world-leader in industrial waste management, to construct a sustainable central utilities facility in PlasChem Park, the unique industrial park adjacent to the Sadara Chemical Complex. PlasChem Park is a collaborative effort between Sadara and the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu (RCJY) in Jubail Industrial City II.
  • The General Investment Authority (SAGIA) signed an agreement between Novartis and AJA Pharma to manufacture pharmaceutical products for the treatment of diabetes and blood pressure in the Kingdom. The agreement will provide more than 30 new job opportunities for Saudis in the pharmaceutical field during the first year. Moreover, an investment of 50 MM SAR will go into a production line and the expected value of the nationally manufactured drugs amounts to over 1 BN SAR within the next five years.
Sports and Culture
  • Egyptian handball player Mohamed Hashem was crowned as the European Champions League champion alongside his team Montpellier, following an intense match against Nantes. This achievement makes Hashem the second Egyptian handball player in history to obtain the most valuable trophy in European handball competitions. The first was Hussein Zaki, who won the trophy playing for one of the most esteemed Spanish teams, Ciudad Real, in 2005.
  • In Egypt, the Environment Ministry announced that a blue whale was spotted for the first time in the Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba and is being closely monitored. It also warned citizens to keep their distance from the blue whale and not to swim by its side, even though it is not predatory and does not pose a danger to humans.
  • Dr. Sumaya Alnasser, Saudi Life Coach, has been announced as the first Saudi ambassador for Peace Without Borders. The organization, based in Paris and Manchester, has ambassadors and representatives in 42 countries. Dr. Sumaya is Saudi Arabia's first internationally certified female life and career coach. She is recognized as a spiritual leader in her field and has over 15 years of experience.
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