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Emaar reports 2020 property sales of Dh10 billion, appoints a woman to its board

Property|: Dubai: Emaar Properties reported 2020 property sales of Dh10.90 billion on Sunday and said it appointed a woman to its board. Emaar recorded property sales of Dh6.321 billion ($ 1.72 billion) in the UAE alone. The developer said it handed over more than 72,100 residential units in Dubai and international markets, with more than 26,000 currently under development in the UAE and 12,000 units in global markets. “The performance reflects sustained interest from investors, both domestic and foreign,” said Emaar in a statement. The shareholders also elected a new board of directors composed of 9 members, including a woman. This comes after UAE’s Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) made it compulsory for listed companies to appoint at least one woman to their boards. The new board includes Mohamed Alabbar, Jassim Al Ali, Ahmad Al Matrooshi, Jamal Bin Theniyah, Buti AlMulla, and Eman Abdulrazzaq. Abdulrazzaq, Emaar’s new female director, is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Emirates NBD, UAE’s largest bank. Prior to that, she was with HSBC for over 17 years performing various roles. “By nurturing and developing our talents within Emaar, coupled with our constant digital transformation and product innovation, we have set the benchmark for future growth and long-term value creation for our shareholders,” said Mohamed Alabbar, Founder, Emaar Properties, in a statement. “We have been able to maintain our market position, despite the challenges brought by the pandemic and are looking forward to the development of our future innovative projects,” he added. With the recent merger of Emaar Properties and Emaar Malls that was announced on March 2, 2021, the entities will continue to pursue “the satisfaction of commercial and regulatory conditions until further notice,” the statement said.

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Ministry of Economy extends deadline for registration in anti-money laundering regulations until April 30

Business|: Abu Dhabi: The Ministry of Economy (MoE) announced the extension of the deadline granted to Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs) to register in the systems approved for countering money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism, until the end of April 2021. The extension has been granted due to a large number of companies in the sector coming forward to register in the last days of the previous deadline, which expired on March 31, 2021. Furthermore, the unusual circumstances faced by companies and the business sector in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic has also been taken into consideration. The Ministry explained that it is mandatory for the targeted companies, which include brokers and real estate agents, auditors, dealers of precious metals and gemstones, and corporate service providers, to register in the goAML system and the Automatic Reporting System for Sanctions Lists before the end of the new deadline. The registration in these systems can be done free of cost. After the registration, they should also take the specified measures to ensure full compliance with the requirements of Federal Law No. 20 of 2018 on anti-money laundering, combating the financing of terrorism and illegal organizations, and their implementing regulations and relevant decisions. The Ministry called on the concerned companies to take advantage of the new extended period for registration to avoid the penalties and fines stipulated in the law, which will be imposed starting from May 1, 2021. Fines start from AED 50,000 and go up to AED 5 million, while the penalties for companies that fail to register could even lead to the revocation of the license or closure of the facility itself. "The goal is not to impose violations, but to ensure compliance, and the decision was taken considering the conditions that various companies and business sectors are going through as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and its repercussions on a global scale," said Abdullah Sultan Al Fan Al Shamsi, Assistant Undersecretary for the Monitoring and Following-up Sector at the Ministry of Economy.

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Global markets: Stock set to rise on upbeat earnings

Markets|: Dubai: Another corporate earnings season is set to begin, and analysts evaluate how that could be a positive catalyst for global stocks in the weeks to come. What is widely expected to be largely an upbeat first-quarter company earnings, top US banks will be the first to report this week, setting the tone for the remainder of the season. Stocks to rise this week On the economic front, there is some key figures, the most watched of which is the US consumer price index data out on Tuesday – which will be closely eyed by investors after a surprise jump in inflation in March. In the US stock markets, which are tracked by indices worldwide, key benchmarks, the Dow and S&P 500, are seen starting the week at record highs after a strong rally on Friday. The Dow rose nearly 2 per cent last week, while the S&P 500 gained 2.7 per cent. The Nasdaq gained the most, rising 3.1 per cent. The Russell index was down 0.5 percent. Upbeat US earnings With the S&P 500 index at record highs, valuations are stretched heading into the season, leaving some investors looking to earnings for further support. US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, in comments this past week, continued to reinforce that the central bank will keep its easy policies in place for a long time, and that any emergence of inflation should be temporary. However, a key US price inflation data released last Friday, which came in much higher than expected, has made the consumer price index release Tuesday even more crucial. US banks to report first In the US, the world’s biggest economy, the big banks kick off the reporting Wednesday, with JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo. Bank of America and Citigroup report Thursday and Morgan Stanley reports Friday. PepsiCo is also among the first to report. The consensus for the first quarter is earnings are supposed to be up between 22 per cent to 30 per cent, given that last year’s comparison figures came in lower-than-usual because of the pandemic. Another positive sign is that estimates overall have been rising heading into the earnings period. Estimates typically drop ahead of a reporting period after companies give conservative outlooks. Caution among investors Still, some analysts fear that investors will be disappointed after the sharp run up in earnings expectations, which could dent stock prices after a months-long rally led by economically sensitive stocks. Investors are optimistic companies will offer more guidance now after being reluctant give projections at the start of the pandemic. “We'll probably see more companies giving outlooks,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at US-based Inverness Counsel. “That will give the market a lot of confidence.” Lackluster appetite in Asia, Europe The China CSI 300 index and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index each fell more than 1 per cent Friday. The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.1 per cent to a new record. China data showed consumer prices climbed 0.4 per cent on the year in March, driven by fuel price increases, while factory prices climbed to a more than two-year high. While China has enjoyed a strong rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, some investors fear that global inflation could spread from China and force central banks to take action at some point, possibly interest rate increases. Higher rates tend to negatively affect stock prices.

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How did the UAE's wealthy change their spending ways in COVID-19 year: Julius Baer

Markets|: Dubai remains an appealing location for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) in 2021, according to Swiss Wealth Manager Julius Baer’s Lifestyle Index. Dubai now ranks in 12th place on the Index, which rates 25 key cities worldwide, up from 17th position a year ago. The results were announced in Julius Baer’s Global Wealth and Lifestyle Report 2021, the second edition of the publication following the inaugural edition released in January 2020. The Lifestyle Index tracks the price of a basket of goods and services representative of a HNWI lifestyle in key cities in Asia, the Americas and the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Using the Index, investors can estimate the portfolio returns needed to preserve, or even grow, their purchasing power. READ MORE GCC to lead Middle East's post-COVID economic rebound: IMF flydubai says will only fly MAX with regulatory approval after reports of India denying airspace Global markets: Stock set to rise on upbeat earnings “If you combine [a] relatively attractive cost of living with the location, the weather, the tax regime… for a wealthy person [Dubai is] an attractive place to be,” said Mark Matthews, Head of Research Asia Pacific, during a roundtable discussion to mark the launch of the report. Dubai’s biggest advantage lies in the price of residential property, according to Matthews. “It’s only 9 per cent of what it costs in the most expensive place – which is Monaco,” he said. “It’s certainly an attractive feature.” Apart from property, other bargains in Dubai are hard to come by, according to the report. Jewellery is slightly cheaper than the international average as gold tends to be cheaper in the UAE because it is subject to fewer taxes. However, most Index items are priced at the international average or higher. Dubai is amongst the most expensive cities to buy alcohol: it is the second most expensive place to buy wine after Mumbai, and the fourth most expensive place to purchase whisky after Manila, Shanghai and Jakarta. The report notes that the UAE economy took a hit from the COVID-19 outbreak shrinking by 8 per cent in 2020 with employment falling to the lowest levels since records began. However, Julius Baer is optimistic that the UAE is now in recovery mode. “The situation is beginning to stabilise,” the report noted. “With its growing emphasis on research and development, technological advancements, and innovation, there seems little doubt that the country will bounce back as it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021. Julius Baer expects the UAE’s non-oil economy to expand by 4.2 per cent this year and return to pre-crisis levels by mid-2022. Overall, the report showed that Asia continues to be the most expensive region in the world for high- and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, and the three most expensive cities remain Shanghai, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. The Americas is the most affordable region to live a luxury lifestyle. A theme of this year’s report is the extent to which the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted HNWI consumption patterns. The collapse of global tourism in 2020 impacted this year’s index. The luxury category with the biggest price increases is business class flights, jumping 11.4%. Ladies’ shoes and hotel suites had the biggest declines falling 11.7% and 9.3% respectively. The report also noted that the “conscious consumption” movement is gaining momentum with COVID-19 boosting consumer commitment to, and awareness of, buying ethically and sustainably.

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Lebanon needs new government, radical change of direction, says IMF

Business|: Dubai: Lebanon cannot pull itself out of its economic crisis without a new government to transform the country and launch long-stalled reforms, a senior official at the International Monetary Fund said. The country defaulted on its debt last year, sending its currency crashing. Its economy shrank by 25% in 2020, the IMF said in a report last week. A standoff over the make-up of a new government has intensified in recent months, delaying a revival of funding talks with the Washington-based crisis lender. "The change of direction cannot be done on a piecemeal basis. It requires a comprehensive approach," the director of the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia Department, Jihad Azour, told Reuters. Reforms should focus on the financial sector, public finance, governance, corruption and loss-making utilities that have contributed to a surge in debt, he said. "In (the) absence of a new government that can lead this transformation, it's very difficult to expect that the situation will in itself improve," he added, joining a chorus of officials calling for an end to wrangling over the cabinet. Lebanon's crisis started before the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerated after a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate, stored unsafely for years, exploded in the capital's port in August last year, killing 200 people. International support through grants was needed, Azour said. "Lebanon needs some large financing in order to jumpstart the economy again in order also to allow Lebanon to be on a recovery path that will take time but is highly needed." Lebanon needed to rebuild confidence among citizens, investors and the international community," he added. "This reform package is the starting point. And for that you need to have a new government who will lead the implementation of this reform programme."

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GCC to lead Middle East's post-COVID economic rebound: IMF

Business|: Dubai: Oil exporting countries in the Middle East, especially the GCC will lead the post-COVID economic rebound in the region according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The latest Regional Economic Outlook (REO) from the IMF said the available real GDP data in the region point to a strong rebound from the third quarter of 2020 as countries relaxed lockdown measures. Oil exporters Higher oil prices and early vaccine rollouts support the outlook for many GCC economies. The recent increase in oil prices will boost confidence, supporting non-oil GDP, which is projected to expand by 3.3 per cent in 2021. The IMF revised growth rates of GCC economies significantly upwards from its last update in October 2020. The latest REO has forecast the UAE and Saudi Arabia to grow 3.1 per cent and 2.9 per cent in 2021 against estimated contractions of 5.9 per cent and 4.1 per cent. In its October 2020 report, it had forecast 1.3 per cent and 2.6 per cent growth for the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In the Middle East, countries with above-average fiscal support in 2020 are expected to return to pre-pandemic GDP levels in 2022. Image Credit: IMF While Oman is projected to move out of recession this year with a 1.8 per cent GDP growth, Bahrain is projected to grow 3.3 per cent. Kuwait is forecast to grow at the lowest rate in the GCC with 0.7 per cent; Qatar has a slightly better growth outlook at 2.4 per cent for 2021. Oil activity will remain subdued in the short term, reflecting the OPEC+ production curbs and continued US sanctions on Iran. “Within the region, countries with above-average fiscal support in 2020 are expected to return to pre-pandemic GDP levels in 2022. In contrast, those with below-average support will not see a return to 2019 levels until 2023,” said Jihad Azour, the IMF’s Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department. Purchasing managers’ indices (PMI) of most GCC countries returned to expansionary territory by mid-2020 and continued to signal an upward trend in some oil exporters such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE. The fiscal balances for oil exporters are expected to improve significantly, reflecting higher oil revenue. The increase in oil prices is expected to markedly improve oil exporters’ external position. Their current account balance is projected to increase by $128 billion. Rising debts to curtail long term growth outlook The International Monetary Fund said on Sunday countries in the Middle East and Central Asia need to curb their financing requirements, as a surge in government debt, exacerbated by the pandemic, threatens recovery prospects. Overall the outlook remains highly uncertain and recovery paths will diverge depending on the speed of vaccinations, reliance on heavily impacted sectors, such as tourism, and countries’ fiscal policy. The crisis led many countries in the region to raise debt, partly taking advantage of abundant liquidity in the global markets, to afford extra spending needed to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. The IMF warned that financing needs are projected to increase over the coming two years, with emerging markets in the region likely to need around $1.1 trillion during 2021-2022 from $784 billion in 2018-2019. Oil importers Oil importers in general showed contraction though less so than during the pandemic’s first wave, as lockdowns were re-imposed. Workers’ remittances also held up better than expected. Flows rebounded in the third quarter of 2020 after a sizable drop in the second quarter, reflecting a combination of factors, including a broad improvement in third quarter growth in remittance-sending countries, an accelerated switch to formal transfer channels because of border closures, and incentives for electronic transfers. The recovery in oil importers is expected to be sluggish in the near term, with growth projected at 2.3 per cent in 2021—a downgrade of 0.4 percentage point relative to October. Growth projections for Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia, which are highly dependent on tourism, have been marked down. Egypt and Pakistan’s economies, which were relatively resilient in 2020, are forecast to experience a sluggish recovery in 2021. Lebanon is the only country in the region where activity is expected to contract further, reflecting the deep economic and financial crisis that has been worsened by the pandemic’s second wave. Inflation is expected to remain at double-digits in fragile and conflict-affected states such as Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, and Yemen driven by domestic macroeconomic instability. With the recovery underway, fiscal balances are expected to improve across the region, because of higher revenues and the expiration of pandemic-related measures, and the resumption of fiscal consolidation in some countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Oman, and Pakistan with elevated debt burdens. High financing needs could constrain the policy space required to support the recovery, as many countries would need to address fiscal and debt challenges. Average public gross financing needs in 2021–22 in the regions’ emerging markets are expected to remain elevated, reaching 37 per cent of GDP in Bahrain and Egypt per year.

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Suhail Al Mazrouei unveils roadmap for managing energy, housing, infrastructure and transportation sector

Business|: Abu Dhabi: Suhail bin Mohammed Al Mazrouei, the UAE Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, has revealed a comprehensive development roadmap for the sectors supervised by the ministry, which includes the energy, housing, transportation, and infrastructure. Al Mazrouei said that the ministry has designed clear work directions that guarantee the country's global leadership – espically in the four sectors – over the next 50 years. Ambitious housing plans In an interview with the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Al Mazrouei affirmed that the ministry has ambitious plans for citizens' housing in line with the directives of the UAE’s leadership to provide citizens with decent living conditions and ensure their prosperity and happiness. The UAE minister also announced the completion of a study to explore the need for housing across the country, based on the availability of lands and supply of housing until 2040, with the aim of determining the demand and supply in each emirate. He emphasised that the ministry is monitoring to assess the financing requirements for housing projects in accordance with the UAE vision. Al Mazrouei explained that the ministry’s objectives in the energy sector include strengthening cooperation with relevant entities for the sustainability of the energy sector and petrochemical industries. Energy efficiency  This will be achieved by introducing energy efficient systems in industrial and mining facilities, enacting laws and legislation that encourage everyone to produce clean energy, and empowering and developing national cadres working in the sector through cooperation with specialised institutes and centres for geological research and development, he noted. Al Mazrouei reaffirmed that the ministry’s plans include strengthening the country’s orientation towards renewable energy or clean alternative energy, "like the nuclear energy, which uses safe, environmentally friendly and reliable technology, has become an ideal choice for the country." As for the infrastructure sector, he said that the ministry designed the four-pronged infrastructure plan for the next 50 years. The first includes studying the current infrastructure situation, while the second focuses on risks and future trends, the third deals with policies and enablers, and the fourth aims at integration and partnership. Digital identity The official highlighted that the ministry is working to promote digital identity in infrastructure, demographic changes and urbanisation, development, investment and the economy, as well as interactive smart cities, and resilient infrastructure. He explained that the ministry aims to design safe, integrated and sustainable transport networks that use advanced technology, contribute to ensuring social and economic development, facilitate commercial movement, and achieve sustainable development goals, happiness and quality of life for all.

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The Year of 50: Etihad launches one-year programme to celebrate UAE’s 50th anniversary

Aviation|UAE|: Dubai: Etihad airways has launched a year-long programme in celebration of the 50 years since UAE was established. The airline has launched a dedicated platform at etihad.com/uae50, and aims to engage the local community in its participative programme which will be revealed in detail throughout the year. UAE nationals, residents and guests will have the chance to participate and win one of 50,000 prizes that will be given away throughout the course of the year. The rewards range from free flights and bonus Etihad Guest Miles, to discount vouchers for experiences across Abu Dhabi, and will be awarded throughout the year. “This year-long initiative demonstrates Etihad’s celebration of the past, and commitment to the next 50 years of this incredible country,” said Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Aviation Group. The first project in this series of celebrations is the ‘legacy of a nation’ which charts the untold stories of the nation from the past 50 years. Etihad will be seeking out and curating personal accounts of life in the UAE, both past and present. The second pillar of the programme is ‘values that unite’, where Etihad will collaborate with expressionists from different walks of life, to co-create work that commemorates this auspicious occasion. The final phase of this campaign is headlined ‘hosting the world’. Etihad will encourage, support and facilitate individuals with hosting special visitors from around the world to experience the UAE’s warm welcome for themselves. The series of activities will run until December 31, 2021.

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UAE investors trade cautiously ahead of results

Markets|: Dubai: Abu Dhabi and Dubai stocks moved little in early Sunday trades with investors looking for greater clarity as the first-quarter results are set to get rolling in later this week. Dubai Financial Market traded marginally higher at 2,584 points with real estate and banking stocks pulling the index in opposite directions. Emaar Properties advanced 1.1 per cent as it was trading in its first session after the firm's managing director said the first-quarter sales more than doubled to Dh6 billion, which compares with Dh2.5 billion it reported for the corresponding period last year. Turnaround The numbers from the emirate's largest developer look promising and come in line with recent reports that Dubai property market has buyers returning to it in greater numbers for the last few months, particularly for villas, townhouses and homes with sea views. This marks a major turnaround from 58 per cent plunge in 2020 profits as the already struggling market came under added pressure from COVID-19 pandemic. The sales figures from Emaar appear to have given investors an insight into how its sectoral peers might have performed in the first three months of the year, leading to a 2.5 per cent jump in Damac Properties stock and a 0.8 per cent rise in Emaar Development. However, gains in property shares were countered by losses in financial stocks with Emirates NBD shedding 1.3 per cent and Ajman Bank and Amlak Finance joining the selloff. Air Arabia also dropped 0.8 per cent as a resurgence of the pandemic in parts of the world stocked investor worries that the aviation sector is likely to have a longer road ahead before it gets back to flying relatively normally. Abu Dhabi Securities flatlined at 6,059 points with International Holding Company edging back 0.4 per cent, taking a pause after a run of gains that lasted 13 days on the back of investor optimism about its growth model. Abu Dhabi Ship Building and Abu Dhabi Aviation also traded in red, but the index won some support from Waha Capital, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and ADNOC Distribution. Earnings boost Oman's 30-company index notched 0.5 per cent with the biggest boost coming from the telecom firm Omantel and Bank Muscat thanks to their heavy weight on the index. Al Anwar Ceramic Tiles moved upward by 1.8 per cent after the first-quarter profits shooting up to OR2 million, more than double the amount reported for the same period a year earlier. While banking stocks provided impetus to Kuwait premier idex, they slipped into negative territory in Qatar bringing the index down. Bahrain traded roughly unchanged with investors trading cautiously in the absence of big clues.

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UAE cable giant Ducab winds in 36% profit gain for 2020

Business|: Dubai: Demand from projects in the UAE ensured the cables and metals manufacturer Ducab Group did not have to cut down on production at any point during 2020. This in turn helped full-year profits to rise 36 per cent for the group, which is equal-owned by Dubai and Abu Dhabi government entities. (Actual breakdown of the financials has not been given.) “We continued to be fully operational during the rather difficult year,” said Mohammed Al Mutawa, Group CEO. “Production rates vary throughout any given year - we feel our current capacity is the right mix for now. “This will serve the projects we have across sectors, as well as landmark projects such as Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, Dubai Metro Route2020, Abu Dhabi Airport, and others.” Keeping it steady Owned by Investment Corporation of Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s ADQ, Ducab Group’s manufacturing capacity stands at more than 115,000 MT of high-, medium-, and low-voltage cable solutions, as well as 180,000 tonnes of copper rod and wire per annum. In addition, there is the 55,000 tonnes per annum of aluminium rod and overhead conductor. The group exports 60 per cent of its overall production. Not much of disruptions Through the pandemic months, it kept those supplies going. “Fortunately for us, the majority of our customers were still operating and accepting deliveries from our plants,” the CEO said. “We filled market gaps globally through our distribution network, and this helped strengthen our position during the pandemic.” All 3 make gains Of the business units, there were double-digit profit gains for the core cables and metals operations. * Ducab Cable Business (DCB), the largest unit, delivered a profit increase of 13 per cent, with a product sales volume of close to 80,000 conductor tonnes. * Ducab Metals Business (DMB) had a 33 per cent profit increase year-on-year. The metals operation includes Ducab Aluminium Company (DAC) and Ducab’s Copper Rod Factory. It sold close to 190,000 tonnes of products in 2020. * Ducab High Voltage (DHV) saw overall margins up by 42 per cent compared to the previous year. DHV, which is the first dedicated high voltage and extra-high voltage power cable manufacturing facility in the Middle East, sold nearly 6,000 tonnes of specialized high voltage cables. “In 2020, in particular, we have seen increased interest from markets such as Australia, the UK, India, and China,” the CEO said. “In addition, Ethiopia and Somalia, Maldives and Mauritius, and Philippines were we saw increased interest. “We export approximately 60 per cent of our overall production, which has grown over the years with both the cables and metals businesses expanding their footprint. In the past, it used to be around 50% each, but our exports have grown, with significant contributions from the copper rod and aluminum rod category.” And for this year, much of the same themes will again be focussed on, namely that of “business continuity”. “We continue to invest in upgrading our plants and equipment around the year - and capex (capital expenditure) as such has the full support of our shareholders as and when needed,” he added “Ducab is also keen to explore new markets and opportunities. We will continue to do this, especially as economies begin to rebound from the effects of COVID-19.” Change at the top At its last Board meeting, Ducab confirmed Jamal Salem Al Dhaheri as the new Chairman, in place of Dr. Ahmad Bin Hassan Al Shaikh, who served from 2019-2021. The chairmanship is rotated biannually between Ducab’s equal shareholders ADQ (through Senaat) and Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD). According to Al Shaikh, “The past year has offered us a lot of lessons. I am proud that we have remained resilient and determined to achieve our objectives, and delivered an exceptional performance last year."