Monthly briefing: 22 key developments in the region

28 September 2022
Deadly protests break out across Iran following woman’s death in custody; High oil prices boost GCC outlook; Saudi projects top $1.1tn; Riyadh to send first woman into space; Qatar to close its borders to non-World Cup ticket holders

By Indrajit Sen

Opec+ agrees minor production increase
King appoints crown prince as Saudi prime minister
Lebanon parliament approves $1.2bn draft budget
Iraq court rules against national oil company
Libya oil production continues to grow
President approves Egypt's Olympic plans
> Dubai prepares hydrogen strategy
GCC central banks raise interest rates
UK and GCC hold ministerial meeting at the UN


Oil producers will raise output by 100,000b/d in October

The Opec+ alliance of oil producers decided in September that it would increase oil production by just 100,000 barrels a day (b/d) in October to support crude prices, which have fluctuated in recent weeks amid fears that a global economic recession will curb demand for oil. 

Opec+ members also increased overall oil production by 100,000b/d in September. 

The alliance agreed to increase its July and August crude production by about 50 per cent to 648,000b/d, fully restoring the 5.8 million b/d output that the group had cut at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Read more


Deadly protests follow woman’s death in custody

Thirty-five people have been killed in protests in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody on 16 September.

Protests have been reported in 31 provinces.

The 22-year-old Amini had been detained for breaking headscarf rules and was reportedly beaten with batons.

Officials said she suffered heart failure and Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi has stated that she was not beaten. 

President Ebrahim Raisi pledged to crack down on the unrest on 24 September.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported on 25 September that there had been large-scale demonstrations to condemn the protests.

21 September: Iranian demonstrators take to the streets of Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody. Credit: AFP via Getty Images


Dubai toll operator raises over $1bn from oversubscribed stock listing

Dubai toll operator Salik raised $1.017bn from its initial public offering (IPO) on the Dubai Financial Market, as part of a series of IPOs of state enterprises aimed at boosting the size of the emirate's capital market.

The IPO was more than 49 times oversubscribed across all tranches, with total gross demand at $50.2bn.

The company had set its offering price at AED2 ($0.54) a share, giving it a valuation of more than $4bn.

The emirate's government sold more than 1.867 billion shares in the company, or 24.9 per cent, up from the previously announced 1.5 billion shares, equivalent to 20 per cent.


Saudi Arabia, Arab League and EU hold meeting in New York

Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud and Arab League secretary-general Ahmed Aboul Gheit attended a meeting of the Arab Peace Initiative Committee and its sponsors in the EU. The meeting took place at the UN General Assembly in New York. 

The Arab Peace Initiative, which Saudi Arabia launched in 2002, is a proposal to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The members of the Arab Peace Initiative Committee are Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq, Palestine, Qatar, Lebanon, Morocco and Yemen. The initiative is sponsored by Spain, Sweden and France.


Two years of high oil prices set to improve regional outlook

Rating agency Moody’s Investors Service has said that elevated oil prices during the next two years will lead to a significant improvement in the fiscal and external positions of GCC sovereigns, partly reversing the sharp deterioration in their balance sheets since 2015. 

Improvements in creditworthiness will hinge on the extent to which regional governments utilise the windfall to address constraints posed by their exposure to cyclical oil price and demand volatility, and by longer-term carbon transition risks, Moody’s said.

The agency expects oil prices to average about $105 a barrel in 2022 and $95 a barrel in 2023. As a result, most hydrocarbon-exporting countries in the GCC will run fiscal and current account surpluses, allowing governments to pay down debts, rebuild fiscal reserves and accumulate foreign-currency buffers.


Regional banks are returning to pre-pandemic form

After a strong first half, ratings agency S&P Global expects that earnings for most GCC banks will almost reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year amid high oil prices and rising interest rates.

In the second half of 2022, S&P forecasts further strengthening of regional banks’ interest margins and a manageable rise in cost of risk amid lingering effects from the Covid-19 pandemic via loans that benefited from support measures and were then restructured. Combined, these factors will be a net positive for banks’ earnings.


Saudi infrastructure and property projects top $1.1tn

The aggregate value of property and infrastructure projects since the launch of Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Plan in 2016 has crossed $1.1tn as the kingdom continues to diversify its economy, according to real estate consultancy Knight Frank. 

The $500bn Neom city development is the biggest of 15 major projects in Saudi Arabia that are currently at various phases of construction. The kingdom plans to have more than 555,000 residential units, 275,000 hotel rooms, 4.3 million square metres (sq m) of retail and 6.1 million sq m of new office space by 2030. 

The country is also developing several large-scale tourism projects as it seeks to increase the economic contribution of the sector from 3 per cent of GDP to 10 per cent by the end of this decade.


UK prime minister considers relocating British embassy

UK Prime Minister Liz Truss is considering moving the British embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

Truss spoke about a possible move to the contested city during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September. 

Despite Israel having designated Jerusalem as its capital, Britain has long maintained its embassy in Tel Aviv. 

When he was president of the US, Donald Trump took the controversial decision to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem in May 2018. 

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their capital.


First Saudi woman to be sent to space in a crewed mission

Saudi Arabia plans to send a woman into space for the first time as part of its new mission programme. 

A crew will be launched next year that will include the first Saudi female pilot and astronaut. 

The kingdom’s astronaut programme aims to produce qualified Saudi citizens who will take part in short- and long-term space flights, as well as participate in scientific experiments, international research and future space-related missions. 

The new programme comes under the umbrella of Saudi Vision 2030 and will fall under the National Space Strategy, the details of which will be announced in the coming months.


Qatar to shut borders to non-World Cup ticket holders

Entry to Qatar will be restricted from 1 November to citizens, residents and holders of the World Cup Hayya card, the tournament’s organising committee has announced. 

The suspension of visits by people not attending Fifa World Cup matches will continue until 23 December, five days after the final match takes place in Doha. 

The restrictions apply to all air, land and sea borders into Qatar. 

Football fans in possession of a match ticket for the World Cup must also apply for a Hayya entry permit – a pre-approved digital visa linked to a passport that offers free public transport around the country. 

The Hayya card allows entry into Qatar until 23 January 2023. 

Qatari citizens and residents, GCC citizens holding a Qatari identification card, holders of work entry permits and personal visas, and approved humanitarian cases will be exempt from the restrictions.

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