The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 22

Qatar/China – “China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) and Qatar Petroleum officially signed a RMB20bn($2.86bn) contract for the construction of LNG carriers at CSSC Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding. It is the largest export LNG carrier construction contract a Chinese shipyard has ever received,” Seatrade Maritime News reports.

Russia/OPEC+ – “The Kremlin said on Wednesday that it was too early to draw any conclusions about possible additional steps to stem the slump in oil prices before the global deal agreed by the OPEC+ group takes effect on May 1. Oil prices slumped to less than $16 a barrel on Wednesday, hitting their lowest level since 1999, with the market awash with excess supply as the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic continues to hammer demand for fuels,” Reuters/Al-Arabiya reports.

Etihad/Virgin Australia – “Abu Dhabi’s Etihad was unable to provide financial assistance to Virgin Australia as a result of having to deal with its own pressures amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the airline said in a statement. On Tuesday, Virgin Australia – a major partner of Etihad’s – said that it had entered into voluntary administration after the Covid-19 crisis forced it into insolvency,” Arabian Business reports.

Oil Price – “Brent, the international oil benchmark, fell to the lowest level in more than two decades, a day after its US counterpart collapsed into negative territory. Brent, under which two-thirds of the world’s oil is traded, continued its decline from yesterday falling 13.55 per cent to trade at $16.71 per barrel at 11.18am UAE time, however it remains less volatile than West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark,” The National reports.

Sudan/Food Security – “Food security in Sudan faces new challenges as the government takes restrictive measures on stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus. The measures have greatly affected producers especially those working in the agriculture sector, which represents 44% of the Sudanese economy,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

UAE/Etisalat – “Etisalat Group on Wednesday reported a net profit of Dh2.2 billion for the first three months of 2020 (Q1) in their latest financial results, representing a two per cent decrease year on year. The company’s financial results also reported consolidated revenues of Dh13.1 billion, a one per cent increase compared to last year. The group’s revenue in the UAE was down three per cent to Dh7.6 billion, with the company attributing the fall to increased competition and slower economic activities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gulf News reports.

Turkey Economy – “Turkey’s economy is expected to contract this year for the first time in over a decade as the coronavirus pandemic slashes output through mid-year, and it’s unlikely to grow again until 2021, a Reuters poll showed on Tuesday. The median forecast of 40 economists was for a contraction of 1.4 percent in 2020, with drops in the second and third quarters of 8.6 percent and 5.3 percent respectively,” Reuters/Arab News reports.

Bahrain – “Bahrain will slash spending by ministries and government agencies by 30% to help the country weather the coronavirus outbreak, a cabinet statement said on Monday after meeting. The Gulf island state’s government will also reschedule some construction and consulting projects in order to keep spending within the 2020 budget and make room for other spending needs emerging as a result of the disease’s spread,” Reuters/Zawya reports.

Iran/S. Korea – “Industrial Bank of Korea, one of South Korea’s largest banks, will pay $86 million to settle US and New York state criminal and civil charges it allowed an illegal transfer of more than $1 billion to Iran that violated US sanctions. Authorities said on Monday that IBK entered a two-year deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice and a non-prosecution agreement with New York Attorney General Letitia James,” Financial Tribune reports.

Emirates Airline – “Emirates airline looks to set to keep its passenger flights grounded until July at the earliest, according to the latest routes data. While the Dubai carrier is currently operating repatriation flights to select destinations, the latest update on its planned routes show that regular passenger flights have been delayed until at least the start of Q3 this year,” Arabian Business reports.

Maroc Telecom – “Morocco’s main telecommunications company, Maroc Telecom (IAM), reported a 4% growth in total revenue in the first quarter of 2020. IAM’s revenue now stands at MAD 9.3 billion ($911 million), the group said in a press release on Monday, April 20,” Morocco World News reports.

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