The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional press – April 9

Oil/OPEC+ – “Top oil producers meeting later Thursday intend to cut production by between 10 and 15 million barrels per day, Kuwait’s Oil Minister Khaled al-Fadhel reportedly said. The talks between OPEC and other major producers come as oil languishes at near-two decade lows, with Russia and Saudi Arabia’s price war compounding slack demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” Arabian Business reports.

Lebanon/Debt – “Lebanon requires net external financing of $10 billion-$15 billion over the next five years to help it through its financial crisis, according to a draft government plan seen by Reuters. The draft plan, which is being discussed by the cabinet, marks the most comprehensive blueprint yet on tackling the crisis. In it, the plan is described as a “good basis” in case of negotiations with the IMF,” Reuters/Al-Bawaba reports.

Saudi/PIF – “Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has built up stakes in European oil firms, including about $200 million in Equinor ASA, as the kingdom navigates the coronavirus pandemic and plummeting crude prices. The Public Investment Fund amassed shares in Norway’s largest producer mostly through the open market last week. But it’s unclear exactly when the fund bought the holding or if it’s still buying.,” Bloomberg/Gulf News reports.

UAE/NMC – “The executive chairman of NMC Health, Faisal Belhoul, called for the administration process of the UAE’s biggest healthcare company to be conducted in an expedited manner with the goal of stabilising the company. NMC Health was placed into administration at a High Court ruling in London on Thursday following an application from Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, the company’s biggest creditor which is owed $981m (Dh3.6bn) from the company. Joint administrators from Alvarez & Marsal were appointed to handle the company’s affairs,” The National reports.

Egypt/Reserves – “The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) said that it has used US$5.4 billion from its foreign currency reserves during March due to the coronavirus crisis. The funds went to partially cover foreign portfolio investment outflows through the CBE’s foreign exchange repatriation mechanism, to accommodate for the domestic market’s foreign currency needs to import strategic goods, and for the repayment of external debt service obligations,” Egypt Independent reports.

Iran/Aviation – “Iranian airlines are estimated to have sustained 30,000 billion rials ($187 million) in losses by April 3, as coronavirus has halted flights within the country and abroad. Secretary of the Association of Iranian Airlines Maqsoud Asadi-Samani also said three airlines have grounded their entire fleet, Fars News Agency reported,” Financial Tribune reports.

Iraq/Politics – “Iraq’s president named intelligence chief Mustafa al-Kadhimi as prime minister-designate on Thursday, the third person tapped to lead the country in just 10 weeks as it struggles to replace a government that fell last year after months of deadly protests. Kadhimi was nominated by President Barham Salih, state television reported, shortly after the previous designated prime minister, Adnan al-Zurfi, announced he was withdrawing having failed to secure enough support to pass a government. Iraq, exhausted by decades of sanctions, war and political corruption now faces economic ruin, social unrest and a growing outbreak of the new coronavirus, all of which it must face with only a caretaker cabinet,” Baghdad Post reports.

Turkey/Growth – “The World Bank has projected Turkey’s economy to expand by 0.5% this year, 3 percentage points lower than the pre-coronavirus estimate. The uptick in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to be supported by “strong” government stimulus, the bank said in its Spring 2020 Economic Update for Europe and Central Asia late Wednesday,” Daily Sabah reports.

Morocco – “The European Investment Bank Group announced its financial support for the private sector in Morocco, notably through its credit lines with Moroccan financial institutions amounting to €440 million. The loan is intended to assist Morocco in addressing the impact of Covid-19 on the economy,” Morocco World News reports.

Tunisia/Covid-19 – “Tunisia’s parliament on Saturday ceded some powers to the North African country’s government for two months to help it handle the coronavirus crisis and the expected economic fallout, reported Reuters. The decision, backed by all political parties, will allow Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh’s government to issue decrees, strike purchasing agreements and seek finance without consulting parliament. Tunisia has 495 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 18 deaths, and has imposed a national lockdown until April 19 to slow its spread,” Middle East Monitor/Reuters reports.

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