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UAE investors applaud regional bank results

Markets|: Dubai: UAE stocks surged on Wednesday as investors reacted positively to forecast-beating results from the country's key lenders First Abu Dhabi Bank and Emirates NBD, while assuring investors a dividend amid the COVID-19 crisis. Both stock markets of UAE climbed over 1 per cent in a clear sign of market-beating optimism, as their global counterparts stayed cautious ahead of an update on the US monetary policy package and as several industry giants were also set to release their earnings report. Abu Dhabi Security Exchange jumped 1.4 per cent, the most in the last six trading sessions. It was bolstered by gains from the stock of the country’s largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) - which scaled up as much as 2.7 per cent during the day, before settling up 2.5 per cent at close. The investors were upbeat as the bank chose to hand out as a generous cash profit to shareholders as it did in 2019, even as the virus continues to rattle the world economy. FAB announced a dividend distribution of 74 fils per share to its shareholders as its fourth-quarter profit rose 5 per cent and it’s full year results topped market expectations even after shrinking 16 per cent, as impairment charges rose in a year challenged by the health crisis. The lender’s rally triggered gains from other stocks, from within the banking sector and beyond, with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank advancing 2.2 per cent and Aldar Properties rising 3.5 per cent. Dubai Financial Market added 1.1 per cent after slipping in three out of the last four sessions. The emirate’s top lender Emirates NBD led gains on the benchmark, surging 2.6 per cent after it decided not to cut its shareholders’ dividend payout. A profit distribution of 40 fils per share was announced after its net income more than halved – but beat analyst estimates, which reinforced investor confidence in the state of the bank’s finances. Like in Abu Dhabi, other companies rose as a result as Dubai Islamic Bank gained 2 per cent and telecom giant Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du) traded higher by 1.1 per cent.

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KPMG’s survey reveals 28% of UAE workforce needs reskilling and upskilling

Business|: Dubai: The UAE workforce may continue to see significant changes over the next one to two years. A new KPMG report revealed that nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of employees may continue to work remotely, while more than a quarter (28 per cent ) will likely require upskilling. The Future of HR in the New Reality captures the perspectives of local human resources (HR) executives on preparing their organizations and HR functions for the future. Nearly every organization is prioritizing people, as they grapple with pre-existing and new challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. Although nearly all (89 per cent) of HR professionals agreed that the function played a leading role in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, it may be time for HR to reinvent itself. For example, considering rapid changes, HR professionals may take a different approach to measuring and improving productivity and workforce-related challenges to drive competitive advantage over the medium-to-long term, rather than focusing on short-term issues. "As HR leaders adapt to an unpredictable future, their focus tends to be on short-term firefighting to cope with immediate challenges. It is crucial to play the long game in order to thrive in the new reality. To do so, HR leaders may create a seamless, tech-enabled employee experience in a remote work environment, take ownership of the employee rebuilding and reskilling journey, and embrace analytics and data science to prove the impact of the HR function,” said Marketa Simkova, Partner, Head of People & Change at KPMG Lower Gulf. Perceptions of HR From facilitating the transition to remote working, to implementing and communicating health measures in the workplace, HR has been at the forefront of the Covid-19 crisis. While most business leaders and employees view the function’s response to the crisis in a favorable way, some decision makers believe HR needs to be bolder and prove its strategic worth. The KPMG survey shows that 62 per cent of HR executives believe the function needs to completely reimagine and transform itself to respond more effectively to future disruption. Half (50 per cent) of HR professionals agree that the function is considered to be an “administrator” rather than a “value driver.” Eighty-six percent of HR executives believe the function needs to rethink productivity and performance measures in light of the shift to remote working.

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Decrease in plot area should not be more than 5 per cent in the case of off plan developments

Property|: A recent ruling by the Dubai Courts in favour of a major real estate company in Dubai has set a precedent on how courts interpret sale and purchase agreements (SPA). The dispute was raised by the buyer purchasing a private island in the UAE, claiming that he had discovered that the plot area was 50 per cent less than what was written in the SPA contract and that he was not aware of it. Wael El Tounsy Wael El Tounsy, counsel and head of real estate litigation at Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, Dubai Office, the legal firm that represented the seller (the real estate company) in this case, says the court dismissed that claim for several reasons. “Part of the sold islands is in land, and the other part is in the water. Also the area of the island, according to the maps of the main developer and the measurement of the sold area, is decreased by 1 per cent, which is acceptable. The contracting ocurred after the buyer’s inspection of the island and it is written down in the contract that the sale of the land was on an as-is basis; and finally, the title deed issued by DLD confirms the area,” says El Tounsy. “In this case the plot area has not changed from what is set forth in the SPA. The buyer was claiming that he did not know that a percentage of the sold area was the land around the island submerged by the water. When it comes to off-plan purchase of residential units, developers take precautions by providing that the area is subject to increase and decrease. However, the law resolved that while the increase in plot area is free, the decrease should not be any more than 5 per cent, and the buyer may demand a price reduction or an annulment of contract, if necessary,” he explains. “The claim that the area is different is invalid because the area is a part of the land plus the water area surrounding the land, which can be built on. Therefore, the court confirmed the invalidity of the allegations of the buyer in this regard,” says El Tounsy. Registering the SPA El Tounsy says for those purchasing off plan property SPA contracts are registered in the interim register at the time of off-plan sale, since the date of signing the agreement. Both buyer and seller can register the contract, but the law provides that it is the liability of the seller to register. The seller has the chance to register the SPA at any point prior to the closure of submissions before the Court of Appeal, he explains. The buyer can undertake the registration if there is no rejection by the seller. SPA while buying off-plan So when homebuyers are planning to buy off-plan, what should they keep in mind about the SPA? El Tounsy says, “The buyer shall ensure that the agreement includes the most essential conditions for it as an explicit annulment condition. In other words, if the delivery date of the unit is very important for the buyer, it can be mentioned in the agreement that the contract shall be automatically terminated if the developer does not commit to delivery on a certain date. The same applies to any other conditions that the buyer deems as important for it. It should be included in the contract or should include a penalty clause in the agreement if the developer violates same.” “The law has put in place many guarantees to avoid any problems. The escrow account allows the buyer to put the instalment in the account. The seller or developer can only disburse it under the supervision of DLD, which checks the completion rate in order to allow the disbursement. With regard to the difference in the executed designs from what is set in the SPA, the buyer can take precautions by stipulating the conditions in the agreement. Evetually, if the buyer finds a fundamental difference between what has actually been implemented and what had been contracted for, it has the right to either claim a decrease of the price or the termination of the agreement. The judge is authroised to terminate the agreement and decrease the price.

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GCC markets bounce back as earnings roll in

Markets|: Dubai: Gulf stocks rose in early trade on Wednesday after robust earnings from a couple of key regional lenders uplifted investor sentiment, outperforming the global markets that slipped amid uncertainty over the timing of world economic recovery. The rally comes after the Gulf markets edged back in the last session as investors waited for the UAE's key lenders to release their full-year results, handing them a clearer picture of what might come from other companies. Abu Dhabi's main index rose to 0.6 per cent after slipping as much on Tuesday. The country's largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank gained 1.4 per cent after its fourth-quarter net profit rose 5 per cent as impairments in the final three months of the year dropped sharply on the back of economic recovery. Its full-year net profit also beat expectations, though shrank by 16 per cent under pressure from higher impairment charges during the year as Coronavirus rattled the economy in 2020. It retained the dividend to shareholders at 74 fils per share, the same as in the year before. The lender helped improve wider mood as other stocks also climbed. Aldar Properties ticked 1.4 per cent higher, while Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank traded up 0.6 per cent. Dubai Financial Market edged up 0.2 per cent after dipping 0.9 per cent in the last session. Dubai's largest bank Emirates NBD added 0.9 per cent after its latest earnings also beat market expectations even though its full-year net profit more than halved as provisions for bad loans rose in the challenging fiscal year. The bank announced 40 fils per share dividend without cutting back on that paid out for 2019. Banks led in Kuwait as well with heavyweight National Bank of Kuwait and Ahli United Bank rose 0.8 and 0.9 per cent, respectively. But Boubyan Bank slipped 0.7 per cent after its fourth-quarter profit contracted more than 35 per cent. The premier index traded 0.3 per cent higher. Oman's 30-stock index eased 0.3 per cent on its fourth day of straight losses as its banks moved in opposite directions. National Bank of Oman plunged 9.6 per cent after its Board of Directors decided not to propose any dividend for 2020, while Bank Muscat pointed higher by 1.5 per cent on proposed dividend of 35 per cent of its capital. Bahrain also slipped 0.1 per cent, pulled lower by Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait which was down 2 per cent, while most of stocks remained unchanged from last session.

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Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange launches strategy to more than double market capitalisation over the next three years

Markets|: Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) announced a plan to double market capitalisation over the next three years using its new ‘ADX One’ strategy, which aims to increase market liquidity and further improve market efficiency. The new strategy comes as the market capitalisation of companies listed on the ADX increased 39.7 per cent in 2020 to a record AED750 billion. The ‘ADX One’ strategy aims to increase the exchange’s governance through further alignment with best international practices and by making ADX a more attractive destination for foreign investors. The market value of foreign-owned shares in ADX-listed companies surpassed Dh60 billion at the end of December last year. Innovataive products The strategy includes a range of innovative products and services such as new listings, the launch of derivatives trading, and further advancement of the customer-centric digital transformation journey. The strategy was devised after ADX became a public joint-stock company and joined ADQ, one of the region’s largest holding companies, in 2020. “2021 will mark our 20th anniversary. ADX today is one of the most competitive exchanges in the region, providing an exciting value proposition for companies and some of the highest dividend yields in emerging markets for investors. Our strategy will deepen our market strength and draw in new sources of liquidity while ensuring Abu Dhabi’s diversified, competitive, and transparent economic system that is attractive for local, regional and international investors,” said Mohamed Ali Al Shorafa Al Hammadi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. “Over the coming years, ADX will continue to leverage Abu Dhabi’s unique regulatory environment, infrastructure and stability to stimulate long-term growth across the Emirate and more than double the market capitalization over the next three years.” New listings Throughout 2021 ADX is also expecting at least ten new listings, including three exchange-traded funds (ETFs), following the success of Chimera Capital’s listing of its S&P UAE UCITS ETF. Trading in Chimera Capital’s ETF surged in the first three months following its listing, and it has since become the third-largest ETF by assets in the region. New listings will also be made on the fast-growing Second Market. The four new companies added on the Second Market in 2020, Sawaeed Holding, Zee Stores, Easy Lease and Palm Sports, have witnessed robust growth in trading values and strong price appreciation. The introduction of derivatives by the fourth quarter will allow institutional investors to hedge their investments, providing them with new opportunities to execute complex trading strategies. Derivatives will complement Market Making, Covered Short Selling (CSS) and Securities Lending and Borrowing (SLB) which the exchange was a first in the region to introduce. The CSS service was introduced to attract and meet the requirements of a new segment of specialised and experienced investors while generating greater trading volumes. ADQ’s Q Market Makers and the dispensation of short-term margin trading licences to more brokerages have helped to boost liquidity and improve market quality of Abu Dhabi’s state-of-the-art exchange. International investors The increased participation of international investors has come amid an increase in foreign ownership limits among the largest publicly traded companies in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi National Insurance Company, Wahat Al Zaweya, Abu Dhabi National Energy Co., Emirates Driving Company and Abu Dhabi Aviation allowed foreign investors to own up to 49 per cent. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Methaq Takaful Insurance Co., and Agthia Group raised the foreign ownership limit to 40 per cent, 49 per cent and 49 per cent respectively. “Our strategy is focused on delivering new products and services that will make ADX a conduit for investors seeking to tap high growth opportunities and for companies seeking to fund expansion plans. We are focused on growing the number of listings on the exchange and attracting new investors to boost market liquidity,” said Saeed Hamad Al Dhaheri, Chief Executive of Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. Investor realations guide Under the ADX One strategy, an investor relations guide will be created and made available to listed companies in the first half of 2021. In parallel, ADX plans to launch campaigns to promote market literacy and highlight the roles of equity in a diversified investment portfolio and stock markets in maximising returns on savings. Additionally, the exchange plans to roll out a program to support the production of research notes on its under-covered listed companies by the end of this year. ADX, the second-largest stock market in the MENA region, will continue in 2021 to enhance its digital capabilities following several achievements which include enhancing its electronic financial disclosure system for financial statements designed to fit the needs of listed companies and launching a reinforced online attendance and remote voting service for listed companies through the Sahmi digital platform. The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange Index advanced 48 per cent from a March 2020 low following the global stock market drop and ended the year 0.6 per cent lower at 5,045.332. The market capitalisation of stocks listed on ADX surpassed Dh750 billion for the first time, a 39.7 per cent increase from Dh533 billion in 2019. The increase in the market capitalisation of stocks listed on the ADX came amid high profile consolidations, including the combination of Abu Dhabi National Energy Company and Abu Dhabi Power Corporation, which has created a regional utilities power house. Separately, Agthia shareholders agreed last year to merge with Al Foah to form a national food and beverage champion.