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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

Europe looks to a divided Libya to ease energy crisis

Italian oil major Eni’s $8 billion deal to develop two new gas fields in Libya is the biggest since the overthrow of veteran ruler Muammar Gaddafi. It also marks the latest attempt by European energy companies to secure new supplies for the continent in North Africa. Last year Eni struck an agreement to increase gas […]

Gold Middle East

High inflation boosts demand for gold

Demand for gold coins, bars and jewellery soared in the Middle East last year, according to the World Gold Council. In 2022 demand for gold coins and bars in the Mena region surged 42 percent year-on-year to 77.8 tonnes, the highest annual total since 2018.  “Egypt, Qatar, Iraq, the UAE and Oman significantly boosted their […]

Exempt offer sukuks have become more popular in the past five years

Saudi SMEs look to sharia funding to balance cash flow

In Saudi Arabia, small to medium-sized companies are increasingly turning to sharia-compliant funding to raise money for their businesses. But rather than borrow from banks, these SMEs instead rely on the kingdom’s nascent fintech sector to obtain bridging loans, invoice financing and other kinds of niche financial support. “SMEs are underserved by the banking sector, […]

Swiss UAE exports

Swiss Group opens Zurich office to boost trade with UAE

Swiss Group, the Dubai-based business consultancy, is opening an office in Zurich this month to help Swiss companies and entrepreneurs do business in the UAE.  The UAE’s $8.74 billion of exports to Switzerland in 2021 make it the European country’s ninth largest import partner, according to data from the International Monetary Fund. The UAE is […]

Chaitanya Peddi, co-founder of Darwinbox

Microsoft-backed Indian tech firm in Mena expansion

Indian HR software provider Darwinbox is increasing its Middle East headcount as part of its push into the region following Microsoft’s investment in the company.  Microsoft bought a stake in the tech firm, which is based in Hyderabad, with the duo forming a partnership that enables both companies to share leads and what Darwinbox describes […]

European and Russian expats opt for freelance jobs in UAE

UAE job visa applications will increase by nearly one third this year, with many expats from Europe and Russia opting for freelance roles, the managing director of recruitment and HR consultancy Connect Group told AGBI.  Aaron Portero forecasts that visa applications will rise at least 25 to 30 percent in 2023. This is on top […]


BlackRock’s Larry Fink welcomes rise in Gulf clients

BlackRock is attracting more investors from the Middle East, the CEO of the world’s largest asset manager told analysts this month. The US-based firm established a wholly-owned Saudi subsidiary in 2018, opened an office in Riyadh in 2019 and in February 2022 received approval from the market regulator to start managing investments and operating funds […]

Ramada by Wyndham Riyadh

World’s largest hotel franchiser eyes Saudi mid-market sector

The mid-market hotel segment offers great opportunities in Saudi Arabia’s fast-growing tourism industry, the president of the world’s largest hotel franchising company told AGBI.  New Jersey-headquartered Wyndham Hotels and Resorts last month opened its 13th hotel in the kingdom, the 189-room Ramada by Wyndham Riyadh King Fahd Road.  It is one of several Wyndham hotels […]

Qatar 2022

Flight searches to Qatar soar from South Korea and Australia

Searches for travel to Qatar from nations competing in the World Cup surged in November as fans raced to reserve last-minute flights and accommodation in the tournament’s host country.  Enquiries for Qatar on travel aggregator website Wego from internet users in South Korea were up 168 percent in November versus the same period of 2021, […]

Lebanon jobs

Lebanon economy ‘on hold’ after fleeting summer resurgence

Lebanon’s private sector cut jobs in November as declining orders spurred companies to reduce spending amid prolonged political uncertainty, according to the latest purchasing manager’s index (PMI) report.  The BLOM Lebanon PMI slumped to a seven-month low of 48.1 last month, down from 49.1 in October. A reading above 50.0 shows improving business conditions, while […]

Airport, Jet, Airplane

Dubai’s first passenger drones to fly in 2024

A senior Dubai sheikh has signed a deal with a Hungarian aviation firm to manufacture passenger drones in the UAE, with the first aircraft due to roll off the production line in early 2024. Sheikh Rashid Bin Ahmed Al Maktoum’s RAM Investment Ltd will partner with Jakabszállás-based Genevation Aircraft Ltd to build the drones as […]

Saudi solar

Saudi to build Gulf’s largest solar power plant near Mecca

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and ACWA Power will build the Middle East’s largest solar power plant in Mecca province, the duo announced on Wednesday, as the kingdom accelerates efforts to expand its renewables capacity.  Slated to begin commercial operations in late 2025, the 2,060-megawatt (mw) solar photovoltaic Al Shuaibah […]

UK launches £4bn finance support to boost trade with Morocco

Moroccan importers can access up to £4 billion ($4.85 billion) in trade finance to help buy goods and services from the United Kingdom, British officials announced this week.  To be eligible for support from UK Export Finance (UKEF) at least 20 percent of the overall contract value for a project must be sourced from British […]

Palm island Dubai

Palm Jebel Ali buyers get 150% refund as credit if they reinvest

Original investors in Dubai’s long-stalled Palm Jebel Ali can receive up to 1.5 times the money they paid – providing they re-invest this in the revamped project, state-owned master developer Nakheel has pledged.  In September, Nakheel revealed it would re-launch Palm Jebel Ali, having officially cancelled the project earlier this year. Construction halted in 2009 […]

Egypt exported 80% of its LNG to Europe last year as the continent sought to replace Russian gas

Egypt aims to overcome obstacles to supplying more gas to the EU

Depleting gas fields and soaring domestic consumption will stymie Egypt’s immediate efforts to boost Europe-bound energy exports – however, new exploration and additional pipelines could help it become a sizeable supplier to the EU later this decade.  The EU has vowed to slash its imports of Russian gas by two thirds this year following Vladimir Putin’s […]

Saudi warehousing

Saudi’s shortage of warehouse supply sees rents surge 22%

Warehouse rents in Saudi Arabia are soaring thanks to expanding manufacturing and retail activity in the kingdom.  The International Monetary Fund in August predicted Saudi Arabia would be one of the world’s fastest growing economies in 2022, expanding 7.6 percent, its biggest increase in a decade.  This boom is being felt in the warehousing sector. […]

Slump in plastic bag usage as Dubai tackles carbon footprint

Plastic bag use has plummeted at UAE retail outlets operated by Majid Al Futtaim following the emirate’s introduction of a mandatory AED25 ($6.81) bag charge. In a small, but notable step towards reducing the UAE’s vast carbon footprint, Majid Al Futtaim said plastic bag use fell 85 percent in the three months since charges began […]

Wynn's CEO confirmed that the planned casino in RAK will be even bigger than its 110,000sq ft site in Las Vegas

Las Vegas’s Wynn Resorts confirms Gulf’s first casino in RAK

Las Vegas’s Wynn Resorts will build a casino within its hotel complex on Ras Al Khaimah’s Marjan Island, the company’s CEO confirmed in an analysts call this week. Wynn announced plans back in January for the multibillion-dollar resort, which it said would be completed by 2026 and feature more than 1,000 rooms, a shopping mall, […]

Chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline Group, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum

Emirates Group hires 10% more staff following record profits

Emirates Group reported a record half-year profit on Thursday despite fuel costs trebling as passenger numbers soared and customers opted for premium seats.  The Dubai-based conglomerate, which includes Emirates Airline and travel agent dnata, attributed its performance to strong demand for air travel following the gradual easing of Covid 19-related restrictions worldwide.  Middle East airlines reported […]

Dubai International Financial Centre

Calculating hyperinflation is ‘top priority’ for Islamic banks

Islamic banking’s top rule maker is racing to create a new accounting standard to calculate the impact of hyperinflation. Changes to sharia-compliant accounting practices could make some account holders liable for banks’ losses related to soaring prices.  Under IFRS accounting standards, which are commonly used worldwide, there is a clause, IAS 29, that covers hyperinflation. […]

Higher wages in Emirates entice Filipino expats to invest

Four-fifths of Filipino expats in the UAE plan to make investments in the next 12 months as rising wages and a strong dollar give them greater purchasing power back home.  The UAE’s official population statistics do not provide a breakdown by nationality, although by unofficial estimates there are around 560,000 Filipinos living in the UAE, […]