Leading business stories from the MENA region from the pages of the regional press

Oil/OPEC+ – “Oil producers will find it challenging to reach an agreement at a virtual meeting of Opec+ producers as deeper cuts for oil-revenue dependent economies could come at a high economic cost, analysts say. The Opec+ alliance headed by Saudi Arabia and Russia is set to meet on Thursday after US President Donald Trump lobbied them to consider cutting back 10 to 15 million barrels per day of output,” The National reports.

Saudi Arabia/Covid-19 – “Saudi Arabia’s health minister on Tuesday warned of a huge spike in coronavirus cases of up to 200,000 within weeks, state media reported. The warning comes a day after the kingdom extended the duration of daily curfews in multiple cities, including the capital Riyadh, to 24 hours in a bid to limit the spread of the deadly virus,” Arabian Business reports.

Private Equity/Tim Horton’s – “Dubai-based private equity firm Gateway Partners has acquired a 40 percent stake in the Gulf franchise of coffee and breakfast chain Tim Hortons, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Gateway Partners, which is led by former Standard Chartered banker Viswanathan Shankar, paid about $50 million for the holding, the sources, who declined to be named, said,” Reuters/Arab News reports.

Iran/Equities – “The benchmark Tehran Stock Exchange index managed to break above its all-time highs just before the Iranian fiscal year ended March 19. The annual total return reached a whopping 187%, registering the highest annual growth in the exchange’s existence. Interestingly, the equal-weighted index, the barometer applied to measure the performance of micro-size listed companies, rocketed up during the same period by 437%. This all occurred at the same time that the activity of firms faced macroeconomic risks due to major setbacks facing the overall Iranian economy,” Al-Monitor reports.

Iran/IMF Loan – “President Hassan Rouhani pressed harder on Wednesday for a $5 billion emergency IMF loan Iranhas sought to fight the Middle East’s worst coronavirus outbreak, saying the Fund would be guilty of discrimination if it withholds the money. Rouhani also said some businesses will remain closed until further notice, after the authorities announced last week that they will begin to ease a shut-down order from April 11,” The Baghdad Post/Reuters reports.

Morocco/IMF – “Morocco is about to tap into a $3 billion precautionary liquidity line, offered by the IMF in 2018 to help the country face external shocks, Moroccan media reported,” The North Africa Post reports.

Kuwait – “Credit rating agency Fitch has affirmed Kuwait’s long-term foreign-currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘AA’ with a stable outlook. ‘Kuwait’s key credit strengths are its exceptionally strong fiscal and external balance sheets. These are increasingly offset by Kuwait’s institutional paralysis and slow pace in addressing growing public finance challenges stemming from heavy oil dependence,’ it said in its report. Fitch estimated the foreign assets of the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) at around $529 billion at the end of the fiscal year ending March 2020 (FY19/20), accounting for the bulk of Kuwait’s sovereign net foreign asset position of 472% of GDP which is the highest of any Fitch-rated sovereign,” Al-Bawaba reports.

Egypt/Reserves – “Egypt’s net international reserves (NIR) dropped to $40,108 billion as of end of March, down from $45,510 billion at the end of February, according to Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) data released late Tuesday. The CBE attributed to decline to the unprecedented blow to global financial markets arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the sharpest portfolio flow reversal on record from emerging markets, including the Egyptian market,” ahramonline reports.

UAE/NMC – “NMC Health getting placed in administration by a UK court order would be the ‘worst-case scenario’ for the company’s future, according to the hospital operator’s Executive Chairman,” Gulf News reports.

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