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Young Arabs are increasingly turning their backs on cushy public sector jobs in favour of working for private companies and starting their own businesses, a survey in 16 countries has found.

There has also been an erosion in optimism that the “Arab spring” uprisings in recent years against authoritarian governments across the region will translate into better lives for ordinary people, the survey found. Continue reading »

Last week this blog looked at the investment case for Iraq under the headline: “A frontier too far?” So we were struck by a new report today on neighbouring Iran with the opening line: “Iran is beyond the final frontier for portfolio investors.”

One can quibble about which frontier is further but in truth investment in Iran is not so outlandish. The nuclear deal struck between Iran and several world powers in November prompted a renewed look at the investment case for Iran, as has been the case for other markets that have come in from the cold after international isolation, most recently Burma. But in fact, even in isolation, Iran’s capital markets have grown just fine. Continue reading »

There are frontier investment markets, and then there is Iraq. Bombings and fighting killed at least 42 people on Thursday alone, in nine or more separate explosions from Baghdad to Fallujah; yet so commonplace is the violence that the news merited few headlines. After all, at least 24 had died in explosions the previous day.

Yet despite the violence and uncertainty, fund managers and bankers are venturing in to the country, attracted by oil wealth and a surprisingly upbeat outlook for national GDP growth. Continue reading »

The competitition to attract financial business in the Gulf is hotting up.

Dubai’s financial centre says it will slash telecommunications rates as it seeks to sustain growth amid increasing competition from neighbours such as Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The DIFC is set this year to roll out a technology transit zone within its data centre, offering prices that can compete with London and other western cities to ease costs for trading desks and asset managers. Continue reading »

Socially-conservative Sharjah, the third largest economy in the United Arab Emirates, is showing a bit of leg – financially speaking.

The emirate bans alcohol and enforces a modest dress code, marking Sharjah out from its flashier neighbour, bling-tastic tourist magnet Dubai. But the education- and culture-focused emirate has stepped out, opening its books to credit agencies. Paving the way for a potential sovereign bond, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s on Wednesday issued it long-term sovereign credit ratings of A and A3, respectively. Continue reading »

By Georges Elhedery of HSBC

For centuries, the Middle East provided obvious trade hubs for merchants as they travelled between the east and the west. This pattern is being repeated now, as air travel in emerging markets takes off. The focus of the airline industry is shifting eastwards and the Middle East’s prime location at the crossroads between Asia, Africa and Europe means it is once again an important gateway for travel.

The rapid economic growth of emerging markets such as China has led to an increase in wealth and created a growing middle class that is keen to see the world. Since 2007 air travel in emerging markets has risen by 55 per cent*, and this trend is expected to continue. Continue reading »

Majid Al Futtaim, the malls operator that brought an indoor ski slope to Dubai, is seeking to double revenues over the next five years by bringing Carrefour markets and mega-malls to more countries across the broader region.

Having expanded across 12 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and central Asia, the retailing giant is scouting four out of the 14 sub-Saharan African countries for which it holds Carrefour franchisee rights. Continue reading »

Egypt in numbers

A graphic look at Egypt's economy | Click to enlarge

With the military reoccupying centre stage in Egypt, what does this mean for democracy and the economy? Since the July ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, detentions have continued and more than 1,000 of his Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been killed. The FT’s special report on Egypt takes a hard look at the country’s political and economic future, writes Peter ChapmanContinue reading »

Kuwait has long grappled with its electricity supply. Every summer offers a reminder that the gap between power generation capacity and demand is woefully tight. In 2010, the working day stopped at midday to save power during the hottest months when Kuwaitis crank up their air conditioning. For the world’s ninth largest oil producer, this was pretty embarrassing. Continue reading »

Dubai may be celebrating getting the 2020 World Expo, but is it a poisoned chalice?

After the crash of 2008 and subsequent sovereign debt crisis, surely the Expo is a welcome boost? As Simeon Kerr reports for the FT, “Dubai’s commercial sector anticipates it will give an estimated €28.8bn economic boost and create some 277,000 jobs.” What’s not to like?

Well, some analysts are not quite so positive. Continue reading »

Iraq’s semi autonomous region of Kurdistan has given its clearest signals yet that it is preparing to realise the export of oil and gas by pipeline via Turkey, independent of the Iraqi central government in Baghdad.

Ashti Hawrami (pictured), the Regional Government’s minister of natural resources, said that the central government will have to accept that the Kurdistan Regional Government can export oil and gas without interference from Baghdad. Continue reading »

March 2011

A three-week teachers’ strike in Oman suggests that the genie of unrest is out of the bottle in this unassuming corner of the oil-rich Gulf.

The strike has affected up to three quarters of Oman’s roughly 1,000 schools, where open dissent is becoming a regular occurrence since the strategic sultanate had its own outburst of Arab spring-inspired unrest in March 2011. Continue reading »

Transparency International’s latest report on emerging markets companies has slammed Chinese companies for their lax reporting standards, comparing them unfavourably with the relatively more open Indian corporate scene.

Faring little better than their Chinese counterparts were a handful of Middle Eastern companies included in the report. Continue reading »

It'll cost you

Commenting on the Russian revolution, Joseph Stalin is alleged to have said, “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.” What then is the price of eggs?

HSBC has totted up the lost output of seven states most hit by the Arab Spring, and estimates a loss of $800bn by the end of 2014. Continue reading »

Yo, Rouhani

Many Iranians have expressed disappointment that their national currency, the rial, did not strengthen over the weekend in response to the historic phone call between Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani and Barack Obama.

The reason the currency market did not reflect the public mood, analysts believe, is because the central bank is determined to curb a currency crisis and shield the market against political news in order to encourage investment, domestic production and non-oil exports. Continue reading »