Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 14

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 14

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional press – April 14

Morocco – “State fund CDG said that the losses due to coronavirus could amount to $5.4 billion with Morocco expecting a recession in 2020,” The North Africa Post reports.

Bahrain/Investcorp – “Investcorp, a Bahrain-headquartered global alternative investment manager, has announced the first closing at $275 million, of its Asia food brands private equity platform. The platform is jointly owned and managed by Investcorp, China Resources, one of the world’s largest owners and distributors of food brands in Greater China and Fung Strategic Holdings Limited, a member of Fung Investments, the private investment arm of the families of Victor and William Fung,” Asharq Alawsat reports.

Saudi Arabia/E-Commerce – “Online payments in the Kingdom jumped by more than 400 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported — an indication of a significant shift toward online shopping in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. The number of online payments reached 7.3 million, valued at SR1.79 billion ($475.81 million),” Arab News reports.

Oman/Budget – “Oman’s finance ministry has told all government agencies to cut their operating budgets by at least 10 percent this year to counter a slide in oil prices, including by reviewing salaries and benefits. The move comes after the government cut the budget allocated to government agencies for 2020 by 5 percent last month in response to the financial challenges the oil-exporting nation faces,” Reuters/Al-Arabiya reports.

Syria/Remittances – “As much of the world remains confined to their houses, Syrians in the diaspora are struggling to generate income and find ways to send money back home. ‘I’ve been trying to send my family $300 for weeks now, but can’t figure out how,’ a Syrian from Damascus who is living in Jordan and asked for their name not to be mentioned told Syria Direct. Usually, the Damascene would ask a friend traveling to Syria to transport the money for them, but after the closure of the Syria-Jordan border crossing, that is no longer an option,” Syria Direct reports.

Iran/Covid-19 – “Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak in the country has reached 4683, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement on state TV. Ninety-eight people have died in the past 24 hours, he said,” Reuters reports.

UAE/Aviation – “Air Arabia and Etihad have no plans to delay the launch of a low-cost Abu Dhabi-based airline in a joint venture – but the timing will depend on market conditions, an Air Arabia spokesman said on Tuesday. Air Arabia Chief Executive Adel Ali said in November that the airline would be operational in the second quarter of 2020. However, the new coronavirus outbreak has since brought international travel to a near halt,” Reuters/Gulf News reports.

UAE/Retail – Dubai-based retail giant Majid Al Futtaim, which operates Mall of the Emirates, has waived rent fees for its tenants for the duration of the Covid-19 government mandated store closures. In a statement to Arabian Business, it said it is keen to help retailers retain working capital while the shopping malls are closed,” Arabian Business reports.

Jordan – “Jordan’s banks responded to central bank calls to cut interest rates charged to small and medium sized firms and individuals feeling the effects of the coronavirus crisis on Monday with a 1.5 per cent reduction from the end of April. Monday’s interest rate move announced by Jordan’s Banking Association, which represents commercial banks, follows prodding by the central bank after monetary authorities cut key benchmark interest rates in mid-March to 2.5 per cent from 3.5 per cent,” Reuters/The National reports.

Regional/Sukuk – “The sukuk market will see a significant reduction in issuance volumes in 2020. The drop in oil prices and restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic will take a toll on important sectors in core Islamic finance countries, including in real estate, hospitality, and consumer-related businesses, S&P Global Ratings noted yesterday The rating agency believes that government measures will result in lower issuance from both corporate entities and central banks. In addition,  most government issuers may turn to conventional bond markets rather than issue sukuk as they grapple with the impact of weaker economic environment on their budgets,” The Peninsula reports.

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 11-13

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 11-13

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional press – April 11-13

Egypt/Tourism – “Egypt’s Minister of Planning Hala El-Said said on Monday that tourism revenues in the current fiscal year (2019/2020) are expected to reach about $11 billion instead of the $16 billion expected before the outbreak of the coronavirus. The minister did note, however, that a degree of growth rate recovery is expected by the second half of the upcoming fiscal year,” Ahram Online reports.

Oil Prices – “The minimal impact on oil prices from a global deal for record output cuts showed that oil producers have a mountain to climb if they are to restore market balance as the coronavirus shreds demand and sends stockpiles soaring, industry watchers said. After several days of deliberation, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies led by Russia hammered out an agreement to cut output by 9.7 million barrels per day in May and June, equal to nearly 10% of global supply. Other major producers like the United States and Canada gave indirect commitments to cuts as well, playing up forecasts for drastic production declines in coming months due to the free-fall in prices,” Reuters reports.

Saudi Arabia/Ports – “The Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) said on Monday it had signed an agreement worth more than $1.9 billion with Saudi Global Ports (SGP) to build and operate container terminals at a port in Dammam. SGP will build, operate and transfer the container terminals on a 30-year contract. The project will increase the capacity at King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam by more than 120 percent to reach 7.5 million containers and add more than 4,000 jobs in the ports and logistical sectors, the Saudi Minister of Transport Saleh Al-Jasser said,” Arab News reports.

Saudi/Egypt/Vodafone – “Saudi Telecom Co, the kingdom’s biggest telecoms operator, said on Monday it needed more time to complete processes related to a planned deal to buy Vodafone Group’s 55 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt. Saudi Telecom in January struck a preliminary deal to buy the stake for US $2.4 billion, seeking growth in the Arab world’s most populous nation,” Reuters/Egypt Independent reports.

Saudi Arabia –  “Saudi Arabia’s oil revenue could decline by 145 billion Saudi riyals based on an oil price of $40 per barrel for the benchmark WTI crude, said Al Rajhi Capital in a report Monday. After multiple rounds of meetings, OPEC+ and other oil producing nations decided to cut oil production by record levels to help balance oil market. As per the decision, around 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) will be cut, starting from 1 May 2020 for two months. Thereafter, from July to December 2020, the cut will taper to approximately 7.6 million bpd. From January 2021 to April 2022 the cut would be approximately 5.6 million bpd,” Zawya reports.

MENA Oil Consumption – “The Middle East’s consumption of oil products from gasoline to jet fuel will add to pressures on global oil demand for this year as countries led by the energy-dependent Gulf region face economic slowdown, extended lockdowns and an oil price crash that will slam budgets already constrained by the coronavirus pandemic. Demand for oil products in the region will drop by a record 2.9% this year, with jet fuel/kerosene consumption plunging 15% and gasoline use falling by almost 6%, according to latest estimates from S&P Global Platts Analytics. The region covering 14 countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Iran had contributed to global oil demand growth in 27 of the past 29 years. This year, global oil demand is set to contract for the first time in 11 years,” S&P Global Platt’s reports.

UAE/NMC – “NMC Health, which has been placed under a UK court-appointed administration, announced on Monday the formation of a new board of directors that has been entrusted with the immediate priority of implementing corporate governance changes in the group.
Richard Fleming, Mark Firmin and Ben Cairns of Alvarez & Marsal Europe, the joint administrators, have appointed four new non-executive directors with broad international restructuring experience to provide more robust governance and oversee the work with the management teams in the individual NMC businesses,” Khaleej Times reports.

Iran/Covid-19 – “President Hassan Rouhani said the ban on inter-province travels placed to curb coronavirus transmission will be lifted on April 20, as Iran’s daily infection tally declines. During the meeting of the coronavirus taskforce chaired by Rouhani on Sunday, the president announced that restrictions on road trips across Iran’s 31 provinces will be removed starting next Monday, President.ir reported,” Financial Tribune reports.

Saudi/Asia Spot Price – “Saudi Arabia’s state oil giant Aramco has set the May price for its Arab light crude oil to Asia at a discount of $7.3 to the Oman/Dubai average, down $4.2 a barrel from April, according to a document seen by Reuters on Monday,” Reuters/Al-Arabiya reports.

Libya/OPEC – “OPEC is to exempt Libya from a plan to slow down oil production for a period of two months, starting next May, due to the production lost through the closure of ports and fields by pro-Haftar militias east of Libya,” Libya Observer reports.

Iraq/Electricity – “The Iraqi government on Sunday announced it was taking ‘measures’ regarding national electricity production in preparation for increased demand in the summer months ahead. Over 16 years after the fall of the Saddam Hussein-led regime, the Iraqi government is yet to address low electricity supply in the country. Baghdad meets a part of its demand by purchasing resources it needs to supply its power plants from its neighbors like Iran,” Kurdistan24 reports.

Algeria – Algeria faces economic and social turmoil if crude prices continue to collapse, experts have warned, with the oil-dependent country reeling from a year of popular protests, political turmoil and now, coronavirus. The North African country is an example of how hydrocarbon economies are likely to face unrest if oil prices remain at near two-decade lows due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a price war between key players Saudi Arabia and Russia,” AFP/Gulf News reports.

East Asia Business Telegraph Weekly – April 12

East Asia Business Telegraph Weekly – April 12

A weekly round-up of leading business/economic stories shaping East Asia from the pages of the regional press – April 12

Aviation/Air Asia – “The founders of AirAsia Group Bhd will not take salaries and its staff has agreed to an as much as 75% cut in pay due to the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the airline, its chief executive said late on Saturday. Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said in an Instagram post that he and Executive Chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun ‘will not be taking a salary during this period,’ while staff from across the business ‘have accepted temporary pay reductions of anywhere between 15-75%, depending on seniority, to share the impact this is having on our business.’ The budget airline has no incoming revenue and 96% of its fleet is grounded, Fernandes said,” Reuters/Edge Markets Malaysia reports.

Japan/Uniqlo – “Fast Retailing, owner of casual clothing chain Uniqlo, forecast a 44% fall in full-year (September-August) profit after the coronavirus outbreak hit sales in China and dealt a setback to its ambitions of conquering the U.S. and European markets. The pandemic briefly disrupted Uniqlo’s supply chain throughout China and forced it to shut over half of its 750 stores in the country, the company’s biggest growth market in recent years. ‘This is the biggest crisis for humanity since the end of the war,’ CEO Tadashi Yanai told a news conference on Thursday,” Japan Today reports.

China/Autos – “China’s passenger car market saw a strong month-on-month rebound in March as business resumption gained momentum amid further containment of the novel coronavirus epidemic. Retail sales surged more than 300 percent from February to 1.04 million units, and 90 percent of dealers were back on track for services and mostly online sales, the China Passenger Car Association said yesterday,” Shanghai Daily reports.

China/Hubei – “Chinese e-commerce giant JD announced it will invest more than 6 billion yuan ($849 million) in Hubei, the hardest-hit region by the COVID-19 outbreak on the Chinese mainland, over the next three years. The investment is part of a bid to help boost the economic recovery and development of local small and medium-sized enterprises in the area,” China Daily reports.

Shipping – “Container shipping companies are cancelling sailings and merging routes to cut losses and stay afloat amid a drop in demand and a worsening outlook for global trade because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of “blanked” or cancelled sailings rose last week from 45 to 212, according to a report by shipping consultancy Sea-Intelligence on Monday. The report added that the largest capacity withdrawal was from the Asia-Europe routes, where 29 to 34 per cent of capacity has been removed,” The South China Morning Post reports.

World Trade – “Global trade could plummet by a third this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the World Trade Organization said Wednesday, warning the deepest recession ‘of our lifetimes’ could be on the horizon. ‘COVID-19 has completely upended the global economy and with it international trade,’ WTO chief Roberto Azevedo told reporters in a virtual briefing from Geneva. The global trade body was projecting that ‘trade in 2020 will fall steeply in every region of the world, and basically across all sectors of the economy.’ he said,” AFP/Jakarta Post reports.

S. Korea/Doosan – “Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction, as we know, is in deep financial trouble. The company, which has staggered through years of growing losses, has finally reached out to the government for help. Its ballooning debt level and lack of new contracts have taken a toll on the Doosan Group, the 15th largest conglomerate in Korea, with even distant affiliates taking hits to their credit ratings. For the past several years, good news has been hard to come by at Doosan Heavy Industries. Domestic energy policies have turned away from coal and nuclear power — historically, the construction firm’s bread and butter. Similarly, the international company has suffered from a global shift toward renewable energy sources and pivoted away from traditional ones.” Korea JoongAng Daily reports.

S. Korea/KIA – “Kia Motors Corp., South Korea’s second-biggest carmaker, is considering temporarily suspending some of its plants in the country later this month due to the fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic, industry sources said Sunday. It is planning to halt operations of three factories — two in Gwangmyeong, south of Seoul, and one in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul — from April 23-29, according to the sources. The company runs nine domestic manufacturing facilities, including one as a joint venture. The three plants produce most of Kia Motors’ export vehicles, including the Sportage and Soul,” The Korea Herald reports.

Indonesia/Coronavirus – “Indonesia has imposed curbs on public transport ahead of the annual exodus to home villages that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the government said on Sunday. About 75 million Indonesians usually stream home from bigger cities at the end of Ramadan, due this year at the end of May, but health experts have warned against a surge in cases after a slow government response masked the scale of the outbreak,” Reuters reports.

Taiwan – “If the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic lasts beyond the summer, Taiwan could find it hard to see its economy grow by even just 1 percent, business leaders said Friday (April 10). Most forecasts from before the pandemic saw Taiwan’s Gross Domestic Product expand by at least 2 percent during 2020, though as the virus started affecting more countries, economists and institutes started adjusting the figure downward to just above or under 2 percent,” Taiwan News reports.

Aviation/Vietnam/Cambodia – Vietnam’s national flag carrier is divesting its stake in Cambodia Angkor Air and has also signed a contract to sell five aircraft. This information was revealed in post-audit notes to Vietnam Airlines’ audited 2019 consolidated financial statement released Friday, which explains how the company has been impacted by the Covid-19 epidemic this year,” VN Express reports.

Singapore/Digital Payments – “The coronavirus pandemic is likely to help drive digital payments’ adoption in Singapore, with non-cash payments expected to take a 54% market share in 2020, a report by GlobalData revealed. Coupled with the support of the government, cashless payments are expected to grow exponentially in the country, eventually taking more than half of market share at 61% in 2023,” Singapore Business review reports.

Philippines/Coronavirus – “The number of Covid-19 cases in the country soared to 4,648 as the death toll also rose to 297, with the highest number of deaths so far in a day – 50 — reported. In a virtual presser, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that as of 4p.m. Sunday (April 12), the Department of Health (DOH) reported 220 new cases (PH4,429-PH4,648),” Business Mirror reports.

Petrochemicals – “Energy traders have chartered at least ten clean tankers to load refined products — primarily the blendstock naphtha — in the Americas this month for shipment to Asia, where Covid-19 containment measures are loosening and petrochemical plants are starting up,” Argus reports.


Indian Ocean Business Times Weekly – April 10

Indian Ocean Business Times Weekly – April 10

Top business stories from countries across the Indian Ocean region: Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Pakistan, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, UAE and Yemen. Collectively, they account for 35% of the world’s population and nearly 20% of global GDP.

Pakistan/Capital Flight – “Over 79 per cent of all foreign investment in the country’s capital markets — including bonds and equities — has fled the country in the last 40 days. The State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) latest data issued on Thursday showed the pace of outflows from the country’s treasury bills, Pakistan Investment Bonds (PIBs) and equity markets has accelerated,” Dawn reports.

Pakistan/IMF – “Pakistan is going to get $1.4 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next week to boost its foreign exchange reserves and get some budgetary support in the wake of the economic slowdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government requested the IMF last month for a low-cost, fast-disbursing loan under the fund’s Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to deal with the adverse economic impact of COVID-19,” Financial Daily reports.

India/Coronavirus– “Despite India reporting nearly 200 COVID-19 deaths in last one month, the country’s death rate of about 3% is lower than the global rate, and also much lower than several European countries like the UK, Italy and Spain, according to some medical experts. India had reported its first COVID-19 death from Karnataka on 10 March. Suggesting that a relatively young Indian population may be one of the reasons for the low mortality rate due to the pandemic, experts have attributed the high number of fatalities in countries like Italy and Spain to their elderly population which are more susceptible to developing complications after contracting the infection,” LiveMint India reports.

India – “As many as 400 million Indians, including migrant workers and daily wage earners, are at risk of being pushed deeper into poverty because of the covid-19 pandemic, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said. The Geneva-based body’s warning comes at a time when the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across India and a complete relaxation of the lockdown post April 14 looks bleak,” LiveMint India reports

Sri Lanka/Hambantota – “Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port, run by China’s CM Ports group said it has stocked up on bunkering fuel to supplyto supply ships passing the island as the global shipping industry is hit by the fallout of Coronavirus. Bunkering operations are run with Chinese petroleum firm Sinopec,” EconomyNext reports.

India/Tycoons – “The only Indian tycoon whose net worth is unscathed as the deadly coronavirus roils markets worldwide can thank nation’s hoarders with millions scrambling to stock up on staples amid the world’s biggest isolation effort. The net worth of Radhakishan Damani, who controls Avenue Supermarts Ltd., has surged 5% this year to $10.2 billion, singling him out as the only billionaire with gains among the 12 richest Indians whose wealth is tracked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Shares of Avenue Supermarts, which contribute nearly all of the wealth to Damani’s net worth, have advanced 18% this year,” Hindustan Times reports.

Bangladesh/IMF  – “Bangladesh is seeking $700 million in financial backing from the International Monetary Fund after rolling out its biggest-ever stimulus package. The government hopes the move will prevent the coronavirus pandemic from ravaging its trademark macroeconomic stability,” Nikkei Asian Review reports.

Australia/N. Zealand – “Australia and neighboring New Zealand, almost unique among anglophone countries, have so far been successful in largely suppressing the spread of Covid-19 within their countries, and in particular, keeping deaths low. Australia, with a population of 25 million, has had just over 6,000 infections, and 50 deaths. New Zealand, a country of 5 million people, which closed its borders the day before Australia, has had 1,200 infections and so far only one death from Covid-19,” The Guardian reports.

Oil Markets – “Opec and non-Opec oil producing countries at a crucial ministerial meeting held via a video conference on Thursday agreed to slash oil output by a massive 10 million bpd until July, and a further eight million bpd cut through the end of 2020. And after much wrangling, Mexico – the lone nation resisting any deal during the marathon talks – finally agreed, thanks to intervention from US President Donald Trump, who  “generously” agreed to cut American oil output by an additional 250,000 bpd to help Mexico contribute to global reductions, his Mexican counterpart said,” Dubai-based Khaleej Times reports.

World Trade – “The decline in world trade due to Covid-19 will likely exceed the trade slump brought by the global financial crisis of 2008‑09, the World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Wednesday, with merchandise trade expected to decline 13-32% in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. ‘These numbers are ugly – there is no getting around that,’ said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdh,” Economic Times of India reports.

Iran/IMF – “Iranian authorities have called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to accelerate processing Tehran’s request for an emergency loan which it requires for fighting a pandemic. The governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Abdolnaser Hemmati said on Thursday that the IMF is expected to consider Iran’s request for a $5 billion loan under its Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI), a mechanism which is available to all member countries facing an urgent balance of payments need,” Iran Daily reports.

Indonesia/Food Supply – “Food supply in Indonesia could be put at risk during the coronavirus pandemic as fewer farmworkers might be available to work the country’s rice fields while the government might also find it hard to import other staple food as exporting countries withhold supplies for domestic use, a local economic think tank has warned,” Jakarta Globe reports.

East Africa/Locusts – “The locust WhatsApp hotline has been pinging nonstop as farmers and herders across large swathes of rural Kenya send in video clips of massive swarms flying overhead, blocking the light of the sun like a Biblical plague. This infestation of desert locusts first arrived in East Africa last June, feeding on hundreds of thousands of hectares of crops and pastureland and chomping a path of destruction through at least eight countries (Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan). Scientists say these devastating insects never left East Africa: in fact, favorable wet conditions due to above average rainfall this season means they are likely to achieve two generations of new breeding by June this year, increasing their population size up to 400 times,” Quartz Africa reports

Kenya/Safaricom – “Peter Ndegwa has started his tenure as Safaricom chief executive officer with a vote of confidence from investors after the company’s stock gained 1.7 per cent on his first day in office. A day after the telco closed its financial year that ends on March 31, Mr Ndegwa heads a company that is the heartbeat of trading at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) and which must keep re-inventing to maintain its position as East Africa’s most profitable company,” The East African reports.

Oil Market – “Oil market fundamentals have reached ‘horrifying’ levels following the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, with global storage capacity expected to be exhausted by May, Opec’s secretary-general told ministers at an emergency meeting on Thursday. ‘The supply and demand fundamentals are horrifying; the expected excess supply volumes on the market, particularly in the [second quarter of 2020], are beyond anything we have seen before,’ Mohammed Barkindo said in his opening remarks at a virtual conference of Opec and non-Opec producers,” Abu Dhabi-based The National reports.

Thailand – “Shutdowns from the pandemic could trigger a tsunami of job losses in Thailand especially for employees who don’t have a regular salary, low-paid workers and people without a written contract. The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) says that as much as 7 million workers could be out of a job by June because of shutdowns from the pandemic,” Thailand Business News reports.

Malaysia – “Growth in private consumption will likely drop sharply, due mainly to the movement control order (MCO), which was imposed since March 18 following the Covid-19 pandemic, BIMB Securities Research said. In a report issued on Friday, it said from a short-term point of view, flagging consumer sentiments due to the virus outbreak will weigh on private consumption,” Kuala Lumpur-based Star reports.

Sri Lanka/Reserves – “Sri Lanka’s gross official reserves were 7.5 billion US dollars (USD7,525.7mn) by the end of March, down from 7.9 billion US dollars in February, the latest Central Bank data showed. By the end of March, the foreign currency reserves were 7,119.1 million dollars while the reserve position in the IMF was 65.3 million dollars,” Lanka Business Online reports.

S. Africa/Eskom – “Debt-stricken power company Eskom told investors it does not need to approach the government for more support, even as a Covid-19-related national shutdown slashes revenue. The company needs to raise R89bn this year and R56bn of that will come from an existing state bailout, CEO Andre de Ruyter and CFO Calib Cassim said on the call, according to investors who listened to it,” South Africa’s Business Day reports.

S. Africa/Coronavirus – “South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa and ministers will take a 33% pay cut for the next three months, and the money will be diverted towards social and economic relief measures to help the country weather the Covid-19 pandemic. Ramaphosa on Thursday said the country would extend its original 21-day national lockdown, instituted on Mar. 27, until the end of April,” Quartz Africa reports.

Seychelles/Coronavirus – “Seychelles will from midnight on Wednesday shut down non-essential services and restrict the movements of people for 21 days to prevent the spread of Covid-19. All shops including restaurants, take-away-food outlets will remain closed except grocery stores and pharmaceuticals the statement said.The announcement comes after a 26-year-old Seychellois man, who works as a ground handling staff at the international airport, tested positive for coronavirus on Monday, bringing the nation’s total cases to 11,” CGTN reports.

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 10

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 10

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional press – April 10

MENA/Growth – “The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is facing a 3.7 percent contraction in gross domestic product (GDP) this year because of twin hits from the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of demand for oil, the World Bank is forecasting. The fall in GDP, which amounts to about $116 billion off the region’s economies, has accelerated from the 2.1 percent downturn the bank estimated just last month. In October 2019, the bank said Middle East economies would grow by 2.6 percent this year,” Arab News reports.

Oil Market – “Oil market fundamentals have reached ‘horrifying’ levels following the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, with global storage capacity expected to be exhausted by May, Opec’s secretary-general told ministers at an emergency meeting on Thursday. ‘The supply and demand fundamentals are horrifying; the expected excess supply volumes on the market, particularly in the [second quarter of 2020], are beyond anything we have seen before,’ Mohammed Barkindo said in his opening remarks at a virtual conference of Opec and non-Opec producers,” The National reports.

Oil/OPEC+ – “An agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia for record oil-production cuts was endangered late as Mexico refused to participate in the curbs and left the meeting without approving the deal. The impasse, which came after more than 9 hours of talks via video link, cast doubt over a global effort to revive the oil market from a debilitating coronavirus-induced slump. The OPEC+ group won’t cut output without Mexico’s participation and doesn’t intend to meet again on Friday, instead focusing on talks at the G-20 gathering also scheduled that day,” Bloomberg/Gulf News reports.

UAE/NMC – “Just two years after its market value soared to more than $10 billion, NMC Health Plc was placed in administration by a London court as the troubled health-care provider succumbed to creditor demands. NMC, the Middle East’s largest hospital operator, will be run by administrators Alvarez & Marsal, Judge Sebastian Prentis said via videoconference Thursday. It’s a boost for state-owned Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC, which is owed $963 million. It had pushed for administration in a bid to get management to relinquish control,” Bloomberg/Arabian Business reports.

Region/IMF – “IMF funding aimed at helping countries hit by coronavirus will likely go to oil importing countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region – which include Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Tunisia – as well as oil exporters Iran and Iraq, according to a new report from MUFG Bank. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is moving to provide aid to counter the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shutdown economies across the world and caused a massive hit to global industries such as tourism and aviation. On top of the 70,000 people killed so far, the virus has necessitated lockdown measures, which are likely to cause a recession that will dwarf the 2008 financial crisis,” Al-Arabiya reports. 

Iran/IMF – “Iranian authorities have called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to accelerate processing Tehran’s request for an emergency loan which it requires for fighting a pandemic. The governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Abdolnaser Hemmati said on Thursday that the IMF is expected to consider Iran’s request for a $5 billion loan under its Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI), a mechanism which is available to all member countries facing an urgent balance of payments need,” Iran Daily reports.

Lebanon/Inflation – “Inflation in Lebanon in the month of February 2020 alone reached 11.4 percent as the prices of basic commodities surged to alarming levels, according to the Consultation and Research Institute,” The Daily Star of Lebanon reports.

N. Africa – “The African Development Bank (AfDB) has set up a new $10 billion facility to help ameliorate the negative impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on the continent. In a statement, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina said that the fund would include $5.5 billion for sovereign operations in the countries where the bank operates, and $3.1 billion for sovereign and regional operations in countries that benefit from the African Development Fund, the AfDB’s arm for fragile countries. An additional $1.35 billion will be for private sector operations,” Ahram Online reports.

Tunisia/Libya Logistics – “A cargo shipping line between Tunisia and Libya is to be launched in the second week of April, Tunisia’s Ministry of Transport and Logistics revealed. The service is for Tunisian goods destined for Libya but currently stalled due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) curfews and border closures in both countries,” Libya Herald reports.

Saudi/Shipping – “Partial completion of International Maritime Industry’s (IMI) vast new shipyard, within the King Salman International Complex for Maritime Industries and Services in Ras Al Khair on Saudi Arabia’s east coast may not be due until late this year of early next, but this has not held up the start of operational activities, including newbuild rig, ship and repair projects with shareholders and third parties according to Julian Panter, IMI’s Vice President of Business Development,” Sea Trade Maritime News reports.

The Red Sea Economic Times – April 9

The Red Sea Economic Times – April 9

Business and Economic News from the Red Sea region and littoral states Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Eritrea, Djibouti from regional, international, and industry media – April 9, 2020

Suez Shipping – “The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) is introducing new and enhanced toll rebates for containerships and LNG carriers.For containerships on the backhaul from Northwest Europe, including the Med ports of Tangier and Algeciras transiting the Suez Canal and heading direct for southeast Asia calling Port Klang, Malaysia eastwards will be granted a 6% reduction in tolls,” Sea Trade Maritime News reports.

Yemen Cease-Fire – “A unilateral two-week ceasefire called by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has come into effect. The coalition said it wanted to support UN efforts for a political solution and help stop coronavirus spread, though no cases have been reported in Yemen. UN Secretary General António Guterres welcomed the move,” BBC News reports.

Saudi Arabia Oil/OPEC+ – “Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed in principle Thursday on a deal to carry out the biggest organized oil-production cuts in decades, after a month-long feud and drop in due to the coronavirus crisis devastated oil prices. Prices shot higher ahead of the announcement before abruptly losing momentum and shedding most of their gains on a day of volatile trading. U.S. crude was up 3.4% at $25.95 a barrel and Brent crude oil was last up 3.2% at $33.91 a barrel, having earlier been up 10%,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Egypt/Eritrea – “There have been unconfirmed reports that Egypt may be moving close to an agreement with Eritrea, with which ties have been warming in recent years, to host a new Egyptian naval base on Nora island. Cairo traditionally dismissed the idea of overseas regional bases owing to political sensitivities but has been investing in a new strategy to bolster its maritime power,” Arab Weekly 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.

Sudan Dam Diplomacy – “The Sudanese Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Yasser Abbas said on Tuesday that although he expects negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to resume soon in Washington, DC, he has ruled out the possibility that the government of Sudan will play the role of intermediary with regard to the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the filling and operations of the dam. Abbas explained that since Sudan is a party to the negotiations, and participating in order to preserve its interests, it cannot possibly be neutral or act as a mediator between the other two parties,” Egypt Independent reports.

Sudan – “Sudanese authorities on Wednesday announced a rise in the price of bread in the capital Khartoum, nearly a year after the fall of President Omar Al-Bashir. A tripling of the price of bread had been the trigger for street protests against Bashir in December 2018 — demonstrations that went on for months until the army deposed the longtime ruler on April 11 last year,” Arab News reports.

Shipping – “Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) announced the launch of a new shipping line connecting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with East African countries through the shipping line “CMA CGM”, the world’s leading company in shipping services. It is also the first container shipping-line to reach King Fahd Industrial Port in Yanbu, on the Red Sea coast, which contributes to enhancing the movement of exports and imports to and from Yanbu,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Saudi/Aviation – “British architect firm Foster + Partners has been awarded a design contract for Red Sea International Airport in Saudi Arabia. The airport is set to serve one million passengers by 2030, and is part of the country’s ‘Red Sea Project’ which aims to create a new luxury tourism destination in the coming years. Foster + Partners talk about what they aim to achieve in this project, the unique considerations involved with developing a project in this region,” Airport Technology reports.

Djibouti/Coronavirus – “Djibouti on Thursday confirmed the first coronavirus fatality in the country. The Health Ministry said in a statement on Twitter that a patient who was suffering from heart issues contracted the virus at a hospital, and died late Wednesday after one week in intensive care. As of Wednesday evening, Djibouti recorded 135 coronavirus cases, including 25 recoveries, according to the official Djibouti news agency,” Anadolu Agency reports.

Environment – “As seas warm and acidify with climate change, corals worldwide are bleaching – but in the north of the Red Sea there is a ray, or rather reef, of hope,” Future Planet BBC reports.

Eco-tourism – “Most colours disappear the deeper you go, but even 15 metres below the surface, Egypt’s Red Sea was an artist’s palette of electrifying Pantones. Soft corals and writhing anemones popped with vibrant hues, and clouds of Calippo-orange anthias fish were testimony to a healthy reef. It’s a rare picture of positivity on our ailing blue planet, and one painted by the very absence of human hand,” Travel Weekly reports.

Djibouti/Film – “If you’re having a tough time recalling the last movie you watched from Djibouti, it’s likely because you have never watched one before. With an almost non-existent film industry in the country, Lula Ali Ismaïl, tells a beautiful coming of age story of three young female Djiboutian teenagers at the cusp of womanhood. Dhalinyaro offers a never-before-seen view of Djibouti City as a stunning, dynamic city that blends modernity and tradition—a city in which the youth, like all youth everywhere, struggle to decide what their futures will look like. It’s a beautiful story of friendship, family, dreams and love from a female filmmaker who wants to tell a “universal story of youth,” but set in the country she loves—Djibouti,” Okay Africa reports.

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 9

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 9

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.

Africa Commercial Telegraph Weekly – April 8

Africa Commercial Telegraph Weekly – April 8

Top business stories from Sub-Saharan Africa from the pages of the regional press – April 8

Nigeria/Shell – “International oil major, Royal Dutch Shell, and its subsidiaries paid the Federal Government of Nigeria over $5.6 billion which, at the exchange rate of N307/$1, comes to N1.7 trillion, the company disclosed in its sustainability report for 2019. This amount, which represents about 20 percent of the 2019 budget, comprises payments for fees, royalties, production entitlements and taxes. It is also the highest payment to any government in the 28 countries Shell disclosed,” Business Day reports.

Nigeria/IMF – “Nigeria’s Finance Minister disclosed yesterday that the country will seek as much as $3.4 billion from the IMF to shore up its finances at a time the coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on economies globally, especially oil producers,” Business Day reports.

Ethiopia/Liberia – “Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, and Liberia declared states of emergency on Wednesday to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus, a day after cases on the continent surged past 10,000,” Reuters reports.

Ethiopia – “The desert locust, which has been damaging crops in some east African countries, is now moving from Somali to Ethiopia to hit the country once gain. ‘Currently hopper bands and a new generation of immature swarms are forming in the Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ (SNNP) regions, including the Rift Valley – the nation’s breadbasket. Desert locusts are currently active in 161 woredas (districts), down from 172 in February 2020,’ stated desert locust situation report of FAO for the month of April 2020,” New Business Ethiopia reports

S. Africa/Eskom – “Debt-stricken power company Eskom told investors it does not need to approach the government for more support, even as a Covid-19-related national shutdown slashes revenue. The company needs to raise R89bn this year and R56bn of that will come from an existing state bailout, CEO Andre de Ruyter and CFO Calib Cassim said on the call, according to investors who listened to it,” South Africa’s Business Day reports.

Ghana Economy – “As the coronavirus pandemic bites countries around the globe by grinding trade and other productive activities to a halt, Ghana’s economy is expected to experience its slowest growth in about four decades – making it the worst year since the historic 1983 economic retrogression,” Business and Financial Times reports.

Zambia/Glencore – “The Zambian government yesterday said mining giant Glencore’s move to shut its copper mines will not go ahead. The government says the company has declared ‘force majeure’ to shut its copper mines, which if allowed to go ahead, would leave at least 11 000 people jobless. Mines minister Richard Musukwa said the government would block this move,” The Namibian reports.

E. Africa/Logistics – “The logistics sector is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic as 31 countries in Africa have imposed full border closures, with the others allowing only cargo and basic goods into their countries. In East Africa, transporters are experiencing increased delays in ferrying cargo from the port of Mombasa due to delays in clearing after Customs officials, Kenya Ports Authority and Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade)—the only state agencies mandated to facilitate cross-border movement of goods—reduced their workforce as a precautionary measure against contracting the virus,” The East African reports.

Kenya/Safaricom – “Peter Ndegwa has started his tenure as Safaricom chief executive officer with a vote of confidence from investors after the company’s stock gained 1.7 per cent on his first day in office. A day after the telco closed its financial year that ends on March 31, Mr Ndegwa heads a company that is the heartbeat of trading at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) and which must keep re-inventing to maintain its position as East Africa’s most profitable company,” The East African reports.

Liberia/Gas – “The Capital Vessel carrying 10MT ( 3,500,000 gals) of gasoline berth at the LPRC jetty Saturday, in what is seen as a major step toward easing consumers worries about an apparent gasoline shortage in Liberia. Mrs. Marie Urey-Coleman, Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company(LPRC) told FrontPageAfrica Saturday that additional vessels are scheduled to berth tomorrow and mid next week,” FrontPage Africa reports.

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 8

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 8

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.

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 7

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 7

MENA Business Telegraph Monitor – April 7

Oil/Jobs – “The jobs and livelihoods of some 300 million people are at risk in the current crisis in the global oil business, according to Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA). Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Birol said the oil industry is going through ‘perhaps the worst time in its history, and this could have major implications for the global economy, financial markets, and even more for employment,'” Arab News reports.

Qatar/Gas – “Qatar Petroleum (QP) will postpone the start of production from its new gas facilities until 2025 following a delay in the bidding process, Minister of State for Energy Affairs H E Eng. Saad bin Sherida Al Kaabi, the President and CEO of QP, said. In an interview with Reuters, HE Al Kaabi underlined that Qatar Petroleum is pressing ahead with foreign as well as domestic expansion despite the global market turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” The Peninsula reports.

Egypt/Infrastructure – “North Sinai Governor Mohamed Shousha announced on Tuesday that construction of the largest desalination plant in Africa and the Middle East has started. The capacity of the first phase is 100,000 cubic meters daily, and that of the second and third phases is 300,000 cubic meters per day,” Egypt Today reports.

Dubai/Covid-19 – “The closure of all commercial activities in Dubai will continue until the end of the national disinfection programme on April 18, it was announced today. In a tweet, Dubai Economy said that exempted sectors will operate as usual,” Al Bawaba reports.

UAE/Taqa – “The board of Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa) gave the nod to a sale and purchase agreement for its asset swap deal with Abu Dhabi Power Corporation (ADPower) that will create a regional utilities champion. Taqa’s board also approved the issuance of a mandatory convertible bond to ADPower for the planned deal, it said in a statement to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, where its shares trade. The energy firm has also recommended its shareholders to approve the deal at the annual general assembly due to be held on April 29,” The National reports.

UAE/Emaar – “Emaar chairman Mohamed Alabbar has hit back at claims that Emaar has suspended work on all major projects due to Covid-19, describing them as ‘nonsense being peddled by people in the media who have no sense.’ It follows a report by Reuters earlier today that Emaar had suspended work on all major projects including Dubai Creek Harbour due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus.Speaking to Arabian Business, Alabbar said: ‘This is not even speculation or rumour, it is total lies and nonsense. And I am astonished that in this time, when the whole world is on lockdown, people can come up with this kind of thing to damage us. I won’t allow it. Let’s be clear. There is no virus on any of our sites. There are no cases of Covid-19. None of our sites have stopped operating,'” Arabian Business reports.

Israel/Reserves – “Israel’s foreign exchange reserves at the end of March 2020 stood at $126.043 billion, down $5.215 billion from their record level at the end of February, the Bank of Israel reports. The reserves represent 31.9% of GDP, down from 33.2% at the end of February,” Globes reports

Lebanon/Wheat – “Lebanon’s government is considering importing wheat for the first time since 2014, weighing its dwindling supply of dollars against concerns that the coronavirus may threaten the nation’s food security. The Economy Ministry is studying a possible purchase of 80,000 tons of the grain, it said, without specifying the timing. A tender seeking offers from suppliers would require the cabinet’s approval,” Bloomberg/Daily Star of Lebanon report.


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