The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 21
Oil Markets – “The day started like any other gloomy Monday in the oil market’s worst crisis in a generation. It ended with prices falling below zero, thrusting markets into a parallel universe where traders were willing to pay $40 a barrel just to get somebody to take crude off their hands,” Bloomberg/Gulf News reports.
Oil Markets – “US oil prices rebounded above zero Tuesday, a day after futures ended in negative territory for the first time as a coronavirus-triggered collapse in demand leaves the world awash in crude. In afternoon Asian trade, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for May delivery was changing hands at $1.67 a barrel after closing at -$37.63 in New York,” AFP/The Peninsula reports.
Dubai Expo – “The executive committee of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) has unanimously agreed to propose the postponement of Expo 2020 Dubai. The 12-delegate member states agreed to the request from the UAE Government that the global showcase be moved to run from October 1 2021 to March 31 2022, in light of the challenges posed by the current coronavirus pandemic,” Arabian Business reports.
Egypt Gas – “Egypt said it began production from two deepwater gas wells in the Mediterranean with output of 390 million cubic feet of gas and 1,400 barrels of gas condensate per day. The first well, Zohr-17, began production at the mammoth Zohr gas field after the completion of the digging in the field’s southern region, the petroleum ministry said in a statement on Tuesday,” Ahram Online reports.
Egypt Economy – “Egypt has lowered its growth target for fiscal year 2020-2021 to 3.5 percent, down from its original target of 5.8 percent, as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala al-Saed announced,” Egypt Independent reports.
Iran/Covid-19 – “Iran’s tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases neared 85,000 on Tuesday, as the country continued to report double-digit numbers of deaths, health officials said. Infections from the coronavirus disease rose by 1,297 to reach 84,802 and the death toll increased to 5,297, with 88 new deaths in the past 24 hours, Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour was quoted as saying by ISNA,” Financial Tribune reports.
Qatar Airways – “Qatar Airways on Tuesday said mid-level employees and above will have their salaries halved for at least three months but that staff would be back paid when the airline could afford it. Partially deferring salaries was a temporary measure that is expected to last for three months starting April, the airline said, though cautioned it could be extended ‘depending on the economic situation,'” Reuters/Al-Arabiya reports.
Emirates Airline – Afraid to catch the coronavirus on the plane? Emirates airline announced on Tuesday that social distancing requirements will now be observed aboard its commercial passenger flights to provide peace of mind to travelers during these uncertain times. All its cabin crew will also wear personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes a safety visor, masks, gloves, and a disposable gown worn over their uniforms,” Zawya reports.
Algeria – Algerians are watching the collapse of oil prices with alarm as the energy markets on which the North African nation relies for most of its export revenues have been plunged into turmoil by the coronavirus crisis.The oil and gas producer has burnt through more than half its foreign currency reserves since 2014, when an earlier oil price rout began, while this year’s budget outlined a 9% cut in spending but was based on oil prices double today’s levels,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.
GCC Equities – “The UAE and other Gulf equity markets plummeted on Tuesday after an unprecedented fall in the US oil price the previous day. Dubai Financial Market was down 2.3 per cent with 26 out of 28 scrips trading in the negative territory. The decline was led by Dubai Islamic Bank, Emaar Properties, Gulf Navigation, Damac Properties and Amanat,” Khaleej Times reports.
Etihad/Virgin Australia – “Etihad was unable to provide a financial lifeline to Virgin Australia because of the pressures created by the coronavirus pandemic on its own business, the Abu Dhabi-based airline has said. Virgin Australia on Tuesday said it had entered voluntary administration after the COVID-19 crisis forced it into insolvency. The airline is a major codeshare partner of Etihad and a major contributor to stopover travel through Abu Dhabi for long-haul east-west travel,” Arab News reports.