Union Properties mulls $108m offer for Dubai Autodrome stakehttps://www.arabianbusiness.com/banking-finance/452259-union-properties-mulls-108m-offer-for-dubai-autodrome-stakeFri, 25 Sep 2020 06:36:34 +0400Union Properties has announced that it has received an offer of AED400 million ($108 million) for a 40 percent stake in its subsidiary Dubai Autodrome, the UAE’s first fully-integrated multipurpose motorsport and entertainment facility.

The Dubai-based developer did not name the interested party but said it is "evaluating the offer" and will discuss it at the next meeting of the board of directors.

Dubai Autodrome, one of the highlights of the Union Properties portfolio, includes a number of world-class racing circuits and is the only one of its kind in Dubai.

It has hosted world-class races, including the FIA GT Championship, European Touring Car Championship, A1 GP, GP2 Asia, Lamborghini Super Trofeo ME, MRF Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge ME, the Radical Middle East Cup and the Hankook 24H Dubai Endurance Race.

Khalifa Hasan Al Hammadi (pictured above), chairman of Union Properties, said: "Union Properties has a number of subsidiary companies with added value in vital sectors that help achieve sustainable growth. As previously announced, we are in the process of converting a number of these into private joint stock companies. The offer received to buy a stake in Dubai Autodrome reaffirms the strong position of Union Properties and reflects the growing value of our high-quality assets."

He added: "We are currently evaluating the offer and will discuss in the upcoming meeting with the Board of Directors to allow us to take an appropriate decision in the interest of the company's shareholders. More details will be disclosed in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and agreements."

Directors will also discuss the acquisition of other investment real estate assets in the UAE at the upcoming meeting, he said.

Last month, Union Properties announced plans to list three of its subsidiary companies on the Dubai Financial Market (DFM).

It is looking to convert the legal form of facilities management company ServeU, interior fitout company FitOut, and the Dubai Autodrome, motorsports and entertainment facility, into private joint stock companies.

It comes as the company develops a plan to deal with accumulated losses, which stood at AED2.3 billion ($626 million) at the end of June this year.

Union Properties also reached an agreement with Emirates NBD recently to restructure an outstanding AED946 million debt with the bank.

The developer has also revealed plans to launch its new 2.9 million square foot Motor City Hills project.

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Female architect fined over coronavirus violations at Dubai house partyhttps://www.arabianbusiness.com/culture-society/452258-female-architect-fined-over-coronavirus-violations-at-dubai-house-partyFri, 25 Sep 2020 06:11:07 +0400A female businesswoman has been fined AED10,000 ($2,700) for organising a private party at her Dubai home where guests failed to comply with coronavirus preventative measures.

Dubai Police issued the fine on the Arab architect after guests neither complied with physical distancing nor wore facemasks in violation of the rules to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Authorities warned that a AED10,000 fine will be given to anyone who invites or organises gatherings, meetings, private and public celebrations or being present in groups at public places while participants will each be slapped a fine of AED5,000.

Brigadier Jamal Salem Al-Jallaf, director of the General Department of Criminal Investigations at Dubai Police, said in comments published by state news agency WAM that the violator and her guests - a group of media people and a female Arab artist - had been summoned and fined after the video of the event had gone viral on social media.

All the guests were each slapped a fine of AED5,000, he added.

He stressed that the Dubai Police won’t tolerate violators and reminded members of the public to strictly adhere to the precautionary measures and to report offenders.

The fines comes as new daily coronavirus infections in the UAE remained above 1,000 on Thursday although they fell from the previous day's peak of 1,083.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) said it conducted 93,618 Covid-19 tests over the past 24 hours, with 1,002 new coronavirus cases reported, bringing the total number of cases in the UAE to 88,532.

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Lebanon unveils port blast compensation package for Beirut businessesAFPhttps://www.arabianbusiness.com/banking-finance/452257-lebanon-unveils-port-blast-compensation-package-for-beirut-businessesFri, 25 Sep 2020 05:03:09 +0400Lebanon on Thursday unveiled a compensation programme for the thousands of homes and businesses devastated by the August 4 mega-blast at Beirut's port.

President Michel Aoun signed a decree allocating 100 billion Lebanese pounds (more than $66 million at the official exchange rate, or $13 million on the black market) to the programme, his office said.

It added that the army and Beirut municipality would be tasked with setting up a mechanism to distribute the funds.

The compensation will go to owners of homes and businesses damaged in the explosion that left more than 190 dead and devastated swathes of the capital, a source at the presidency said.

According to an assessment by the army, the blast caused by a consignment of ammonium nitrate damaged almost 61,000 homes and over 19,000 businesses.

The explosion compounded Lebanon's worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

On August 9, the international community pledged around $300 million in emergency aid at a conference jointly organised by France and the United Nations.

The UN is to coordinate the aid to ensure it reaches those in need directly rather than through Lebanese government bodies, which are widely accused of corruption.

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UAE's equal pay move for private sector women hailedhttps://www.arabianbusiness.com/culture-society/452256-uaes-equal-pay-move-for-private-sector-women-hailedFri, 25 Sep 2020 04:51:38 +0400The UAE President has issued a decree, stipulating equal wages for women and men in the private sector, effective immediately.

The first article of the decree, issued by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, says that female employees shall receive wages equal to that of males if they perform the same work, or another of equal value.

It added that the procedures, controls and standards necessary for evaluating work of equal value will be set under a decision to be issued by the Cabinet, based on a proposal from the Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

The amended article supports the UAE's objective of reinforcing gender equality in terms of wages and salaries in the private sector, state news agency WAM said.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation stressed that the new amendments will help strengthen the country’s regional and international status for upholding gender equality.

The move has been hailed by prominent women in the country.

Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed, president of the UAE Gender Balance Council, and wife of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, said: "Keen on further advancing female empowerment, the UAE President has issued a law ensuring that women receive equal pay as men in the private sector."

Sheikha Manal, who is also the president of Dubai Women Establishment, tweeted: "Congratulations to all the women working in the UAE private sector. This step will undoubtedly boost the social inclusivity of women, support their role in national development, and advance the UAE’s status on the world’s Gender Equality Index."

Alisha Moopen (pictured above), deputy managing director, Aster DM Healthcare, added: "Any nation, community or organisation that doesn’t unlock the full potential of its entire population is losing half its resource power.

"Another brilliant and forward looking move by UAE and our beloved President that has enforced the equal pay for equal work irrespective of gender. I feel so proud and excited for such progressive moves that will continue to propel this country forward.

"I am positive this will turbo charge the growth of Uae still further more & will be a game changer for this region."

The move comes in the same week that it was revealed that under one in five representatives at executive level in UAE companies are females.

According to the latest research from global giant Great Place to Work, the average companies in the region have 37 percent female workers, 28 percent female managers and 19 percent of the executive team made up of women.

This compared more favourably against other parts of the world, particularly for the executive roles, with India (17 percent), Japan (16 percent) and South Korea (15 percent) all falling behind the UAE.

It also showed that organisations hailed as ‘Great Places to Work’ in the UAE boast an average female workforce of 30 percent – while in Saudi Arabia this number drops as low as 14 percent. It compares to 49 percent in Greater China and 43 percent in Singapore.

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Dubai, Tel Aviv business chambers partner for closer economic tiesStaff writerhttps://www.arabianbusiness.com/industries/452255-dubai-tel-aviv-business-chambers-partner-for-closer-tiesFri, 25 Sep 2020 05:22:49 +0400Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Tel Aviv Chamber of Commerce, represented by the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, have signed a partnership agreement that paves the way for bilateral cooperation.

Under the terms of the agreement, both chambers will produce a joint study identifying synergies and sectors of mutual interest.

They will also create a roadmap of virtual events, commit to organising a business delegation and mutual visits, host a joint business forum and support new businesses, start-ups, and scale-ups with readily available resources and programmes.

Other aspects of the partnership cover the chambers’ current activities, initiatives, and programmes in areas such as research, networking, arbitration, mediation, education, training, women-in-business, best-practices, sustainability and advocacy.

The partnership aims to bring benefits for the public and private sector across the Middle East region by opening the door for cross-border collaboration across economic fields.

The agreement between the two sides is part of a broader engagement between the UAE and Israel to further peace, dialogue and stability and promote sustainable development .

Hamad Buamim (pictured above), president and CEO of Dubai Chamber, described the agreement as an important development that will build new bridges between the two business communities.

He added that the partnership improves prospects for economic growth in the region by creating new investment opportunities and contributing to enhancing the business environment.

Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce and Tel Aviv Chamber of Commerce said: "The declaration for strategic partnership with Dubai chamber of commerce and Federation if the Israeli chambers of commerce can be valued only in historical proportions. It is an agreement, which supports and enhances the peace agreement between the UAE and the State of Israel.

"It will build a cooperation for two-way trade in areas, such as high-tech, tourism, aviation, investment and real estate, and more specifically, cyber, clean-tech, irrigation, ag-tech, digital health care, and much more. Both economies will greatly benefit."

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New coronavirus infections fall from peak but remain above 1,000Staff writerhttps://www.arabianbusiness.com/healthcare/452253-new-coronavirus-infections-fall-from-peak-but-remain-above-1000Thu, 24 Sep 2020 12:50:54 +0400New daily coronavirus infections in the UAE fell from Wednesday's peak of 1,083 but remained above 1,000, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) announced on Thursday.

In a statement, the ministry said it conducted 93,618 Covid-19 tests over the past 24 hours, with 1,002 new coronavirus cases reported, bringing the total number of cases in the UAE to 88,532.

It added that the infected individuals are from various nationalities, are in a stable condition, and are receiving the necessary care.

MoHAP also announced one death due to Covid-19 complications, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 407.

MoHAP also noted an additional 942 individuals had fully recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 77,937.

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Banking confidence, exchange rate are key to Lebanese recovery, says bankerhttps://www.arabianbusiness.com/banking-finance/452251-banking-confidence-exchange-rate-are-key-to-lebanese-recovery-says-bankerThu, 24 Sep 2020 12:25:07 +0400Lebanon’s short-term priority in addressing its economic crisis should be to enact measures that restore confidence in the banking system and the exchange rate, according to Sarah Hadchiti, a research analyst at Blominvest Bank.

The banking system, paralysed by the worst financial crisis in Lebanon’s history, faces major structural and operational challenges.

Lebanon central bank governor Riad Salameh warned on August 27 that banks that cannot increase their capital by 20 percent by the end of February 2021 will have to get out of the market.

Speaking to Arabian Business, Hadchiti (pictured below) said: "It’s wise to recall that, based on various country experiences, exchange rate crises don’t necessarily lead to banking crises, but all banking crises lead to exchange rate crises.”

Lebanese banks have frozen savers out of their dollar deposits and largely blocked transfers abroad as the country sinks into a financial meltdown on a scale it has never seen.

“The year 2020 proved to be an economic disaster for Lebanon. The country is suffering from a triple whammy – an exchange rate crisis, a banking crisis and a debt crisis – with no end in sight in the near future. And most analysts agree that it was the debt crisis – coupled with a corrupt public sector - that sparked two other crises," Hadchiti said.

“But, surprisingly, the debt crisis has receded in relative significance these days, partly because it’s not as 'sexy or juicy' as the other two, but mostly because domestic debt which constitutes nearly 64 percent of total debt (with total debt reaching $93.5 billion in June) is losing its real value with rising inflation," she added.

She said the foreign currency debt which the government has defaulted on, represents a "real concern especially that almost 50 percent of it is held by foreigners".

Lebanon witnessed another dramatic inflation surge in August as consumer prices rose an annual 120 percent, compared to 112.4 percent in July and just under 90 percent in June, according to new data released by the official Central Administration of Statistics.

At the end of March, inflation was only 16 percent on an annual basis and the exchange rate stood at about LBP2,800 LBP to the US dollar but a severe spiral of exchange rate depreciations saw the exchange rate shoot to LBP8,600 to the US dollar at end-June and fed into an inflation rate of 90 percent year-on-year.

So what caused inflation to rocket and exchange rate depreciations?

“The upshot of the above discussion is that reservations about the health of the banking system and more so the exchange rate regime – coupled with BDL’s policies to contain their implications – are what ignited the rise in cash liquidity and its vicious cycle effects on currency depreciations and inflation. In other words, it wasn’t so much deficit monetisation that did that,” Hadchiti said.

She added: "There are two important conclusions that can be drawn. First, with nearly two thirds of the debt in domestic debt that is losing its real value, the debt crisis is perhaps becoming increasingly less so. That’s not to say that debt shouldn’t be taken seriously: it should, especially when it comes to restructuring foreign debt payments. But what should be taken most seriously are the recurring budget deficits because they reflect a structural problem in Lebanese public finances that has less to do with fiscal matters and more to do with governance matters.

"So, fundamentally, what should underly fiscal reforms in Lebanon are governance reforms that aim at reducing waste, corruption, nepotism, and at increasing efficiency, in public administrations and enterprises.”

"Second, public sector governance reforms take time and are usually medium- to long-term projects. Reform of the banking system should therefore be a short-term priority," Hadchiti concluded.

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UAE PM's former tech advisor launches cryptocurrency exchangehttps://www.arabianbusiness.com/banking-finance/452239-uae-pms-former-tech-advisor-launches-cryptocurrency-exchangeThu, 24 Sep 2020 10:31:54 +0400The former technology advisor to the UAE Prime Minister’s Office has launched the Gulf's first zero-fee cryptocurrency exchange.

Mohammad Raafi Hossain, CEO of Fasset, a provider of the world’s first comprehensive ecosystem dedicated to merging digital asset innovations with the real economy, has announced plans to launch its second flagship product, the Fasset Exchange (FEX).

Immediately available to both retail and institutional investors within the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the FEX will offer zero percent trading fees, compared to a market average of 4-5 percent on other regional exchanges, and sign-up rewards for new users.

Sign-ups for the FEX’s private beta are available now, with the public launch scheduled for later this year and expansion to the rest of the MENASA region over the next two years.

Hossain said: “While the last decade has seen a rise in cryptocurrency usage, persisting complexities — from trading to payments systems — hinder true mass adoption. In addition, the volatility and high-risk nature of digital assets makes the asset class unapproachable for the majority of investors as investors are unable to gauge their value.

"To date, accessing digital assets, whether cryptocurrencies or real asset-backed tokens, in the MENASA region has been an onerous process. The industry lacks competition and, as a result, local exchanges have maintained an opaque, and often expensive, fee structure and operating model, resulting in high barriers to entry and limited choices for investors.

"FEX brings to the GCC the accessibility, variety, and ease of use which increasingly characterises digital asset markets elsewhere in the world. It is our belief that every investor should have a healthy, risk-assessed allocation in digital assets. As such, we look forward to offering investors and asset owners across MENASA convenience and true diversification like they’ve never seen before.”

He said the FEX will serve to provide near-instant access and liquidity for both real asset-backed tokens such as gold-backed tokens or tokenised sustainable infrastructure projects and top cryptocurrencies like BTC, ETH, and USDT.

Hossain added that the exchange will significantly reduce transaction times for real assets as trades on the platform will take seconds.

During private beta testing, users will gain full access to the FEX platform and marketplace. Using targeted customer feedback and user behaviour analysis, the Fasset team will use the beta testing phase to optimise the FEX website, a statement said.

Hossain added: “After the 2017 ICO boom, tokenisation and security token offerings were supposed to legitimise the crypto industry, carrying the promise of bringing the liquidity of the ICO era to real assets.

“However, while stablecoins and security tokens served to ignite conversations within the cryptocurrency sector, neither have succeeded in bringing long-term substantive value to the marketplace. The launch of FEX brings a greater array of stable, high-yielding asset-backed tokens to the field, creating a robust foundation for innovative products in the future.

"With concerted efforts from leaders in the region, including regulators in jurisdictions such as Bahrain and the UAE, to support fintech innovation, we believe that investors in the Gulf have great appetite to explore the cryptocurrency sector further and to foster its long-term and sustainable growth.”

Founded in early 2019, Fasset said its leadership team draws on backgrounds in banking, ethical finance, governmental investing, and sustainable infrastructure, and from institutions including the World Bank, United Nations, Standard Chartered Bank, and the UAE Ministry of Cabinet Affairs.

The company has already amassed more than $4.7 million raised from strategic backers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Singapore.

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UAE aims to set benchmark with first virtual Annual Investment Meetinghttps://www.arabianbusiness.com/technology/452238-uae-aims-to-set-benchmark-with-first-virtual-annual-investment-meetingThu, 24 Sep 2020 10:25:50 +0400The UAE is aiming to set a new benchmark for holding major virtual events in the region after announcing that the Annual Investment Meeting will be held online.

Both the theme and the mode of presentation of the UAE Ministry of Economy’s Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) will be digital this year when in takes place next month.

The move online has been prompted by the continuing impact of the coronavirus pandemic across a range of sectors in the UAE and globally.

Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, said this year's edition of AIM will be “the first mega digital event in the region”, adding: “We think also that will set a new benchmark for future virtual events in the UAE.”

Under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, AIM, organized by the UAE Ministry of Economy, will be held from October 20-22.

Virtually bringing together a variety of stakeholders in the business community - from SME financing institutions to venture capitalists and start-ups under the theme of Reimagining Economies: The Move towards a Digital, Sustainable and Resilient Future - AIM reinforces the UAE’s vision for an innovative, resilient and sustainable economy, despite coronavirus, a statement said.

Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises, added: “UAE’s ability to adapt to the changes in the economic landscape and find innovative solutions to various challenges, such as those that we are witnessing today as a result of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, represents a new success story that reflects the readiness of the country's economic and trade system to rapidly shift towards digital activities and adopt a more competitive, resilient and sustainable economic model.”

AIM’s agenda will focus on creating investment opportunities and supporting existing investments in the “new economies”.

“Through this year's edition of AIM, we will make sure to allow businessmen and capital owners to meet and conclude strategic agreements and partnerships, and to open new and vital channels for work in various investment fields,” said Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade.

He explained that the forum’s agenda will be rich in sessions, dialogues and digital exhibitions that represent an added value to international efforts in enhancing the global economic climate and preparing it for the post-Covid-19 phase.

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CEO of UAE digital finance firm Deem to step downStaff writerhttps://www.arabianbusiness.com/banking-finance/452235-ceo-of-uae-digital-finance-firm-deem-to-step-downThu, 24 Sep 2020 10:23:14 +0400Deem Finance, the UAE-based digitally-led financial services provider, on Thursday announced that its CEO Chris J de Bruin is planning to step down.

De Bruin has informed the board of directors of his plans to resign to "pursue other endeavours", the company said in a statement.

Deem has named Jayasheel Bhansali, currently serving as the company’s chief financial officer as interim CEO with immediate effect.

The statement said that under de Bruin’s leadership, Deem has undergone a significant transformation from a traditional consumer lender to a digital finance company.

De Bruin said: “It has been an honour to lead the amazing team at Deem. I am grateful for the trust extended by the board, in particular our chairman, Saed Arar, and our incredible shareholders. Together we have created a great platform and I look forward to Deem growing from strength to strength.”

Arar added: “We would like to thank Chris for his strong leadership over the last few years. He has brought significant positive change to the business. We highly appreciate the years of service Chris dedicated to Deem.

"He leaves a legacy of financial stewardship and discipline that will contribute to our future success for years to come. We wish him the very best in his next endeavor.

The financial service provider is a strategic partnership between Mubadala Investment Company, Fullerton Financial Holdings, Waha Capital and AA Al Moosa Enterprises.

The company provides a wide range of financing solutions including Personal loans, credit cards, as well as corporate deposits via a digital platform.

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