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Middle East & African Monitor – 27 November 2017

  • Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Vows To Defeat Terrorism.
  • Israel Warns Over Iranian Presence In Syria.
  • Statoil To Abandon Extraction Of Heavy Crude – Venezuela Gets New Oil Minister.
  • Qatar’s CB Says Committed To US$ Peg.
  • S&P Downgrades South Africa’s Ratings.
  • Iraq To Conduct US$2 Bio Bond Issuance In 2018.
  • Iraq Plans New Oil Pipeline For Kurdistan Region.
  • SMBC Prepares To Open Office In Saudi Arabia.
  • Sabic & Aramco Consider US$ 20 Bio Petrochemical Facility.
  • Abu Dhabi’s Hotel Industry Records 18% Increase Guest Numbers.
  • Thousands More Pilots Will Be Needed In The Middle East – Boeing.

REGIONAL COMMENTARY

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Vows To Defeat Terrorism.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was quoted by the Arab News media outlet yesterday saying that extremist groups would no longer be allowed to tarnish Islam, and that Islamic countries will work together to help eradicate terrorism. “The biggest danger of this terrorism and extremism is the tarnishing of the reputation of our beloved religion, we will not allow this to happen. Today, we start the pursuit of terrorism and we see its defeat in many facets around the world especially in Muslim countries, we will continue to fight it until we see its defeat,” the Crown Prince stated during Sunday’s inaugural meeting of the ‘Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition’ in Riyadh. The coalition consists of 41 countries and the primary aim for the group is to jointly combat all aspects of terrorism with a focus on four key areas which are Ideology, communications, counter-terrorism financing, and military action.

Israel Warns Over Iranian Presence In Syria. 
According to various media outlets the Israeli President, Benjamin Netanyahu, recently warned the leaders of both Russia and France that his government would consider any attempt by Iran to establish a permanent military presence in Syria as a direct threat to Israel, and as such would not “hesitate to act if our security needs require us to do so.” Meanwhile this past Saturday, the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, was quoted repeating earlier claims that his country’s missile program was defensive and thus a “non-negotiable” topic. He added however that the range of Iranian missiles would be increased if European countries posed a threat to his. “If we have kept the range of our missiles to 2,000 kilometers, it’s not due to lack of technology, we are following a strategic doctrine. So far we have felt that Europe is not a threat, so we did not increase the range of our missiles. But if Europe wants to turn into a threat, we will increase the range of our missiles,” the brigadier was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Statoil To Abandon Extraction Of Heavy Crude – Venezuela Gets New Oil Minister.
The CEO of Statoil, Eldar Saetre, was quoted last week by the Financial Post newspaper stating that his company would no longer seek to extract heavy oil or explore oil sands territory such as that found in Canada, and instead focus on lighter versions of the commodity from more “carbon efficient’ sources. According to a report by the US Geological Survey department up to 70% of the world’s proven oil deposits are made up of the heavier version as well as bitumen, and Saetre’s comments will no doubt increase concerns within Canada’s oil industry and heavy crude producers like Venezuela,especially as other global companies such as Shell and Total are reportedly also actively investing in lighter oil producing countries such as Brazil. Meanwhile Venezuela’s President has appointed an army officer as the new head of both the state-run oil firm PDVSA and the Energy ministry, despite the fact that Major General Quevedo apparently has no known energy sector experience. His appointment follows a recent decision to replace several other senior cabinet members with military men all of which are considered to be Maduro loyalists. 

Qatar’s CB Says Committed To US$ Peg.
Qatar’s Central Bank has said it was “committed” to providing US dollars to onshore and offshore investors in Qatar at the official exchange rate, adding that a recent decision by the equity index compiler MSCI to investigate the possibility of using the offshore FX rate to value Qatari stocks was “unjustified.” “There are no restrictions on any banking transactions, including transfers,” the CB was quoted as saying by Bloomberg late last week.

S&P Downgrades South Africa’s Ratings.
Late last Friday Standard & Poors downgraded its local currency rating on South Africa to BB+ and the foreign currency rating to BB, whilst Moodys put the country on credit watch for a potential downgrade. South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has described the agencies decisions as a vote of no confidence in the government’s current fiscal policies. “The bottom line is that the ratings decisions of the two most important ratings agencies amount to a vote of no confidence in the new and mysterious ‘Presidential Fiscal Committee’s’ capacity to stabilize public finances over the medium term in South Africa‚” the DA’s shadow Finance Minister claimed on Saturday. Investors will now focus on the upcoming ANC party conference in December where the next leader of the ruling party will be selected, the outcome of this is still too close to call with the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and President’s Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma neck-and-neck according to recent surveys. A win for the latter would likely be seen as a potential negative result by investors for South Africa’s political and economic environment going forward. 

Iraq To Conduct US$2 Bio Bond Issuance In 2018.
Iraq’s Central Bank Governor, Ali Ismail Al Alak, said yesterday that his country planned to conduct a US$2 bio bond issuance early next year in order to help fund its budget gap.

Iraq Plans New Oil Pipeline For Kurdistan Region.
Iraq’s Oil Ministry announced yesterday that it planned to build a new pipeline to transport crude from the Kirkuk fields to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. "The old pipeline has been severely damaged due to the repeated subversive operations of ‘Daesh’ gangs, so specialized companies will be invited soon to present their tenders," an oil ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Daily Sabah newspaper. Federal Iraqi forces took control of the oilfields around Kirkuk from the Kurdish regional government following the latter’s decision to conduct a controversial independence referendum in October.

SMBC Prepares To Open Office In Saudi Arabia.
Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui banking group has announced that it plans to open a subsidiary in Riyad before the end of this year. According to the Asian Review newspaper, SMBC’s unit in the Kingdom will be called ‘SMBC Advisory Services Saudi Arabia’ and become the groups second office within the GCC region, following on from the establishment of its Abu Dhabi office back in 2014. Other Japanese financial institutions preparing to build an on the ground presence in Saudi Arabia includes Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, which will be the first Japanese bank to open a full branch there next year. 

Sabic & Aramco Consider US$ 20 Bio Petrochemical Facility.
Saudi Basic Industries and Saudi Aramco have agreed to jointly investigate the viability of building a new giant petrochemical complex in the Kingdom which would convert oil into various chemicals including; polypropylene, benzene, xylene and polyethylene. The estimated cost to build this facility is reportedly around US$ 20 bio but a final decision on whether or not to proceed with the project will only be made in 2019.

Abu Dhabi’s Hotel Industry Records 18% Increase Guest Numbers.
Abu Dhabi’s department of Culture & Tourism has reported an 18% jump in the number of hotel guests staying in the capital last month compared to the same period last year. It also expects the number of international visitors to Abu Dhabi to reach 4.9 mio this year compared to 4.4 mio last year. Tourists from mainland China have seen the sharpest increase.

Thousands More Pilots Will Be Needed In The Middle East – Boeing.
In a recent Boeing report published by the Arabian Business magazine, the US based airplane manufacturer says it believes that Middle East based airlines will need to hire up to 63,000 pilots over the next 20 years in order to keep up with demand. Boeing also said in a separate report that 3350 new aircraft will likely be required by the region by the year 2036.

27-11-2017

AND FINALLY…
Did you know that Oman has been recognized as an important sea faring hub since the 6th Century BC?

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