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Arabian Gulf Business Insight – getting under the skin of business stories in the Gulf with in-depth analysis

Analysis stories

Gulf’s $2bn buy-now-pay-later sector shrugs off global slump

Despite the global pessimism surrounding buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) finance providers, the Gulf region continues to push forward with related acquisitions and expansion plans. The recent string of big ticket global BNPL casualties highlights several companies with direct links to the UAE. Abu Dhabi-backed Swedish operator Klarna last month managed to raise $800 million in new funding, […]

Western views on Arabs ‘outdated’, says Blair think tank

Western perceptions of the Arab world are out of synch with the modern reality, argues a new 73-page report published by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.   “On average, less than a quarter of those polled in Western countries believe that people in the Middle East share all or most of the same values […]

Water, Waterfront, Watercraft

Kuwait City leads the world for billionaires

Kuwait City is home to more billionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world, according to the latest data. The Gulf capital boasts one billionaire for every 33,090 inhabitants, making it the most densely populated city for those with more than ten digits of wealth, reports the Billionaire Census 2022 from New York-based consultancy […]

Person, Human, Table

Food security report delivers stark warning to import-reliant Gulf

GCC governments must step up their efforts to develop agri-food technology and recycle waste, a new food security report has warned. The Gulf is one of the world’s most import-dependent regions. The main food security challenge for the GCC is a natural or man-made crisis that could block one or more countries’ access to imports, […]

The billion-dollar question: what does it take to make a unicorn?

Can the UAE meet its target of being home to 20 unicorns by 2031? Only if entrepreneurs, venture capital and the government work together to build companies that can truly “translate across borders”, according to experts. Today the UAE has just three startups valued at $1 billion: Vista Global, Emerging Market Property Group and Kitopi. […]

Virtual reality headsets are becoming more affordable, allowing more people to meet in the metaverse

Inside Dubai’s big $4bn metaverse push

The UAE is punting big on the next iteration of reality. Crown prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed announced the launch of the Dubai Metaverse Strategy earlier this month, with an aim to place the emirate among the top 10 metaverse economies in the world. Many observers may have been sceptical but there are already early […]

Emirates calls on Airbus to make planes even bigger than A380

Airbus, the world’s largest passenger aircraft manufacturer, needs to build bigger planes to create a more sustainable aviation sector, its top customer, Emirates Airline, has said. The Airbus A380 is the largest ever commercial passenger plane, capable of seating 853 people on two decks, together with perks such as bars and shower spas. “When you […]

Shoe, Footwear, Clothing

MENA startup funding poised to recover in second half of 2022

Last year was a standout for Middle East and North African startups in which many notable records were broken, including the largest funding round to date and the highest number of deals. The total amount of investment raised by regional startups was pushed to $2.8 billion across 639 deals. This constituted a quadrupling of investment, […]

Global Islamic fintech market set to hit $179bn in 2026

The global Islamic fintech market recorded $79 billion in transaction volumes in 2021. And it is expected to grow by around 18 percent annually to reach $179 billion by 2026, according to the Global Islamic Fintech (GIFT) Report 2022 launched on Thursday. “Covid and the subsequent digitisation push has helped to accelerate the pace at […]

Inflation raises old debate on currencies being pegged to dollar

The Gulf’s currencies have been linked to the US dollar for decades: the Omani riyal since the 1970s, the Qatari riyal since mid-2001 and the Bahraini dinar and the UAE dirham officially since early 2002. The latter three have effectively been linked to the American greenback since the 1980s, as has the Saudi riyal. The […]

Gulf set for more belt tightening as interest rates keep rising

The Gulf’s business owners and consumers are set for tougher times ahead as the region’s central banks followed the US Federal Reserve and increased interest rates on Wednesday. While experts predict that rate hikes are set to continue even further, many analysts believe that the combination of strong GDP growth and high oil prices will […]

GCC embraces public-private partnerships to drive projects

Public-private partnerships will become more important across a wider range of sectors in the Gulf region as countries continue to diversify their economies, say experts. With the total value of planned and unawarded projects in the GCC countries expected to reach $2 trillion, governments are seeking more private sector support in infrastructure projects delivery. “Both […]

A combine loads a truck of grain while harvesting wheat during Ukraine-Russia conflict

Poor Arab nations face hunger despite Ukraine grain deal

Middle East and African countries dependent on Ukrainian grain face the prospect of crippling food insecurity, hunger and misery, despite a deal to restart exports blockaded amid the Russian war. Moscow’s promises may prove unreliable, while skyrocketing grain prices could spell dire outcomes for the region’s hungriest and most vulnerable nations, experts told AGBI. The […]

Tie, Accessories, Accessory

Middle East nets half of China’s Belt and Road funding

The Middle East received the largest share of China’s $28.4 billion investments through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) during the first half of 2022, with Saudi Arabia the single biggest recipient. The BRI was launched by Chinese president Xi Jinping in October 2013. Over the last nine years a total of $932 billion has […]

Wealthy families from the Gulf still like the idea of a second home in London

Britain’s plunging pound rattles Middle Eastern investors

As Britain battles multiple headwinds of an unstable parliament, spiking inflation and a weakened sterling, global investors have taken note. The pound fell to two-year lows against the dollar this month – trading below $1.19 at one point – and Middle Eastern investors are now looking to spread their UK risk, a senior executive at the […]

MediaCityUK in Salford

Gulf investors head outside London to fill up on UK property

The Midlands and Northern England are looking ever more appealing to commercial real estate investors from the GCC, according to a new report GCC investors’ appetite for UK property continues to grow, new research has found, driven in part by the surging appeal of regions outside of London. A report from Bank of London and […]

E-commerce or bust: in-depth analysis on Gulf online shopping

The coronavirus pandemic encouraged many people to embrace online shopping for the first time, leading to a huge spike in global e-commerce.  But what does the sector look like now across the Middle East and North Africa?  Its three largest e-commerce markets are the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and together they account for more […]

Dubai Mall, Grand Atrium

The tourists are back – and they want to shop till they drop

Hotels in the UAE generated AED11 billion ($3 billion) in revenue during the first quarter of 2022, a 20 per cent increase compared with the same period in 2019 as Gulf tourism continues its recovery from the pandemic. In other regions, tourism has been rebounding slowly and unevenly. According to a report from the UN […]

Ethical fashion: it’s so right now, but it’s granny chic too

Sustainable fashion is a buzzword that’s becoming a sound business proposition, particularly for MENA manufacturers returning to the thrifty practices of their grandparents The QR code on the clothing label takes you to a field where the cotton is grown. Shoppers can swipe to see the cotton being picked by hand and gathered into fluffy […]

Net zero is old hat, says the mall owner that wants to go bigger

Sustainability is high on the agenda of the region’s major retailers, and in early July, Majid Al Futtaim gave an insight into what it is doing to limit its environmental impact, with the release of its latest environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) report. The retailer, which owns and operates 29 shopping malls across the […]

Shopping malls are thriving since the pandemic eased

Let the tills ring out: retail is back with a vengeance in the UAE

The UAE’s leading retailers are benefiting from a post-pandemic boom that has them eyeing further expansion into the region’s largest markets. Dubai was among the first economies to reopen after lockdown in 2020. It welcomed a flood of holidaymakers from all over the world to the relative freedom of the emirate. Anthony Spary, head of office […]

What’s behind Saudi Arabia’s dwindling treasure chest?

Saudi Arabian reserves have dwindled by almost half in the last five years, with the government splashing out $70 billion on investment plans amid the coronavirus pandemic. In spite of the kingdom’s depleted treasure chest, analysts expressed confidence that the reserves are being redeployed wisely into funds and giga-projects, as oil prices and foreign direct […]

UAE’s gold clean-up rules will shine in the long-term

New UAE gold regulations could take the shine off the sector and lead to a supply and profits squeeze, according to experts. The due diligence rulings were announced last week to help stem the flow of supplies from conflict zones and enhance the UAE’s global reputation in the long-term. The Due Diligence Regulations for Responsible […]

The Surpluss aims to be ‘Airbnb of business’ in Dubai

Just like Airbnb offered an alternative to hotels and Uber challenged the taxi market, Dubai-based Rana Hajirasouli says she wants to “instigate a paradigm shift” to disrupt how companies manage their business resources, while playing a key role in the circular economy. Hajirasouli plans to launch The Surpluss next month, and the best way to […]

world cup advertising

World Cup is an advertiser’s dream worth millions

With a projected worldwide audience of five billion people, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is an advertiser’s dream.  Although some brands have toyed with the idea of boycotting the event, and may eventually do so due to the controversies that have dogged Qatar’s hosting of the tournament, ignoring one of the world’s biggest sporting spectacles […]

Kingdom Holding bucks European investment exit trend

Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding Company is investing $269 million in British insurance and asset management firm M&G Plc, despite the trend towards Middle East sovereign wealth funds backing away from Europe. M&G has over $370 billion in assets under management. Kingdom is part-owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), manages a global portfolio of […]

Saudi bank assets hit $879bn thanks to mortgages and oil

Saudi Arabian bank assets grew by 10 percent to reach SR3.3 trillion in assets ($879.43 billion) in 2021, buoyed by the kingdom’s booming mortgage market and a sharp rebound in oil revenues.  That’s according to global rankings from The Banker published earlier this month, which also shows that the kingdom’s credit grew by 15.5 percent […]

dubai mall fashion avenue

Luxury retail rebounds from Covid in the GCC

The GCC’s luxury retail market has made a quicker than anticipated recovery following the coronavirus pandemic. An increase in local spending has been a major factor driving the upturn, together with the expansion of the personal luxury market in Saudi Arabia.  Figures from Bain & Company show that the GCC luxury goods market shrank by […]

golden visa Esaad card

Mixed reception for UAE’s Golden Visa discount programme

Some experts accuse initiative of being mere ‘window dressing,’ while others praise its ingenuity Dubai has bolstered its Golden Visa scheme with associated discounts to help attract high-level entrepreneurs, doctors, academics and creatives to its shores. The government announced this week that it would provide its Esaad privilege card – originally only for public sector employees […]

Landscape, Nature, Outdoors

Fresh wave of hedge funds poised to tap UAE

The UAE is fast becoming a magnet for overseas hedge funds seeking a low-cost, investor-friendly base amid Brexit, the Ukraine crisis, and changes in working patterns brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.  A clutch of hedge funds from the UK and US have set up or expanded operations in Dubai or Abu Dhabi in the […]

aston martin middle east

PIF’s Aston Martin deal will put Saudi’s auto industry in fast lane

The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund’s (PIF) £78m investment in Aston Martin is set to turbocharge the kingdom’s domestic automotive manufacturing industry, according to experts. Last week, the PIF announced it would be a part of a £653 million takeover of Aston Martin Lagonda, and that the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund — one of the […]

President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Sheikh Mohamed to a state dinner as French first lady Brigitte Macron looks on, at the Grand Trianon in Versailles

Sheikh Mohamed underlines ties with France on first foreign trip

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is perhaps the most visible symbol of the flourishing relationship between the UAE and France. The museum on Saadiyat Island, which opened in 2017 under an agreement between the two governments, is said to be France’s largest cultural project abroad. Given this backdrop of cultural and commercial ties, France was a […]

One in 10 financial transactions in UAE are malicious cyberattacks

An average of one in 10 financial transactions in the UAE are malicious attacks carried out by cybercriminals, with the number of such attacks on the rise in the last 12 months, according to an industry survey. The UAE’s rapid digitisation of company operations, and the rise in popularity of e-commerce platforms during the pandemic […]

President Joe Biden in Jeddah

Biden boosts relations but fails to move the dial

The president hoped to reset Washington’s relationship with the Middle East last weekend. In this in-depth analysis, AGBI explores how he performed on Israel, Iran, human rights and oil President Joe Biden’s whirlwind tour of the Middle East sought to reinforce America’s commitment to the region after several years of disengagement. In a speech to […]

The road from Jeddah: US and Saudi set out their 19 priorities

Clean energy, investment deals and space exploration are at the heart of the Jeddah communiqué – the partnership agreement issued by the US and Saudi governments after President Joe Biden’s meeting with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Among the agreements reached during the president’s visit on July 15 and 16 was a […]

"Customers wanted to get out and back to some normality" says Nadine Benchaffai, a partner at Ella's Eatery on Palm Jumeirah

UAE restaurants bite back against Covid

Most restaurants in the UAE are in a better financial position this year than they were before the pandemic, according to new data. Local eateries have bounced back with aplomb despite rising inflationary costs, a survey from the UAE Restaurant Group (URG) has revealed. URG, a trade body which represents around 15,000 outlets, said 69 percent […]

Erika Blazeviciute Doyle, managing director at Drink Dry

Gulf firms tap thirst for no-alcohol drinks

On St Patrick’s Day this year Irish drinks brand Guinness seized the opportunity to promote one of its biggest innovations since its launch in 1759. Four years in the making, Guinness 0.0, a non-alcoholic version of the famous stout brew – first launched in the UK and Ireland in 2020 – has now gone global. […]

biden saudi arabia

Biden’s first win: Saudi Arabia opens airspace to Israel

Saudi Arabia has announced it will open its airspace to all air carriers, including Israeli flights – marking a stepchange for the kingdom which has a historical stance of not officially recognising Israel.  The Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) issued a statement on Thursday saying that the country’s airspace was now open to all […]

US president Joe Biden and Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid attend the first virtual meeting of the I2U2 group with leaders of India and the United Arab Emirates

I2U2: America’s answer to curbing China and upping food security

Israel, India, the US and the United Arab Emirates came together on Thursday for an historic meeting as the “I2U2” collective. The futuristic name refers to the first letters of the four countries. US president Joe Biden and Israel’s prime minister, Yair Lapid, lent the initiative a maiden boost, joining a four-way call in Jerusalem […]

US president Joe Biden and Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid are delighted to have signed the security pledge at Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem

Biden’s ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ could slash UAE-Iran trade

The US and Israel pledged today to deny Iran nuclear weapons – a move that could dissuade global trade partners from dealing with Tehran, experts have said. The freshly united stance from US president Joe Biden and Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid represents a rare show of unity by allies long divided over Iran diplomacy. The […]

Women are struggling to get into leadership roles since the pandemic struck

Closing the MENA gender gap could take 115 years

It will take 115 years to close the gender gap in the Middle East and North Africa according to the latest World Economic Forum report. The analysis, which benchmarks the difference between women and men as reflected in social, political, intellectual, cultural, or economic attainments or attitudes, reveals that women’s employment has suffered as the […]

Muslim spend on food increased by 6.9 percent in 2021

Muslims defy pandemic to spend $2trn globally in 2021

Bucking the global trend of tightening the purse strings, the world’s 1.9 billion Muslims spent the equivalent of $2 trillion at the height of the Covid pandemic. This spending reflects an 8.9 percent year-on-year growth from 2020 across a range of sectors offering halal food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, fashion, travel, and media/recreation. According to the 2022 […]

Aramex has been giving Female Fusion members discounted rates for their logitics services but costs in general are rising

60% of UAE firms to hike prices as costs surge

Nearly two-thirds of UAE businesses are planning to increase the price on their goods and services as costs in the non-oil sector climb at the fastest pace for 11 years. The latest S&P Global UAE Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), issued last week, found that rising energy costs and higher wage bills were biting into profit […]

Crowd, Person, Human

The Biden-Saudi dilemma: To arm or not to arm?

The Biden administration is reportedly discussing lifting its ban on US sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, but whether the decision is actioned remains to be seen. The internal US deliberations are informal and “at an early stage”, with no decision imminent, four sources told Reuters. But as US president Joe Biden prepares for a […]

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman chairs the Supreme National Investment Committee

Saudi and UAE fire big shots in battle for regional dominance

Saudi Arabia has created a new authority to provide both financial and non-financial incentives for investment projects as its rivalry with the UAE to become the top regional business hub intensifies. The establishment of the National Incentives Committee (NIC) by the Council of Ministers has been described by analysts as a “major development” in the […]

Amanda Milling MP, meets UAE minister of state Sheikh Shakbout

UK minister reaffirms Gulf ties amid PM resignation turmoil

July 7 will be remembered as the day British prime minister Boris Johnson resigned his post following a cabinet revolt and the departure of dozens of ministers. But on the same day, Amanda Milling MP, the UK government’s minister for Asia and the Middle East, completed a largely unreported trip to the Gulf region, visiting […]

Gulf home buyers eye Battersea Power Station in London

Gulf investors are snapping up London properties beyond the traditional smart neighbourhoods such as Chelsea and Kensington, north of the river Thames. With a weak pound offering great purchasing power for Gulf currencies and an upcoming visa liberalisation for GCC countries with Britain, MENA-based property investors are flocking to England’s capital.  And Arab buyers have […]

Sanctions won’t dampen Dubai property allure for Russians

The popularity of Dubai among Russian property buyers is unlikely to be dented by a US threat to impose sanctions on UAE banks who process their financial transactions, as most payments are made using cash or cryptocurrency. Dubai-based Mira Estate said its property sales to customers from Russia and the 11 other Commonwealth of Independent […]

Clothing, Apparel, Person

Gulf sovereign investments may be hit by new UK tax plans

Gulf-based sovereign wealth funds could see tax exemptions on investments in the UK slashed under new proposals put forward by the British government. Britain is planning to reduce the scope of the exemption to just interest income from investment activity.  This would move income profits and capital gains from investment in UK real estate, as […]

Hilton opened the DoubleTree in Riyadh this year as it expands its hotel portfolio in the Gulf

US firms invest billions as Saudi appeal grows

American businessmen first travelled to Saudi Arabia back in the 1930s to help develop the kingdom’s natural resources. Fast forward 90 years and, with record foreign investment licences issued in Saudi Arabia in the first quarter of 2022 and the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growing at its fastest rate in a decade, it’s little […]

In April, the Saudi ministry of finance entered into an agreement with Lucid to purchase at least 50,000 and potentially up to 100,000 Lucid vehicles over a 10-year period

43 billion reasons why the US is key to Saudi’s wealth fund

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is expected to continue with an investment strategy of “bargain hunting” in the United States but will likely deploy some caution, given current volatility in the US stock market.   US president Joe Biden’s visit to the kingdom is an opportunity to strengthen bilateral business ties, commentators told AGBI, and […]

Mohammed bin Salman with the then US defense secretary James Mattis in 2018

Security is what MbS wants most of all from Washington

As the architect of Saudi Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman quickly won plaudits the world over as a great moderniser and the face of reform in the kingdom.  But the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 complicated matters. Shunned by many leaders – both political and business – MbS has […]

The Saudi's love of an American car shows no sign of stalling

US-Saudi trade relationship in rude health

The US-Saudi trade relationship rebounded from the pandemic lows of 2020 to posting record high exchanges of non-oil and non-defence goods last year as vehicles and vaccines boosted American imports into the kingdom. According to data from the US-Saudi Business Council, total trade volume amounted to SR92.5 billion ($24.7 billion) during 2021, rising 22 percent […]

UAE seeks 27 trade deals as global growth slows

Global trade growth is forecast to remain resilient this year, expanding at a rate of three percent, despite a fierce onslaught of headwinds, according to the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre.  But that represents a significant slowdown from nearly 10 percent in 2021 when global trade hit a record-high of $28.5 trillion. DMCC’s Future of Trade […]

Nadhim Zahawi: the Iraqi tasked with rebuilding the UK economy

New British chancellor of the exchequer Nadhim Zahawi says his rise from “an immigrant boy” to hold the job as steward of the country’s treasury showed what a great country Britain was. Zahawi was appointed chancellor late yesterday after a series of ministerial resignations in protest at Boris Johnson’s premiership, including that of former chancellor […]

Restaurants and other businesses in the hospitality sector may soon need to put their rising costs on to the customer

UAE businesses keep squeeze on profits as inflation bites

Businesses in the UAE’s non-oil sector continue to defy global trends by choosing to squeeze profits rather than hike prices, as energy costs climb at the fastest pace for 11 years, according to a new survey. However, industry sources have told AGBI that this situation is unlikely to be able to continue in the long-term […]

Gulf construction may face imminent sand shortage

A little-known fact: the sand used in the concrete to build Dubai’s 829-metre tall Burj Khalifa was imported from Australia. While water scarcity generates much concern, sand shortages are only beginning to receive attention – especially in the desert metropolises of the Gulf. A report in April by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) highlighted […]

Arab investors can get to London more easily now

Prime London property one third cheaper for Arab investors

Wealthy buyers of prime London property have already seen prices fall since the start of this year, but Gulf buyers have been enjoying an additional dollar discount bonus thanks to their home currencies being pegged to the US currency. “The dollar has strengthened against all major currencies including the pound since January,” said Liam Bailey, […]

The number of expats in Saudi Arabia fell but female nationals found more work

Saudi unemployment rate drops as over 1 million expats leave

The unemployment rate among Saudi nationals, especially women, continues to decline, as the latest data from the Saudi General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) also showed that over a million expats left the kingdom during the pandemic. The population at the mid-year point in 2021 was 34.1 million, a 2.6 percent year-on-year decrease. Foreign workers and […]

Sheikh Mohamed told world leaders that the UAE is on track to submit its plan to cut emissions by 2030

$50bn climate change pledge critical to UAE’s oil reduction

The UAE’s big-ticket promise to pledge a further $50 billion to abate global climate change must be wisely planned to deliver a meaningful path towards a sustainable economy, according to experts.  “[Such investments] are likely to generate the most efficiency if allocated to reduce the reliance of productive sectors on hydrocarbons which will further diversify […]

The pros (and cons) of big stars backing your business

As French footballer Paul Pogba becomes an angel investor and brand ambassador for Islamic fintech Wahed, we look at the benefits and pitfalls of celebrities from David Beckham to Jay-Z teaming up with brands When global Islamic fintech Wahed announced its latest list of investors, Paul Pogba, the Manchester United and French international footballer, stood […]

Football stars who invest in startups

Cristiano RonaldoIn 2012, Ronaldo invested in a startup named Mobitto, a Portuguese app, while also becoming a brand ambassador. In 2017, he purchased a minority stake in the Portuguese agency Thing Pink, responsible for the technology in the CR7 museum in Funchal, Madeira.  David BeckhamFormer Manchester United and Real Madrid star Beckham reportedly invested $319,000 […]

UK Islamic fintech wants to take on the world

UK fintech has enjoyed meteoric growth in recent years, and Islamic fintech has been a key part of that success. AGBI speaks to industry experts to get the inside track on the sector’s development  UK fintech investment hit $37.3 billion in 2021, up sevenfold from $5.2 billion in 2020, according to figures published by global […]

Nature, Rubble, Person
  • Analysis

Aftershocks: Afghan economy crumbles as disaster strikes

The Taliban spent two decades fighting and brokering with Western powers to secure their demands for US-backed troops to leave Afghanistan after the 2001 invasion. But after storming back to power with a rapid military campaign in August 2021, the Islamist group has turned to the same governments with an urgent appeal for aid after […]

Tesla can offer their own insurance thanks to the data they collect from their vehicles

Electric vehicles cost more to insure than petrol cars in the UAE

Electric vehicles (EVs) are more expensive to insure in the UAE than their traditional fuel-powered alternatives. This is due to the higher number of claims, cost of repairs and parts, and the fact that some drivers are not used to them, industry experts told AGBI. “It’s true that some insurers price electric and hybrid car […]

Oil sector revs up to exploit higher prices

The Iraqi oil sector is surging, with revenues hitting $11.1 billion in March – the highest monthly oil export figure since 1972.  In April, crude oil exports (excluding the Kurdistan region) rose by 3.9 percent to 3.38 million barrels a day. Buoyed by promising increases in output and high oil prices, Baghdad is setting optimistic […]

The weakened pound is attractive to Middle East investors keen on London's prime property
  • Analysis

A UK recession may spook Arab investors – or present an opening

The economic outlook for the UK has grown progressively bleaker over recent months. After contracting 0.1 percent in March, Britain’s economy shrank by a further 0.3 percent in April, marking the first back-to-back declines since the onset of the global pandemic in March 2020. Last week the pound plunged to its lowest level against the dollar […]

Political impasse overshadows oil bonanza

Precious time is slipping away in Iraq. Since parliamentary elections eight months ago, a political impasse has blocked any moves to deal with the country’s bundle of crises: the lack of access to basic services, insecurity, high unemployment and rampant corruption. The Sadrist Movement, which won the most seats in the October 2021 election, proposed […]

Iraqis are left in the dark due to power cuts

Power infrastructure continues to generate headaches

As the peak summer months draw near and political stalemate continues to block hopes for reform in Iraq, concern is mounting that the poor performance of the country’s power sector could spark a return to mass protests. Iraq’s electricity infrastructure is in dire straits. Ravaged by war, decades of mismanagement, political chaos and corruption, power […]

From chocolate to solar power, the UK-GCC trade deal is a winner

A trade deal between the United Kingdom and the Gulf region has the potential to support jobs “from Dover to Doha”, while building vital green industries and supplying innovative services to the GCC. That’s according to UK Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who today launched free trade negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council, made up of […]

Many amateur investors took a hit when cryptocurrencies crashed but there is now a gap to exploit by those with a solid business plan

Crypto crisis will weed out the Gulf’s weak players, say analysts

The region’s cryptocurrency industry has grown rapidly – and is now being hit hard by the worldwide plunge in prices, but experts and businesses are welcoming the shake-up The value of the cryptocurrency market has slumped by more than $2 trillion since November, with bitcoin’s price dropping 70 percent and some in the sector laying […]

Solar panels

Gulf defies oil financing trends as UN calls for end to fossil fuels

The Middle East is boosting investment in oil and gas, bucking the global trend even as the United Nations calls for an end to the funding of fossil fuel projects. The MENA region is forecast to invest $879 billion in energy projects from 2022 to 2026, an increase of 9 percent over the previous five […]

Emirates Airlines are operating almost twice as many flights over 2,500 nautical miles than they were 12 months ago

Re-opening of long-haul routes helps reduce airline losses

Middle East aviation industry losses are expected to narrow to $1.9 billion in 2022 after the region’s airlines lost $4.7 billion last year. According to the latest figures released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the re-opening of many long-haul routes in particular has been a “welcome boost” to airlines in the Middle East.   […]

An oil refinery
  • Analysis

Middle East growth forecast brightens despite global gloom

Growth forecasts for the Middle East have been revised upwards despite the darkening global landscape. Middle East GDP growth for 2022 is now projected at 5.2 percent, an increase of 1 percentage point on the forecast three months ago, according to the Economic Insight report for the Middle East, commissioned by the Institute of Chartered […]

Trade commissioner: UK and GCC have endless opportunities

The Gulf states and the UK have historically enjoyed strong diplomatic and trade ties, but this decades-long alliance has intensified in the last two years.  As UK businesses look to drum up new trade in the wake of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic, the Gulf looks set to become ever closer to Britain. Pre-Brexit, around […]

What the metaverse actually means for your business

Should you believe the hype or is this yet another marketing buzzword? Not a day goes by without a brand or celebrity broadcasting their foray into the “metaverse”. While some naysayers may dismiss this nascent Web3 sector as unfounded hype, swathes of metaverse advocates envision trillions of dollars worth of opportunities in this new digital […]

Money appears to have dried up for new businesses but it is unlikely to stay that way as venture capitalists loosen their purse strings

Forget the gloom, startup funding will bounce back

The global slowdown in venture capital funding for startups has spread to the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), with May proving to be lowest month so far this year. But local experts believe that while new trends are emerging within the sector, it will rebound quickly in the second half of the year. Global […]

  • Analysis

Why the Gulf could swerve the dreaded global recession

The UAE and wider Gulf markets will likely avert a recession, experts have said, despite fears of a global slump as the US Federal Reserve announced a 75 basis point hike to interest rates – its largest since 1994. In early trading, bourses in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar fell on Thursday after local central […]

Fed hike hits Gulf stocks as well as price of food and property

Gulf stock markets quickly reacted negatively this morning to the announcement that local central banks were to follow the US Federal Reserve and hike interest rates, in a bid to curb inflation and rising costs.  AGBI spoke to experts across the business community to see how the move will impact everyone from property developers and […]

Mena region has record year for startup investment

The geographic location of the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) provides access to large markets in Europe, Africa and Asia, and is home to a large, young population.  In a context of geopolitical instability and high unemployment, many of these young people are increasingly seeking new opportunities and looking to improve the world via […]

Andina, a Peruvian restaurant based in London, wants to add a venue in the Gulf

UK targets Gulf for growth post-Brexit and Covid

Rocked by the double whammy of Brexit and the global pandemic, UK businesses have endured a tumultuous two years. As European trade battles sharp retrenchment – UK-EU exports dropped by 12 percent last year, a loss of £20 billion  – British companies are pursuing new growth avenues and the Gulf is proving to be a […]

Powering up electric vehicles in Saudi

Electric vehicles (EVs) are a rare sight on the streets of Riyadh or Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. This is partly due to a lack of charging infrastructure but mainly because commercial sales have yet to start – the only EVs in evidence are ones that individuals have privately imported. “You see the odd Tesla or […]

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum approved the launch of the scheme

Foreign government workers to benefit from new saving scheme

A new savings scheme for foreign employees working in Dubai Government, which aims to enhance the end-of-service benefits system, is set to come into effect on July 1. Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the entity responsible for supervising the implementation of the Savings Scheme for Foreign Employees in the Government of Dubai, has held several […]

Sultan Bin Salman led the Arab world into space exploration

Space tech gives Gulf nations a launchpad for local talent

Saudi Arabia aims to emulate UAE’s success In 1985, Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, a former Royal Saudi Air Force pilot, became the first Arab to go into space, flying aboard a US Space Shuttle mission as a payload specialist. He was appointed chairman of the Saudi Space Commission in 2018 and although he […]

Pep Guardiola, the Manchester City manager, celebrates with the trophy after winning the Premier League last season

How the UAE makes friends and influences people

A World Expo, Mars Mission, ownership of a Premier League football club and a Tour de France victory are among the success stories that have raised the UAE’s international standing as a soft power  Seduction is always more effective than coercion. So said author Joseph Nye when he introduced the concept of soft power in […]

The partnership aims to find - and nurture - skills in areas such as AI and machine learning

New deal allows Abu Dhabi to tap into global tech talent pool

Abu Dhabi’s latest partnership agreement, part of its $545 million Innovation Programme, will help address urgent skill shortages in the technology sector and widen access to the global talent pool. The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) yesterday announced a partnership with global in-house centre consulting firm ANSR and artificial intelligence-powered talent sourcing platform Talent500. ADIO […]

Dustin Johnson, at No 13 in the world, is the highest ranked player in the field and stands to earn $125 million from the series

LIV Golf tees off amid smears and controversy

Rival PGA Tour bans players for chasing ‘boatloads of cash’ Heated politics have overshadowed play in what is fast becoming golf’s most controversial tournament in history – the Saudi Arabian-funded LIV Golf Series. Teeing off on June 9, the LIV Series’ inaugural UK event clashed directly with the start of the RBC Canadian Open, an […]

  • Analysis

Delivery drivers deserve ‘a steady income’, say UAE operators

Motoboy, a Dubai-based delivery operator who entered the market in December last year, believes all drivers in the sector should be paid a fair wage and should not be expected to cover operating expenses for their employers. In early May, delivery drivers at Talabat, the Middle East unit of Germany’s Delivery Hero, and British operator […]

Malek Al Malek, the chairman of TECOM

Boom time as TECOM leads the Gulf IPO resurgence

As Dubai announced plans to sell a 12.5 percent stake in business park operator TECOM today – its second public offering this year after Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) – Middle Eastern bourses have generally defied the downward international trend with increases in trading activity and values amid a robust pipeline of initial public offerings […]

Face, Person, Human

Crypto crash was ‘a blessing’, admits Sarwa founder

Should everyone own cryptocurrencies? “No, definitely not,” Mark Chahwan, co-founder of Sarwa, told AGBI exactly a week after the investing and personal finance platform introduced the option to trade cryptocurrencies. The firm said in a statement that Sarwa Crypto will offer commission-free trading of the world’s four most recognised cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, and Bitcoin […]

Phil Mickelson plays in the Pro-Am ahead of the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational

Gulf riches has legacy sports events quaking in their boots

Phil Mickelson’s self-imposed break from golf has ended with a $200 million golden handshake. The six-time major winner stepped down from the game in February after issuing a string of controversial comments about Saudi Arabia and the PGA Tour but has announced his return for the PIF-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series. In a statement on […]

Crypto users turn to chatbots in crisis

UAE-based crypto exchange BitOasis has seen the number of interactions with its chatbot surge from about 300 late last year, to nearly 3,000 this year after Bitcoin’s violent crash – a total rise of 1,400 percent. Bitcoin, the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency, has more than halved since hitting its all-time high of $69,000 in November […]

Person, Human, Judge

Canada and Dubai grow closer with every deal struck

A Canadian pension fund company’s decision to invest $5 billion in UAE multinational logistics company DP World’s assets is a striking example of the deepening commercial ties between the two countries.   Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec’s (CPDQ) announced the deal on Monday. It will see CPDQ take a 22 percent stake in DP World’s prized assets in […]

File photo of Karish field

Inside the Israel-Lebanon dispute blocking oil and gas exploration

A dispute between Israel and Lebanon over their maritime boundary has obstructed energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and risks exacerbating tensions between the nations. After months of deadlock in US-mediated talks, Beirut warned on Sunday against any activity in the disputed area – responding to the arrival of a vessel to develop a field […]

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, will reap the benefits of rising oil prices

Higher oil prices ease budgetary woes

Surging oil prices in 2022 mean most Middle East and North African (MENA) oil producers can look forward to recording a surplus this year – often after running budget deficits and, on occasion, plundering their sovereign wealth funds. In 2020, as demand collapsed on the back of the pandemic, Brent crude averaged just $42 a […]

Mena has high hopes for post-pandemic tourism

Visitors are returning to key tourism destinations around the Middle East and North Africa, but not everywhere is faring so well The surge in passenger numbers at the Gulf’s biggest airports in the opening months of this year tells a clear story of recovery in the region’s travel and tourism sector. Doha’s Hamad International handled […]

How Oman’s sultan is reshaping the nation

Omanis went into three days of mourning after the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said in January 2020. When they reemerged with a new leader in Qaboos’ first cousin, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, the oil-rich country was unaware that two waves of crises were looming on the horizon. A sudden dip in oil prices soon […]

How London became the Islamic finance capital of the West

London has in recent years cemented its position as a vital hub for Islamic finance thanks to history, circumstance and a concerted effort by the government to support the sector. With its strong financial infrastructure and burgeoning fintech space, the UK capital is primed to dominate Western Islamic finance for the foreseeable future. “London and […]

Helicopter, Vehicle, Aircraft

UAE, Egypt and Jordan industrial pact will ‘unleash billions’

The partnership hopes to strengthen each country’s economic clout and competitive standing, both in the region and further afield  The UAE, Egypt and Jordan’s decision to enter into an economic partnership stands out from recent announcements of bilateral deals struck between Arab countries and Western partners.   The regional partnership, announced in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, […]

Coffee trade wars brewing: Saudi aims to increase its 300 tonnes of beans a year to 2,500 tonnes

Saudis want the world to wake up and smell their coffee

Did Arabica coffee originate in Arabia? Many say it hails from Ethiopia and then spread to Yemen and the rest of the Middle East. As coffee experts and aficionados continue to debate its history, Saudi Arabia is working to put a new stamp on the industry.  Saudi Arabia has named 2022 the year of Saudi […]

The Shard, London

Gulf SWFs are back on a roll but beware Russian ties

Buoyant oil prices are keeping Gulf treasuries full following the pandemic The past few years may have been decidedly mixed for Gulf sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), but with a recent surge in oil prices and lockdowns ending the pressure is now easing.  During the Covid-19 pandemic many funds found their reserves heavily depleted by governments […]

Digitisation costs, but UAE banks need to take the plunge

Banks in the United Arab Emirates are seeing their profits squeezed due to the cost of digitalising their operations, but experts believe lenders still need to invest more to keep up with global benchmarks. The latest S&P Global UAE Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), released earlier this month, found that costs are at their highest levels […]

Retold is a sustainable boutique selling pre-loved fashion in Dubai

Revealed: Top 30 sustainable companies in the Middle East

From recycled fashion and eco-design to solar energy and vertical farms, here’s the lowdown on 30 businesses tackling the social and environmental challenges that threaten the region Middle Eastern companies large and small are going green as they realise the environmental and commercial potential of being socially conscious.  Governments are also focusing on sustainability, placing […]

Buckingham Palace is one of the many tourist attractions appealing to Arab visitors

UK will see a resurgence in Gulf travellers this summer

The UK has historically been a favoured tourism spot for Gulf Arabs but the global pandemic brought international travel to a grinding halt.  As the world reopens its shutters, however, GCC tourists’ appetite for Britain is experiencing a strong renaissance, according to industry experts. On March 18 all remaining Covid-19 international travel restrictions were lifted for passengers arriving […]

Clothing, Apparel, Person

Move over Hollywood, it’s Arab time at Cannes film festival

The Middle East is one of the big talking points among the international film set at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, especially the presence of Saudi Arabia which unveiled big-ticket incentives to lure Hollywood and Bollywood producers to the kingdom. “I think in the past [the Middle East] always had some sort of presence but […]

Qatar already has a rich portfolio in the UK, including London's iconic department store, Harrods

Qatar promise may trigger deluge of Gulf investments in UK

More Gulf sovereign wealth funds could make huge investments in the United Kingdom following a £10 billion commitment from Qatar. On Tuesday the UK and Qatar signed a new Strategic Investment Partnership which will see the emir state invest billions over the next five years in key sectors of the UK economy including  fintech, zero […]

Dubai Global Village

Dubai’s Global Village: an incubator for startups

Dubai’s Global Village has been running for over two decades and it had a record-breaking 7.8 million visitors for its most recent season that ended on May 7, but organisers are keen to emphasise that the attraction is more than just theme park rides, food and retail from around the world. They claim Global Village […]

If you learn any simple Arabic greetings, you’re likely to please your regional business contact

Make it happen: Get ahead in the Gulf with our networking advice

This month’s guide on how to succeed in the Middle East offers essential tips on business practices and social etiquette The Middle East is rich in opportunity for businessmen and women, but entrepreneurs keen to forge partnerships need to remember that norms and practices can vary from those in Europe or the US. The region […]

Tie, Accessories, Accessory
  • Analysis

Rising inflation and falling tourism deals Egypt a ‘double whammy’

With inflation surging and the government forced to fix the price of bread to head off civil unrest, Egypt has felt the heat from the Ukraine crisis more acutely than most countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Higher commodity prices and the loss of tourism revenues from both Russian and Ukrainian […]

Emirates NBD was the first bank merger to occur, in 2007

UAE needs bigger but fewer banks, says expert

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has too many banks and the sector needs to see more consolidation, especially as profits are squeezed and costs continue to rise, an industry expert told AGBI today. “I think it would be helpful to have fewer banks [in the UAE]. I have been an advocate of that,” Asad Ahmed, […]

  • Analysis

Stars and strife: rebuilding UAE-US relations

The passing of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa has prompted an outpouring of condolences and support from around the globe, with heads of state being hurriedly dispatched to Abu Dhabi.  Particularly notable among these was the high-profile delegation sent by the US; headed by Vice-President Kamala Harris, it included nearly all of the administration’s top national […]

BR Shetty, founder of NMC Healthcare, denies wrongdoing and sues colleagues as the collapse of his company

NMC scandal is watershed moment for UAE businesses

Revelations about the scale of hidden debts spark debate in the UAE about the need for more rigorous bank loan checks and company auditing The ongoing legal battles surrounding the NMC Healthcare, the largest private healthcare provider in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has been a big learning curve for how businesses manage their financial […]

Sitting, Person, Human

Iran nuclear deal remains in the balance

There is little doubt a solution would bring rapid economic gains for Tehran while some other Gulf countries would also benefit from an easing of trade restrictions, but political calculations could yet scupper a deal The diplomatic traffic through Tehran has continued at a steady pace in recent weeks, as intermediaries doggedly try to revive […]

Abu Dhabi’s $2bn green energy splash will deepen India ties

Abu Dhabi-based International Holding Company PJSC’s (IHC) AED 7.3 billion ($2 billion) investment in Indian multinational conglomerate Adani Group takes the UAE-India partnership to “a different level” with more deals on the horizon, market observers said.  IHC provided capital to Adani Green Energy, Adani Transmission, and Adani Enterprises, which are all listed on the Bombay […]

Indonesia’s cooking oil crisis explained

An export ban has infuriated farmers, amid soaring prices and claims that a ‘palm oil mafia’ is operating in the country Indonesia, the world’s biggest exporter of palm oil, halted shipments on April 28 in a bid to flood the domestic market with supplies and control the soaring price of cooking oil. The tough policy […]

Oman: the next hydrogen energy superpower

With lengthy daytime sun, strong overnight winds and an accessible coastline, H2 investors and developers have long admired Oman, dubbed a “future renewable superpower,” by green energy titans. The government has noticed their admiration, and is looking to hydrogen to help power the oil-rich country’s energy grid and recharge its fossil fuel-reliant economy.  Since announcing […]

Qatar, the reigning champions, would have the infrastructure to host the Asian Cup thanks to this year's World Cup

Qatar may tackle Asian Cup as replacement host for China

The 2023 Asian Cup could be shifting west to the Gulf, where new infrastructure has made the region a magnet for international tournaments, after China withdrew as host. China had planned to hold the Asian Cup across 10 cities in June-July next year, but has dropped the 24-team tournament because of “exceptional circumstances caused by […]

Etisalat launched its e& identity in February

$4.4bn sounds a lot but e& has made the right call on Vodafone

Vodafone and e&, formerly known as Etisalat, will look to launch new products globally while working together to make greater efficiencies following the UAE telco’s deal to buy a $4.4 billion stake. Following the announcement that the UAE’s biggest telecoms operator has acquired a 9.8 percent stake in British mobile operator Vodafone Group, AGBI spoke […]

Cryptocurrencies have their ‘Lehman brothers moment’

Despite the crash of cryptocurrency stablecoin ecosystem, retail investors still see the contraction of currencies like Bitcoin as an opportunity As billions of dollars of value are wiped off cryptocurrency markets worldwide, retail investor strategies are diverging from those in the institutional space — the former senses cheap assets, while the latter worries of a […]

Hotels swallow rising costs so guests can sleep at night

Despite costs rising to a three-year high, hoteliers in the United Arab Emirates told AGBI they are not planning to increase room rates, instead opting to squeeze their existing profits as they search for ways to increase operational efficiencies. The latest S&P Global UAE Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), released on Monday, found that costs are […]

AerCap, the world's biggest aircraft lessor, has submitted a $3.5 billion insurance claim. Picture: Creative Commons

Billion dollar battle to begin for planes grounded in Russia

Lessors with hundreds of jets stuck in Russia are preparing for what one said would be a “vigorous” pursuit of insurance claims while maintaining discreet contact with some customers after Moscow blocked the jets from leaving. The loss of over 400 leased planes worth almost $10 billion since Western countries sanctioned Russia has led to […]

‘Savvy’ investors snap up DEWA shares

Plenty of mystery surrounds the listing of Dubai utilities giant DEWA, the Middle East’s largest IPO since the floating of Saudi Aramco in late 2019. When CNBC’s Dan Murphy organised an interview with DEWA’s CEO, he hoped to extricate some details from the infamously secretive boss.  Amid surging shares following news of the float, Saeed […]

Hezbollah are riding high in the polls
  • Analysis

Lebanese elections spark fears of more instability

The Lebanese government recently ordered the demolition of the blast-hit grain silos that were decimated during the August 4, 2020 port explosion. The silos absorbed much of the blast’s impact, saving sections of the city’s western residential areas from total devastation. The government has now determined that they must be removed amid reports that the tilting […]

Qatar scores as World Cup host but may not net long-term goals

Tucked behind Doha’s $300-million Lusail Boulevard, where construction workers are toiling to transform desert into a Champs-Elysees-inspired commercial thoroughfare before the 2022 soccer World Cup, sits a sole convenience store. With the main stadium, four skyscrapers and apartments designed for some 200,000 people all in Lusail, its manager Younes waits somewhat anxiously behind his till, […]

  • Analysis

Russia-Ukraine fallout puts fragile ‘frontier’ economies in MENA at risk

The fallout of the Russia-Ukraine war has just helped tip two of world’s poorest countries, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, into full-blown crises, and the list of those at risk – and the queue at the International Monetary Fund’s door – will only get longer from here. Countries such as Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt are at […]

  • Analysis

In Syria, business hub hopes to drive recovery from war

In an industrial zone in northern Syria’s rebel-held city of Al-Bab, Abu Omar al-Shihabi’s smelter churns out iron bars he says can compete with any produced in Syria and beyond. The industrial zone is an unlikely business hub. It is located on the edge of a city which was once occupied by Islamic State and […]

Joe Biden is under pressure to bring down petrol prices in the US

Saudi Arabia leads OPEC move to drop energy watchdog’s data

A decision driven by Saudi Arabia that OPEC+ should stop using oil data from the West’s energy watchdog reflected concern about US influence on the figures, said sources, adding to strain on ties between Riyadh and Washington. The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia, a group referred to as OPEC+, has […]

Musk’s Twitter free speech promise may be tested in Middle East

In a region where the local media is often controlled by the state, millions of people rely on social media platforms to follow news and express their opinions. Both Twitter and Facebook showed their potential to influence real-life events during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, when they played an outsize role in social upheaval. But […]

Oil prices have rocketed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Tapping oil stockpiles may not be enough to plug loss of Russian supply

Top oil consuming nations may find that one of their main tools to fight high global oil prices – the release of strategic stockpiles – will prove inadequate to soothe markets starved of Russian supply since its invasion of Ukraine. The 31-member International Energy Agency, representing industrialised nations but not Russia, presided over the fourth […]

President Erdogan of Turkey
  • Analysis

Erdogan heads home from Riyadh, hoping to have mended ties

Three-and-a-half years after accusing Saudi Arabia of murder and running a sham trial over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has made a trip to the Gulf kingdom to mend ties. Turkey and Saudi Arabia have a common will to “reactivate a great economic potential” between the two countries, Erdogan said after […]