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UAE reports modest gains in non-oil economy in February

Business|: Dubai: The UAE’s purchasing managers' index (PMI) data for February showed a modest increase in non-oil private sector output with improved business expectations. However, the underlying data indicated fresh disruptions to the UAE non-oil private sector in February, as rising coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases led to increased restrictions in parts of the economy and hampered customer sales. The headline index fell from 51.2 in January to 50.6 in February to indicate a slower and only marginal improvement in business conditions. The index stayed above the 50 neutral threshold largely due to the output sub-component, which continued to signal a rise in business activity in the UAE non-oil economy. New business failed to rise for the first time in four months, contributing to just a modest rise in output and a broadly unchanged employment level. "The tightening of COVID-19 restrictions in February had a notable impact on the UAE economy, according to PMI survey data. New orders failed to grow for the first time since last October, while output growth softened since the start of the year,” said David Owen, Economist at IHS Markit. Improved expectations Business expectations improved, but only gradually as restrictions led to further uncertainty about short-term growth prospects despite hopes for a rebound in the latter half of 2021. Firms also signalled that global supply chain delays impacted on the UAE economy in February, as lead times on inputs lengthened at the fastest rate since last April. However, the impact on costs has so far been limited, allowing companies to continue offering discounts on sales. Stable employment Employment numbers were largely stable in February, as unchanged sales volumes meant that companies saw little pressure on capacity and were able to lower backlogs for the sixth month running. Subdued jobs trends were also linked to expectations for output in the next 12 months which, despite improving to a five-month high, remained historically weak. Many firms said that new restrictions made the near-term outlook more uncertain, although the rapid rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and projected new business gains from the Expo 2020 meant that firms were generally optimistic of an improvement in the economy later in the year.

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US to impose anti-dumping tax on 18 aluminium exporting countries

Business|: Washington: The US Department of Commerce is preparing to tax aluminum sheet exporters from 18 countries after determining Tuesday they had benefited from subsidies and dumping. The US International Trade Commission (ITC), an independent body, must approve the final decision by April 15 to impose anti-dumping or countervailing duties, a department statement said. The investigation, launched under Donald Trump's administration, had been requested by nearly a dozen US aluminum alloy manufacturers, including Arconic and Aleris Rolled products, which felt they were being harmed by competing imports at lower prices. President Joe Biden's administration determined that imports from Germany in particular ($287 million in 2019) benefited from dumping ranging from 40 to 242 per cent. The same is true for aluminum alloy sheets from Bahrain ($241 million), which the administration said benefited from pricing below the cost of production or the local market of 83 percent. Imports from India ($123 million in 2019) have benefited from subsidies for 35 to 89 per cent, according to the US investigation. In October, the Trump administration indicated that it had already begun to levy preliminary duties in the investigation. More affected The other countries concerned are Brazil, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Oman, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and Turkey. "If the ITC makes affirmative final injury determinations, Commerce will issue AD or CVD orders," the department said in the statement, referring to anti-dumping or countervailing duties orders. According to the statement, 559 orders on various imports are currently in effect to "provide relief to American companies and industries impacted by unfair trade." "Foreign companies that price their products in the US market below the cost of production or below prices in their home markets are subject to AD duties," the statement said. "Foreign companies that receive unfair subsidies from their governments, such as grants, loans, equity infusions, tax breaks, or production inputs, are subject to CVD duties aimed at directly countering those subsidies."

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Mideast Spotify challenger Anghami near SPAC merger

Business|: Dubai: Music streaming service Anghami is close to being listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York by merging with a blank-check company, according to people familiar with the matter, setting the stage for one of the biggest investments into a Middle Eastern technology startup in years. Anghami, Arabic for "my tunes," has been holding talks with Vistas Media Acquisition Company Inc., a special purpose acquisition company set up last year, and a deal may be announced as early as Wednesday, the people said, asking not to be named because the information is private. It would mark the first listing on the Nasdaq in New York by a home-grown Middle Eastern tech company. High valuation If the deal goes ahead, Anghami could be valued at close to $300 million, according to the people. The transaction includes a combined $40 million commitment from UAE financial firm Shuaa Capital and the parent of the SPAC sponsor in so-called PIPE - private investment in public equity - financing, the people said. SPACs are often formed to allow private companies to raise fresh funds to grow and list directly without having to go through the costly and time-consuming initial public offering process. Representatives for Anghami, Vistas and Shuaa declined to comment. A successful listing of Anghami would add to a streak of major technology deals in the Middle East that started with acquisitions of local companies by Uber Technologies Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. Despite the shockwaves of the coronavirus pandemic, regional startups have attracted around $1 billion in funding in 2020, 13% more than the previous year, according to Dubai-based Magnitt Inc. New Arrival Anghami relocated its headquarters from Lebanon to the capital of the United Arab Emirates at the start of this year in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office. It was a coup for Abu Dhabi, which has been courting tech companies and startups as part of its efforts to diversify the oil-dependent economy. Anghami, founded in Beirut in 2012 by two Lebanese entrepreneurs, has grown to become one of the region's most popular streaming platforms. It delivers about 1 billion streams per month, offering 57 million songs to more than 70 million registered users. With offices across the Arab world, Anghami is vying for regional hegemony with Spotify Technology SA and Deezer SA. Key shareholders Anghami's shareholders include regional venture capital firms and strategic shareholders, such as Middle East Venture Partners, Samena Capital, Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Co., MBC Group and Etihad Etisalat Co. who represent around 68% of the company with the rest owned by the founders. VMAC is led by Chief Executive Officer F. Jacob Cherian, a former associate at JPMorgan Chase & Co., and co-founders Abhayanand Singh, the head of the Singapore-based media investment company behind the SPAC, and Saurabh Gupta, a former banker and co-producer of several films. Vistas began trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange in August after its $100 million IPO. Anghami last year worked with investment bank JPMorgan to raise fresh capital and explore strategic options as it looked to expand, sources told Bloomberg at the time. More recently, Shuaa Capital also invested in the music platform.

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Oil sinks below $60 before OPEC+ meets to decide on supplies

Energy|: New York: Oil tumbled below $60 a barrel in New York with the OPEC+ alliance said to be set to agree to a production increase later this week. US crude futures fell 1.5 per cent to the lowest in more than a week on Tuesday, while its global counterpart Brent hit a two-week low. The widespread view among the producer group is that the market can absorb additional barrels, according to people familiar with the matter. That could put the alliance on track to implement the majority of the 1.5 million barrel-a-day output hike that's up for debate on Thursday. Oil's underlying market structure has also weakened this week. The backwardation, an indication of tightening supplies, seen in key timespreads is shrinking. At the same time, some pockets of physical oil market strength appear to be wobbling, with observed flows of North Sea crude grades to Asia dropping in February to the lowest in four months. "While the Saudi surprise cut really kick-started this move higher, the unwinding of that will be more difficult for the market," said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda Corp. "There is still significant risk for the short-term outlook." Crude has rallied more than 20% since the start of the year with support from a range of factors, including Saudi Arabia's unilateral output cuts. The rollout of vaccines and an investor charge into commodities have also underpinned the gains. Even if OPEC and its allies restore 2.4 million barrels a day of crude output by June, global oil inventories are set to decline each month this year, according to an OPEC+ panel. India has reiterated a call for the group to increase its production from April. "Prices were getting elevated enough that stabilizing the market makes sense," said Bill O'Grady, executive vice president at Confluence Investment Management in St. Louis. "It is a difference between what was expected and what was hoped. What you expect is that they will raise production, what you hope is that they don't." Output increase The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies must decide how much output is to be restored, with current reductions totaling just over 7 million barrels a day. The group is the largest actor in the oil market, with collective production covering more than 40% of worldwide demand. Saudi Arabia always said that its voluntary supply reduction would only last for two months. The kingdom will start to roll back its extra cut as planned in April, but is still discussing internally whether to return all of the barrels in a single month, or over a longer period, said people familiar with the deliberations. Meanwhile, oil shipments from OPEC's Persian Gulf producers edged higher last month, despite the Saudi cut. Increased shipments from Kuwait and Iraq more than offset lower flows from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, vessel-tracking data monitored by Bloomberg show. In the U.S., crude inventories are expected to have declined last week, according to a Bloomberg survey. The industry-funded American Petroleum Institute will report its storage figures later Tuesday ahead of a U.S. government report on Wednesday.