Kuwait Emir accepts gov’t resignation

Kuwait’s head of state has accepted the resignation of the government, state news agency KUNA said on Sunday, in a move that could help ease a political crisis after a court ruling effectively dissolved parliament.

The Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, will now appoint a new cabinet, after which analysts expect a reinstated assembly to be dissolved so that a new parliamentary election can be held, probably after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts around July 19.

The court’s ruling had effectively dissolved a parliament dominated by opposition Islamists and reinstated its more government-friendly predecessor.

Critics said the move was against the constitution.

“An Emiri decree was issued, accepting the resignation of [the government of] Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah,” KUNA said.

Until a new government line-up is agreed, the outgoing cabinet will serve as caretaker, it added.

Kuwait, a major oil producer, has seen eight governments come and go in just six years which hindered economic reforms.

Kuwait has long prided itself on having a fully elected parliament with legislative power and lively debate – unique in a region ruled by autocrats who tolerate little dissent – but the ruling al-Sabah family maintains a firm grip on state affairs.

Key cabinet posts are held by al Sabah family members and the 83-year-old emir, who has the last say in politics, reserves the right to dissolve parliament at will.

Royal Navy joins search for missing Dubai sailor

Navy divers trained in identifying underwater enemy mines will join the
search to help find British Navy sailor Timothy MacColl, it has been reported.

Police plan to use the mine detection vessel HMS Middleton, which docked
in the city on Wednesday, reported Scotland’s Daily Record. The ship has 30 divers on board.

search will focus on the waters around Port Rashid, the area where MacColl’s
ship, the HMS Westminster, was berthed.

to the newspaper, the sailor’s pregnant wife Rachael, his mother Sheema, and
Rachael’s uncle Neil Cunningham, were informed of the plan by Dubai’s police
chief last weekend.

three of us came out of there completely reassured that finding Timmy is the
number one priority for Dubai police,” said Cunningham.

minesweeper is expected to be in Dubai for three weeks.

MacColl, a member of HMS
Westminster’s crew, was last seen leaving the Rock Bottom Cafe in Bur Dubai in
the early hours of May 27. British authorities have said they are treating it as a
missing person’s case and are working closely with local authorities.

A Facebook campaign, called Bring
Timmy Home, has attracted more than 117,000 followers.

Rachel MacColl, who
is expecting the couple’s third child in October, said “it is completely out of
character for him not to contact us”. Speaking to the Press Association, she
urged residents in Dubai to “help us find Timmy and raise awareness”.

Bahraini Islamic banks merger approved

Shareholders at three Bahrain-based Islamic investment banks have approved plans for a merger, it has been announced.

Capivest, Elaf Bank and Capital Management House have the green light to merge after the extraordinary general meetings of the three banks approved the deal.

The merger will be effective after obtaining the final approval of the Central Bank of Bahrain and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, a statement said.

Once implemented, the newly created entity will have shareholders’ equity of almost $350m and assets in excess of $400m.

The transaction is the first three-way merger to take place in Bahrain, the statement added.

Isa Habib, vice chairman of Elaf Bank, said: “The aim of this merger is to establish a strong banking institution that is able to compete solidly in a changing market.”

He added: “The merger will bring instant diversification of assets and revenues. Also, the bank will be able to capture larger projects and will enable it to diversify its capital sources.”

Mohammed Abdulmalik, CEO of Capivest, said: “The three banks will gain numerous benefits from the merger; in particular, the merged bank will have a strong balance sheet from day one which will create a positive impact on our dynamic banking sector.”

Khalid Najibi, managing director of Capital Management House, added: “This fusion of competitive advantages in various markets makes us all excited and motivated to complete this merger and will work in the near future to announce the new brand identity of the bank which will reflect our client focus and future vision. We look forward to working side by side to achieve our shared goals.”

The three banks, Capivest, Elaf Bank and Capital Management House were advised by Kuwait Finance House – Bahrain as transaction advisor, Trowers Hamlins as legal counsel and Deloitte as independent valuer.

Etihad Cargo launches service to Dammam

Etihad Cargo has inaugurated a new weekly freighter operation from Abu Dhabi to the Saudi city of Dammam.

The new cargo service, which operates every Tuesday using an Airbus A300-600F freighter, has a capacity of 42 metric tonnes.

Etihad Airways already operates 16 weekly Airbus A319 and A320 passenger services between the two cities.

David Kerr, vice president of Etihad Cargo, said: “We are delighted to launch our first dedicated freighter service to Dammam, and believe that it will further strengthen the trade ties between the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

“It also complements our twice weekly trucking service to the Dammam Free Zone.”

Etihad Cargo is the fast growing cargo division of Etihad Airways, and operates services to a total of 87 destinations around the world.

The cargo division of the UAE flag carrier operates a fleet of six freighters, consisting of one Airbus A300-600F, two Airbus A330-200F, one MD-11F, one Boeing B777F and one Boeing B747-400F.

In April, the airline said it carried a record 31,700 tonnes of cargo in March, an increase of 20 percent on the same month in the previous year.

Total revenues for the month were up 14 percent on February and 19 percent on the corresponding period the previous year. In February, Etihad carried 27,900 tonnes of freight.

Kuwait’s Al-Hasawi closes in on Notts Forest deal

Kuwaiti businessman Fawaz Al-Hasawi said on Saturday that “exciting times” were ahead of Nottingham Forest as he prepares to complete the deal for the English Championship football club.

In a statement, he said he was currently completing due diligence and negotiations were progressing well. It did not give a value for the deal to buy the club.

Al-Hasawi, whose family made their fortune in the refrigeration business, said he looked forward to achieving “the highest levels of success” at the club which won the European Cup, now the Champions League, twice in the 1980s.

Al-Hasawi said: “The future on-field and off-field success of Nottingham Forest is at the heart of our plans which we will of course announce in due course.

“We understand this is a difficult time for the club and its supporters and look forward to working with you in achieving the highest levels of success.”

The acquisition of a football club would give Al-Hasawi automatic membership to an elite club of Gulf investors that own European football teams.

Abu Dhabi United Group Investment and Development Limited, led by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, acquired Manchester City for a reported $321m in summer 2008.

Qatar Sports Investments bought a 70 percent stake in French football club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in June last year. The investment firm became the sole shareholder of the club after purchasing the remaining 30 percent stake in March.

Dubai’s Royal Emirates Group owns the Spanish La Liga side Getafe.

Sony, Mubadala bid for EMI wins US approval

The Federal Trade Commission has approved a Sony-led consortium’s purchase of EMI Music Publishing, without having to make any divestitures, the FTC said on Friday.

US antitrust regulators gave the nod to the $2.2bn deal in a brief letter to the companies.

The agency is expected to issue a decision in coming months on a related and more controversial deal — Universal Music’s plan to buy EMI’s recorded music catalog from Citigroup Inc for $1.9bn.

In its letter, the FTC said that it had been looking at the transaction but upon review found no reason for further action.

“Accordingly, the investigation has been closed,” the FTC said in its letter to Sony Corp.

European antitrust regulators gave Sony approval to close its purchase of the EMI unit in April on condition it sell the worldwide publishing rights of artists, including Robbie Williams and Lenny Kravitz.

The consortium proposed a deal with Europe regulators in which they would sell the assets to satisfy concerns that the deal would break antitrust law.

Other assets to be sold are Virgin UK, Virgin Europe, Virgin US and Famous Music UK, and include artists such as Gary Barlow, Ozzy Osbourne, Ben Harper, Placebo and The Kooks.

Sony, with Blackstone Group, Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Co, Raine Group and music and film mogul David Geffen, won the bidding for EMI Publishing last year in a deal that will put Sony on top in global music publishing.

Before the deal, Sony was the fourth biggest player in music publishing, behind Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, EMI and Warner Music.

The agreement will push it into first place, owning the rights to about 3 million songs, such as “New York, New York” and Adele’s recent smash “Rolling in the Deep”.

Citigroup is selling EMI after taking over the group when its previous owner, private equity group Terra Firma, defaulted on borrowings from the investment bank.

Abu Dhabi hotel revenues hit $98m in May

Abu Dhabi hotel revenues rose three percent to AED360m ($98m) in May, the emirate’s Tourism and Culture Authority said on Saturday.

The number of guests at Abu Dhabi hotels, hotel apartments and resorts grew 12 percent to 192,374, the authority said.

They spent 542,567 guestnights which represented an increase of seven percent over the corresponding period last year, official news agency WAm reported.

It said the UAE capital’s occupancy rate reached 63 percent, a decline of eight percent from May 2011 due to the increased supply of hotel properties coming to market.

The average length of stay at Abu Dhabi hotels also slipped by four percent to 2.82 guestnights.

Mubarak Al-Muhairi, the authority’s director general, said that it is adopting several initiatives to attract more tourists to the emirate this summer.

Gold prices rise but set for worst quarter in 8 years

Gold prices rose on Friday along with the euro after leaders at a European Union summit struck a deal to cut borrowing costs for Spain and Italy, but stayed on track for their biggest quarterly drop in eight years after a dire performance in May and June.

The metal has fallen 5.87 percent since the end of March, its worst quarter since the three months to June 2004, as the dollar benefited from safe-haven flows and hopes faded that the Federal Reserve would launch another round of US quantitative easing.

After a widely celebrated eleven-year bull run, which took gold prices to a record $1,920.30 an ounce last September, it is now little better than flat on the year and has averaged just over $1,650 an ounce in the first half.

“After 11 years it is only natural that gold stops and pauses for breath before taking the next step higher,” Saxo Bank vice president Ole Hansen said. “The worry is obviously that momentum has been completely lost and leveraged players (such a hedge funds) have left the building.”

“They will come back, but the market needs to reassert itself before that happens, as they are more followers than instigators of trends.”

“The event that could trigger the spark that put some life back into gold is however difficult to find at the moment, so before we move higher, there is a risk that we need to clear the table which could be triggered by a move below $1,500.”

Spot gold was up 1.3 percent at $1,570.20 an ounce at 1.03pm UAE time, while US gold futures for August delivery were up $20.20 an ounce at $1,570.60.

Financial markets have rebounded strongly from Thursday’s losses. The Euro STOXX 50 volatility index, Europe’s main gauge of anxiety, sank 10 percent to a one-week low of 25.25 as investors’ appetite for risky assets recovered following a deal at the EU summit.

Euro zone leaders agreed to take emergency action to bring down Italy’s and Spain’s spiralling borrowing costs and to create a single supervisory body for euro zone banks by the end of this year, a first step towards a European banking union.

European shares were up 1.5 pct, the euro was up 1 pct versus the dollar, and the cost of insuring Spanish and Italian debt against default slid.

But analysts warned the bounce would likely be short-lived.

“I’m afraid… this news.. is no more than a sticking plaster on an amputation, and as such while the markets will for the moment react favourably, in the long run we still have a long way to go,” Marex Spectron said in a note.

Physical gold buying in major consumer India picked up a little on Friday as prices fell. Weakness in Indian demand has undermined spot prices this year, with Indian gold prices currently near record highs due to rupee weakness.

Traders in India are waiting for monsoon rains to pick up, which is vital to farm productivity and profits. Rural areas contribute to about 60 percent of gold imports.

Quarterly sales of gold American Eagle coins by the US Mint also fell to their lowest in four years at 127,500 ounces, down more than 39 percent from the previous quarter and by more than half year-on-year.

Among other precious metals, silver was up 1.8 percent at $26.82 an ounce.

Its outperformance helped pull the gold/silver ratio, which measures the number of silver ounces needed to buy an ounce of gold, back from its highs of the year to 58.5.

Spot platinum was up 1.5 percent at $1,404.75 an ounce, while spot palladium was up 1.2 percent at $567.57 an ounce. Both metals have fallen to their lowest this year in recent days, at $1,378 and $556 respectively.

“There were no obvious catalysts,” UBS said in a note. “If anything US data prints should have been marginally helpful.”

“Overall, the market’s behaviour was not all that different from what we’ve seen all week: price action comes in sweeps, mostly on Comex, and stops get triggered along the way, amplifying the move,” it added. “Today, it’s no great surprise that silver and PGMs are leading the move higher, with both easily outpacing the euro move.”

US urges UAE to release former Deyaar CEO on bail

The United States on Friday urged the UAE to release on bail an American businessman accused of embezzlement who has been on hunger strike for six weeks, and to deal with his case in a “transparent manner”.

Zack Shahin has been in detention since he was arrested in 2008 while at the helm of the Dubai real estate firm Deyaar. There have been hearings in his case in Dubai, but no judgment.

“After more than six weeks, obviously there are serious concerns about Mr Shahin’s health,” the US charge d’affaires in the UAE, L Victor Hurtado, said in a statement.

“We continue to urge the authorities to release him on bail, as has been approved but not carried out in the past. In addition, we urge that the several outstanding pending cases against Mr Shahin can be consolidated, allowing him to defend himself more effectively.”

The United States is concerned, among other things, that Shahin, who was not formally charged for over a year, may have been treated worse than others accused of financial crimes in the UAE, Hurtado said.

US officials have repeatedly raised the case with UAE officials and urged the UAE to conduct the case in an “expeditious and transparent manner”, he added.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan met US President Barack Obama in Washington on Wednesday.

In May, four other expatriates jailed in Dubai said they were among a group of prisoners who had gone on hunger strike to protest against the lengthy prison sentences handed down to most of them for financial crimes.

The men, most of them real estate developers and other businessmen who worked in Dubai during its economic boom, fell into debt when the emirate’s property bubble burst after the 2008 global credit crisis.

Saudi’s king orders huge mosque expansion

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has ordered a major expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque in the holy city of Madinah, it was announced on Friday.

Dr Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, the Gulf kingdom’s Minister of Finance, made the announcement in comments published by Saudi Press Agency.

He said that the project would be implemented in three phases.

The first phase will accommodate more than 800,000 worshippers, he said, adding that the second and third phases will accommodate a further 800,000 worshippers.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia said its ongoing SR80bn ($21.33bn) expansion of Makkah’s Grand Mosque will eventually allow the Islamic holy site to accommodate 1.5m worshippers.

The move comes as Islamic tourism continues to grow rapidly and has proved a huge earner for the oil-rich Gulf kingdom.

According to a report by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, domestic tourism alone in the country increased 13.5 percent last year, generating $22bn.

Tourism accounts for about 3.1 percent of the kingdom’s gross domestic product and for about 7.2 percent in the kingdom’s non-oil sector.