By John Sfakianakis, Ashmore Group

The Gulf economies are in a position of strength to weather the recent plunge in oil prices. Many are better cushioned than at previous times in their economic history despite growing domestic populations. Oil prices are a principal revenue source for most Gulf economies and they serve as an essential litmus test for business confidence in the region.

At US$60 per barrel, the region is still fiscally sound even if more than US$280bn in oil export losses will be incurred in 2015. The move in oil prices has been excessive on the way down but it seems to be bottoming out. Read more

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. Read more

Qatar’s stock market lifted almost 1 per cent on the news of a power transition that replaced the country’s top leadership with a younger generation, signalling investor comfort with the move.

The Qatar Exchange rose 0.9 per cent at the close on Wednesday, outperforming other Gulf markets, most of which declined, according to Zawya, the regional data provider. The Dow Jones MENA Markets index slipped 0.3 per cent.

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As beyondbrics reported on Tuesday, index provider MSCI has rejigged its emerging market classifications. The headline grabber is that Greece has been put into the emerging market group. Up from frontier to emerging status come the UAE and Qatar. Morocco was relegated back to the frontier group.

It’s embarrassing for Greece and an overdue vote for the UAE and Qatar. But how much of a difference will it make? Potentially, quite a lot, actually. Read more

It’s been a long time coming. After putting Greece on review for a possible demotion to emerging markets status last year, MSCI went ahead and made it official on Tuesday.

In its annual review of country classification, MSCI removed Greece from its developed markets index and reclassified it as an emerging market. The Athens Stock Exchange has shed nearly 83 per cent of its value since 2008. Read more

Real Madrid and Barcelona are known for their annual gladiatorial contest for Spanish football supremacy.

Now the two clubs have become pawns in a proxy war among Middle Eastern airlines for global recognition. Read more

When a big deal falls apart, finger-pointing is rarely far behind.

But in the case of the failed bid by Qatari government-backed QInvest to create a joint venture with Egyptian investment-bank EFG-Hermes, Egypt’s market regulator certainly has a thing or two to learn about tact. Read more

Oil-rich Gulf countries have announced some of the world’s most ambitious renewable energy plans but analysts say the next year marks a big test to show whether these pledges will turn into contracts, writes Camilla Hall.

Both Saudi Arabia, which has announced a $109bn spending drive into solar energy, and Qatar, which aims to use a sustainable energy base to host the World Cup in 2022, have signalled they intend to launch tender contracts for solar energy projects. Read more

On the face of it, for a crunch week, Egypt has had a better time than usual.

The IMF is in town for talks on a $4.8bn (or more) loan; March inflation figures showed an improvement. And to top it all, on Wednesday it was announced that Qatar was stumping up another $3bn for the country.

But dig a little more, and there are worrying signs ahead. Read more

Abu Dhabi has launched its first big solar plant, powering 20,000 homes, as the emirate pushes ahead with its renewable energy plans aimed at diversifying the economy and meeting booming electricity demand.

While the emirate is an important oil producer, pumping about 2.65m barrels a day, it, like some of its Gulf neighbours, imports gas to meet the power needs of its swelling population. Renewable energy is now to provide an alternative.

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It’s not everyday that a conservative Gulf state is accused of copying American rapper and entrepreneur Dr Dre.

But wealthy Qatar is making waves with a branding exercise that has kicked up a social media storm. Read more

Qatar is positioning itself to sell liquefied natural gas to Egypt as it uses its financial firepower to cement its ties with Egypt’s new Islamist leadership in a time of unprecedented economic instability, writes Camilla Hall.

The world’s biggest exporter of LNG signed a joint venture with Egyptian private equity firm Citadel Capital last Thursday to build a floating LNG storage facility and re-gasification unit to deliver natural gas to Egypt. Read more

So, Qatar Airways will appear as the main logo on FC Barcelona’s shirts from next year, replacing the Qatar Foundation.

That means Doha’s state-run carrier will go head-to-head with Dubai’s Emirates, which sponsors Arsenal, and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad, which sponsors Manchester City, in yet another battle ground for regional aviation supremacy: football sponsorship. Read more

Industries Qatar’s decision last month to increase the amount of shares foreigners can buy in it is raising speculation that more Doha-listed companies will follow the lead of the petrochemicals maker.

The company raised its foreign ownership limit in September to 12.25 per cent from 7.5 per cent, it said in a statement on Sunday, as it released its earnings results. The shares rallied strongly the following day and were the most traded on the Doha stock market.

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“Don’t forget, revolutions are expensive”, says Dimitris Tsitsiragos. He should know: his responsibilities as a vice president at the International Finance Corporation include north Africa and the Middle East, not least the countries hit by the Arab Spring.

The IFC, the World Bank’s private sector arm, has, in the last five years, boosted its annual commitments to the region by nearly 50 per cent to over $2bn. But, Tsitsiragos says it’s not enough: without more private sector involvement, the region cannot generate the investments required to produce faster economic growth and more jobsRead more

The Gulf banks, so long somewhat passive players in international markets, are flexing their muscles. As Camilla Hall reports for the FT, European banks’ retreat from far-flung territories, is creating new opportunities – and Qatar National Bank, the state-backed lender of Qatar, is among the institutions on the hunt, with a bid to buy control of Société Générale’s subsidiary in Egypt.

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This Ramadan, Gulf residents received text messages with fasting tips to caution against overeating. The problem of expanding waistlines, however, is far from seasonal.

Kuwait, Qatar, The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain all figure on the list of the world’s top ten most obese nations. Seventy-seven per cent of Kuwaitis are overweight and 34 per cent are obese, putting the tiny country just behind the US, according to the latest research based on UN and World Health Organization data.

But as the obesity epidemic spread across the Persian Gulf, so too has another American phenomenon – the rise of the weight loss cottage industry. Read more

Investors have lost their appetite for IPOs. Banks are unwilling to lend. But for some sovereign wealth funds, there is hardly a crisis at all.

The Qatar Investment Authority recently bought significant stakes in high-profile companies such as Shell and Tiffany’s and is eyeing a 10 per cent stake in mining company Xstrata. The China Investment Corporation recently launched a €5oom SME investment fund in Europe and is looking for opportunities in emerging Europe and Africa. How come emerging market SWFs are so active in an otherwise depressed financial world? Read more

Construction of Tunisia’s first-ever privately owned oil refinery will begin later this year with an investment by Qatar, which has been busy buying up properties in north African states emerging from a year of political tumult.

The state-owned Qatar Petroleum Company agreed years ago to build the refinery, just outside of Tunisia’s industrial port city of Sfax. But the deal was only set to be finalised on Sunday, according to Kuwait’s official news agencyRead more

It’s one small step for Barclays but one giant leap for Qatar’s financial centre. The UK bank will be the first to base a sizeable asset management operation in Doha’s financial zone, thanks in part to a $250m investment from Qatar.

The Qatar Financial Centre, facing off against regional competitors in Dubai and Bahrain, has long said it hopes to build a niche specialty as an asset management hub. While some local and regional firms, as well as international banks, have become licensed asset managers within the QFC, this week’s deal will make Barclays the most significant international operation in the centre.

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