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Matt Smith


Matt Smith is a former Reuters correspondent who has covered the Middle East and North Africa since 2006, specialising in various sectors including stock markets, telecoms, technology, banking and finance

Matt Smith
Saudi ports Jeddah

Volumes up at Saudi ports in spite of Red Sea attacks

Container volumes at Saudi Arabia’s ports were up last month compared to March 2023 despite continuing attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, data from the kingdom’s ports authority shows. The Saudi Ports Authority, known as Mawani, oversees 10 ports. These include facilities in Jeddah, Yanbu and Jazan on the country’s Red Sea coast, and […]

Turkey auto

Auto industry buoyant despite Turkey’s woes  

Production in Turkey’s auto industry is continuing to rebound after four years of falls, despite soaring interest rates dampening domestic demand and the country’s volatile currency making it tough for automakers to plan their activities. Turkey is the world’s 12th biggest automaker, the country’s government says. It made 242,000 vehicles in the first two months […]

President Sisi, a former field marshal, inspects a military academy. Egypt's armed forces are significant players in several economic sectors

Military’s role in economy muddies Egypt’s debt plan

The military’s role in the Egyptian economy makes it unlikely the country will meet International Monetary Fund targets to increase tax revenue as a proportion of GDP, which could spell trouble for the hugely indebted nation. Egypt’s public external debt – money borrowed in foreign currencies – was $165 billion in September 2023, having more […]

The impact on shipping through the Suez Canal has been less severe than feared, says the WTO

Middle East exports to rebound as Red Sea fears ease

Middle East goods export volumes, which include oil and gas, will expand 3.5 percent this year, the World Trade Organization predicts, adding that disruptions to Red Sea maritime trade are proving less severe than feared. The WTO’s Global Trade Outlook and Statistics report, published on Wednesday, says this expected increase contrasts with a 1.6 percent […]

space greenhouse gas Satellite

Spacecraft that spots Gulf gases wins extra funding

A Bahraini-British project to develop a spacecraft that will monitor Gulf greenhouse gas emissions from space has been awarded a further £1.4 million ($1.8 million) grant by the UK Space Agency. The partnership between the Bahrain National Space Science Agency, YBA Kanoo Group in Manama, and the University of Leicester and Geospatial Insight of Birmingham […]

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan poses with his supporters as he leaves a polling station during the local elections in Istanbul, Turkey March 31, 2024. Murat Kulu/PPO/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

US rate cuts to ease Turkey’s debt and benefit exports

For Turkey, long-anticipated US interest rate cuts could be more significant in terms of stimulating growth in its major export markets than easing the costs of servicing its spiralling foreign currency debt. Turks have faced a deepening cost of living crisis as veteran president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s unorthodox economic policies exacerbated a collapse in the […]

The US interest rate cuts may affect commodity prices but beyond that Lebanon citizens will not see a difference, says one observer

Lebanon needs more than US rate cuts to turn its economy around

Probable US interest rate cuts could help Jordan and Morocco attract additional foreign investments as well as easing their already manageable loan repayment commitments, experts predict, but Lebanon’s financial problems remain so acute that a reduced debt burden will make little difference. US 10-year treasury yields – the most important determinant of government borrowing conditions […]

Between 80 and 90 percent of global trade relies on trade finance, which is mostly short-term

Finance platform aims at $2.5trn trade funding hole

A blockchain-based platform that lets institutions and wealthy individuals provide finance to importers and exporters for returns of up to 9 percent a year could help fill a multi-trillion-dollar hole in international trade, it says. In trade finance, the involvement of third-party financial companies removes payment and supply risks for sellers and buyers respectively.  Historically, […]

Egypt rates Sisi

Egypt will still feel the heat despite US rate cuts

Likely US interest rate cuts will lower Egypt’s interest repayment costs on its vast public debts. But this will do little to ease pressure on the country to sell national assets in order to reduce its overall borrowings. Egypt’s public external debt – money borrowed in foreign currencies – was $110 billion in 2022, having […]

Banks in Egypt provide returns on equity of 30% and more, which analysts say is high for the region

Reasons to be cheerful for UAE banks with Egyptian subsidiaries

Despite the plunge in the value of the Egyptian pound, UAE banks’ subsidiaries in the country remain a strong long-term asset, analysts have told AGBI. Three Emirati banks – Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, First Abu Dhabi Bank and Dubai’s Emirates NBD – have acquired Egyptian lenders. The pound-to-dollar exchange rate stood at about EGP31 at […]

The Kuwait Boursa trading hall in Kuwait city. ETFs are more closely aligned to weightings of Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE

Emerging market ETFs look light on Saudi engagement

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track the MSCI Emerging Markets Index are underexposed to Saudi Arabia but are more closely aligned to weightings of the other three Gulf countries included in the benchmark, an AGBI analysis shows. The inclusion of four Gulf countries in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index over the past decade has led to […]

In this photo illustration, the MSCI Inc. logo is displayed on a smartphone screen. (Photo by Rafael Henrique / SOPA Images/Sipa USA) No Use Germany.

Gulf weightings increase on MSCI Emerging Markets

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index has increased the weightings of Gulf countries since their inclusion on the benchmark, as regulators loosened rules and companies ease foreign ownership restrictions to make it easier to invest. According to MSCI, more than $1.3 trillion in assets under management (AuM) was benchmarked against its emerging markets indexes as of […]

An Al Rajhi Bank branch at Medina airport. Al Rajhi and Saudi National Bank are the kingdom's largest lenders by assets

Liquidity strain set to push Saudi banks to seek more funds

Saudi Arabian banks’ loan books are set to expand faster than their deposits again in 2024, raising costs and pushing lenders to seek additional funding sources. However, the kingdom’s banks are expected to increase their annual profits this year as government-led infrastructure projects and likely cuts to benchmark interest rates boost margins for its two […]

Gulf dollar exports Saudi Arabia

Weakening dollar should strengthen Gulf exports

The US dollar will fall against the euro and Chinese yuan, economists are forecasting, reducing the purchasing power of Gulf currencies but making the bloc’s exports more competitive. A weaker dollar will raise the relative cost of imports from China and much of the European Union, but other factors are more likely to affect inflation […]

People using Mashreq Bank ATMs in Dubai. UAE banks’ combined net profit was a record AED 76.9bn in 2023

UAE banks struggling to match 2023’s record profits

Banks in the UAE will struggle to repeat last year’s record annual profits in 2024, after the introduction of corporate tax, expected US interest rate cuts and the likely absence of the bumper one-off gains that bolstered their bottom line in 2023. However, a slight decline in profitability would still represent a strong performance by […]

Gulf wealth funds put investing in US well ahead of China

Most sovereign wealth funds in the Gulf remain heavily invested in the US, while China represents a much smaller part of their portfolios, data from the consultancy Global SWF shows.  The data also shows that the portfolios of Gulf sovereign wealth funds vary widely in terms of their geographical distribution. This is partly a result […]

The Morgan Stanley New York headquarters. The bank's local head said there are 'exciting times ahead for the Mena region'

Morgan Stanley latest US bank to set up in Abu Dhabi

Morgan Stanley is opening an office in Abu Dhabi Global Market in a bid to win more business in the Middle East and North Africa. The latest international bank to set up shop in the UAE capital’s financial centre, Morgan Stanley already has offices in Dubai, Riyadh and Doha. The lender, ranked 31st worldwide in […]

The value of the Egyptian pound has halved since 2022, leading to reduced investment

Egyptian economic woes to prolong startup funding slump

Egyptian startups face another tough year finding funding, as the prospect of further currency devaluations and stubbornly high inflation deter investors, despite the attractive demographics of the Arab world’s most populous nation. The number of venture capital deals in Egypt in the first nine months of 2023 was 47, down by nearly two thirds on […]

VC firms expect Mena investment will pick up again this year after a slump in 2023

VC firms ready for Mena investment rebound

Venture capital companies expect investment activity in the Middle East and North Africa to rebound this year after a slump in 2023, with startups in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates likely again to dominate dealmaking. In 2023 there were 517 VC deals in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. They raised a […]

Men walk past an HSBC branch in Manama. HSBC Bank Middle East made pre-tax profit of $1.2bn in 2023

HSBC’s Middle East unit increases lending in Q4

HSBC’s Middle East subsidiary expanded its loan book in the fourth quarter, outperforming the bank’s other units. Customer lending at HSBC Bank Middle East was $20 billion on December 31, up $1.6 billion, or 8 percent, on three months earlier. Worldwide, HSBC’s customer lending fell by 2 percent over the same period. The Middle East […]

Shorooq partner Tamer Azer says the VC firm is excited about investing in a 'different generation' of companies in sectors such as gaming

VC firm Shorooq focuses on AI, biotech and gaming

Venture capital company Shorooq Partners will target companies specialising in sectors such as artificial intelligence, biotech and gaming, a senior executive told AGBI. Shorooq is based in Abu Dhabi and manages about $350 million in assets and invests in startups in the Middle East and North Africa and beyond. It is focused on on fintech […]