• Project awards, mergers and acquisitions activity, and company earnings are all down by close to 30 per cent
  • Average daily oil prices down by 46.9 per cent during first half of 2015
  • Investor confidence has been subdued this year

Economic activity in the GCC fell by just under 30 per cent during the first half of 2015, according to three key metrics.

The value of contracts awarded during the first half of 2015 in the GCC fell by 26 per cent when compared with the same period in 2014, according to data from regional projects tracker MEED Projects. The total value of awards during the first half of 2015 was $75bn, down from $102bn in the first six months of 2014.

MEED reported in May that the projects market was underperforming in 2015 when compared with 2014.

There are two other data points that have shown a similar decline in economic activity. Total mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity targeting the region dropped 29.4 per cent to $18.9bn in the first half of 2015, according to data from UK-based Mergermarket.

The value of deals is the lowest since 2009 and, according to the report, signals a lack of confidence in home markets. Domestic activity also fell by 52 per cent to $9.1bn.

Expectations for earning on the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) also suggest a near 30 per cent drop in economic activity. The localAl-Rajhi Capital Research anticipates earnings for the companies it covers to dip 27 per cent year-on-year for the second quarter of 2015.

The firm says the market has been weighed down by the petrochemicals sector, which is expected to report near 34 per cent lower earnings on account of weak product prices and shutdowns at various operations.

The three metrics have outperformed oil prices. According to the US’ Energy Information Administration, the average daily spot price for Brent Crude was $57.82 a barrel during the first half of 2015, down 46.9 per cent on the average daily price of $108.93 during the first half of 2014.

Riyadh’s oil options

When oil prices started to fall from their high peaks of $114 a barrel in June 2014, many analysts expected Middle East oil producers to start slashing output in order to drive prices back up.

Most Opec members assumed that Riyadh, the great swing producer, would cut its oil production from 9.4 million barrels a day (b/d) by anything up to 1 million b/d or more.

They were wrong. Opec, led by Saudi Arabia, continued to pump oil at record levels. And the group’s decision on 28 November to maintain production at 30 million b/d, a level set in December 2011, when producers were concerned that rising oil prices might derail the global economic recovery, sent oil markets into freefall. Read more

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