The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 17

Abu Dhabi Ports – Abu Dhabi Ports has zoomed into the dry bulk shipping sector, sealing its first bulk carrier acquisition with remote closing via videoconference,” Splash247 reports.

GCC/Coronavirus – “Countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council are stepping up their use of artificial intelligence tools to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Governments throughout the GCC have enacted some of world’s strictest measures, including suspending passenger flights and imposing curfews on citizens to put brakes on the number of new cases of Covid-19 that currently total over 2 million (2,064,115) globally, according to Johns Hopkins University data,” CNBC reports.

Etihad Airways – “Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways plans to start scheduled passenger services on May 1 under a reduced schedule to remain in place until June 30, subject to the status of United Arab Emirates travel restrictions, the company announced Thursday. Meanwhile, Etihad has revised the launch date of its inaugural service to Vienna from May 22 to July 1. Etihad continues to operate a growing schedule of repatriation flights and special cargo services carrying perishables, pharmaceuticals, and medical supplies. The airline has repatriated nearly 600 UAE nationals on return services,” Aviation International News reports.

Lebanon – “Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Thursday said that 98 per cent of depositors will be left unscathed by an economic rescue plan that has been criticised because it proposes to use deposits to cover huge losses. A draft plan that emerged last week provided the most detailed blueprint yet on how Lebanon would try to pull itself from a financial crisis that sank its currency and led to a sovereign default,” The National reports.

Saudi/Ramadan – “Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in the country, said that Muslim prayers during Ramadan and for the subsequent Eid al-Fitr feast should be performed at home if the coronavirus outbreak continues, Saudi’s Okaz newspaper reported on Friday,” Reuters reports.

Iran Economy – “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the Islamic Republic’s net debt to reach 33.8 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, up 22.5 percent compared with the previous year. IMF’s report released on Wednesday, April 15, a day after the publication of its World Economic Outlook, says that Iran’s GDP will be about $ 439.2 billion this year. Last year, that figure was nearly $ 491 billion,” Radio Farda reports.

Oil Price – “Oil could end the week below $20 a barrel for the first time since 2002 after a wave of gloomy demand forecasts suggested that a deal among the world’s biggest producers to curb output won’t be sufficient to sustain a price rally,” Bloomberg/Gulf News reports.

Saudi Crude/Asia – “Asian refiners have emerged as the big winners from Saudi Arabia’s latest official selling prices for its oil exports, according to energy analysts at WoodMac. Recently announces selling prices for May reflect the importance of Asian customers it said in a report released on Thursday,” AFP/Arab News reports.

OPEC+ – “Saudi Arabia and Russia are prepared to take further measures jointly with OPEC+ and other producers on oil market if deemed necessary, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in a joint statement with his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak after a phone call between the two on Thursday. ‘Our two countries have worked diligently with the other OPEC+ countries and other producers to achieve a historic agreement to stabilize the oil market,’ the statement read according to Saudi state news agency SPA,” Al-Arabiya English reports.

Tunisia – “Tunisia’s foreign currency reserves have risen to 22.3 billion dinars ($7.7 billion), the equivalent of 131 days of imports, official figures showed on Thursday, benefiting from about $1 billion of recent loans and aid to counter the effects of the coronavirus. Foreign exchange reserves were 14.3 billion dinars a year ago, equal to only 83 days of imports, the central bank said,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Africa Jobs – “The coronavirus outbreak could affect a third of the 440 million formal and informal jobs in Africa as lockdowns across the continent deprive people in the world’s poorest continent of the means to make a living, according to McKinsey & Co. Between 9 million and 18 million of the continent’s 140 million formal jobs could be lost as a result of the crisis, McKinsey said in its Finding Africa’s Path report. A further 30 million to 35 million could see a reduction in wages and working hours. One hundred million of the 300 million informal jobs on the continent are at risk, it said,” Bloomberg/Al-Arabiya English reports.


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