UAE banks’ savings deposits at Dhs268.6bn for June 2023


Banks in the UAE held savings deposits to the tune of Dhs268.6bn by the end of June 2023, according to the latest statistics released by the Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE). This does not include interbank deposits, as per state news agency WAM.

The central bank’s statistics showed these deposits increased by 5.8 per cent on a monthly basis or Dhs14.8bn.

Savings in UAE Dirhams
The local currency, the UAE Dirham, accounted for the largest share of savings deposits, with about 81.6 percent, or Dhs219.17bn. The share of foreign currencies was 18.4 per cent, with a value of Dhs49.44bn.

Savings deposits in banks have seen remarkable growth over the past few years.

In 2018, these deposits stood at Dhs152bn. This increased to Dhs172.2bn in 2019, Dhs215.2bn in 2020, Dhs241.8bn in 2021, and Dhs245.8bn in 2022.

CBUAE’s deposits

Earlier this month the CBUAE reported its budget for the first half of the year. The central bank’s public budget surged by 32.15 per cent, equivalent to Dhs158bn, in contrast to some Dhs91.4bn in June 2022.

This momentum extended into the current year with a 17.5 per cent rise since the start of the year, compared to some Dhs552.5bn at the end of December 2022, an increment of Dhs97bn during the year’s first half.

The budget’s allocation delineated on the assets side, which saw Dhs257.2bn apportioned to cash and bank balances for June. Additionally, investments held until maturity were earmarked at Dhs211.32bn, while deposits accounted for Dhs135.34bn.

Loans and advances received an allocation of Dhs4.18bn, and other assets were assigned Dhs41.38bn.


Gold-backed cryptocurrencies: Can they give you better investment returns than gold?

Bitcoin is often referred to as ‘digital gold’ to indicate its utility as a store of value. However, rapid price swings in its brief decade-long history have concerned would-be investors keen on exploring it as a stable form of investment.

This is why the concept of gold-backed cryptocurrencies became popular. To put it simply, gold-backed cryptocurrencies are simply defined as a monetary system where a currency is directly linked to physical precious metals.

“Digital coins or cryptocurrency tokens issued with its value correlated to gold gives these cryptocurrencies extra stability compared to other digital assets, which lack inherent value and have high price volatility,” explained Brian Deshell, a UAE-based cryptocurrency trader and analyst.

“What this means is that the price of gold-backed cryptocurrencies will never drop below that of the precious metal that backs them, which in this case is gold. This greater price predictability and stability means they’re sometimes referred to as ‘stablecoins’.”

Why are gold-backed cryptocurrencies getting popular now?
While cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether offer benefits such as not requiring an intermediary institution to send payments anywhere and to anyone, one key drawback is that cryptocurrencies’ prices are unpredictable and have a tendency to fluctuate, often wildly.

“The volatility of cryptocurrencies makes them hard for everyday people to use. Generally, people expect to be able to know how much their money will be worth a week from now, both for their security and their livelihood,” added Deshell. “This is why gold-backed crypto is more popular now.

“Cryptocurrency’s unpredictability comes in contrast to the generally stable prices of government-issued currencies or other assets, such as gold. Currency values do change over time, but the day-to-day changes are often more drastic for cryptocurrencies, which rise and fall in value regularly.”

But this is not the first instance of gold-backed money. In 1861, such currencies were created to help stabilise economies given gold’s importance for central banks and governments as a resource. This ended after governments couldn’t keep track when people started to hoard gold during recessions.

Success of gold-backed crypto rides on recent boom in gold prices
“When considering investing in gold-backed cryptocurrency, it’s important to look at the value of precious metals in recent times and how the success of such cryptocurrencies are highly dependent on the rise and fall in costs,” explained Zubair Shakeel, a UAE-based investment manager.

In early 2022, gold prices increased to near-record levels exceeding $2,000 (Dh7,346) per ounce. However, by the end of 2022, the value had dropped by more than 20 per cent. In the beginning of 2023, there was a trend reversal of gold as it endured a series of highs and lows.

In contrast to the price fluctuations of gold, the price of Bitcoin swung much more dramatically. For instance, prices were once down by 50 per cent in mid-2021, but prices doubled just two weeks later. Late 2021, Bitcoin reached an all-time high, but a month later, prices crashed 30 per cent.

“As crypto price swings are more extreme, it generates unreliable investment returns. Investors can still get excited by the growth in the value of the precious metal, so gold-backed crypto offers better returns. The higher the value of gold, the stronger and more stable the asset is,” added Shakeel.

“Gold is a safe investment as it has very low price volatility. It is also not linked with other assets, so it is less susceptible to market flux during times of economic uncertainty. These attributes have made gold-backed cryptocurrencies an incredibly attractive investment option in recent years.”

Gold-backed cryptocurrencies offer stability, but not without risks
While there are numerous benefits of crypto backed by gold, these are largely linked to its stability compared to other options like Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Also, the price fluctuations of gold-backed crypto, as a whole, are easier to understand as opposed to extreme swings of Bitcoin prices.

“Although digitalised precious metals are typically superior compared to traditional physical bullion assets, in most cases, they do not offer any benefits that are unique to what crypto or precious metals are already offering,” explained Deshell.

“Historically, they have off late recorded lackluster growth and therefore offer limited earning opportunities on the vast majority of digital currency backed by gold. This results in other assets, like stocks, bonds, or rental properties, appearing as a more attractive prospect for investors.”

While investors don’t need to worry about physical gold getting stolen or tampered with, Deshell added that there are cybersecurity risks to investing in cryptocurrency. “Investors should take caution to avoid fraudulent trading platforms. This could leave their accounts compromised.”


Egypt eyes $120bn investment boom as Middle East drives real estate investment

Scion Industrial news

Egypt is emerging as a real estate investment hotspot, according to analysis by Knight Frank MENA.

With Middle East Sovereign Wealth Funds looking to invest up to $120bn in Egypt, the real estate sector in Cairo, in particular, could flourish.

Amid the post-pandemic landscape, a revitalised global interest in Africa has emerged, underscored by significant investment commitments from major players.

Egypt real estate investment
The UK’s $2bn commitment to sustainable projects spanning the continent, alongside engagements from other global powers, highlights the renewed allure of key hub cities such as Lagos, Nairobi, Cairo, Johannesburg, and Accra.

The report spotlights Egypt’s real estate market, particularly Cairo, as an outstanding prospect for investment.

Recently added to Knight Frank’s Africa network, Egypt’s market shines as North Africa’s rising star.

Middle East Sovereign Wealth Funds have articulated plans to infuse up to $120bn into the country, indicating their strong confidence in the region’s market growth.

Zeinab Adel, Partner – Head of Egypt Office, said: “With a population exceeding 109.3m, Egypt stands as an alluring prospect that beckons us. In the heart of this historic land lies an extraordinary opportunity, one that resonates strongly with the GCC market and Middle Eastern buyers alike.

“Egypt’s magnetic blend of rich heritage, strategic geographical location, and burgeoning economy propels it to the forefront of investment destinations.”

Cairo alone is home to more than 20 million people, making it a bustling metropolis. The country’s impressive portfolio of approximately 2 billion square feet of active real estate, , offers immense potential for growth.

Cairo’s real estate landscape centres on a thriving residential sector.

In 2022, total real estate investments in Cairo soared to $20bn, with $16bn dedicated to the residential sector, attesting to heightened demand for housing.

Simultaneously, average residential property prices increased around 10 per cent during the same year, affirming the sector’s burgeoning interest.

During 2021 alone, the UAE invested in 71 projects worth $5.6bn, with the most significant being The Agtech Park in Egypt, where UAE’s Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) supported the establishment of an agricultural technology (agtech) park to enhance agricultural productivity and promote innovation in the sector.

The country’s North Coast captures attention as a second homes market, projecting sustained demand.

Capital appreciation potential, attractive rental yields in foreign currencies, and surging GCC buyer interest fuel this demand.

Faisal Durrani, Partner – Head of Middle East Research at Knight Frank, said: “Egypt has always held a special place in the minds of GCC investors and we are starting to see a demand renaissance of sorts, with GCC buyers increasingly looking at the Egyptian second homes market, particularly on the north coast of the country.

“Clearly, the weakness of the Egyptian pound, the relatively affordable home values when compared to major cities in the Gulf and the pleasant summer climate on the Mediterranean coast are adding to the country’s attractiveness.

“This renewed demand comes hot on the heels of the $78bn in investments committed by public and private sector entities from the GCC over the last 18-months or so.”


Dubai real estate specialists ignoring millionaires to focus on billionaires as 176 homes sold for $845m

Dubai’s ultra-luxury property sector saw 176 high-end homes sold for AED3.1bn ($845m) in the first half of the year, according to Unique Properties analysis.

The Dubai real estate agency also reported that 219 homes sold in the premium price range in the past year.

This places Dubai as the fourth most active city in the world for ultra-luxury real estate, according to data from global real estate consultancy Knight Frank.

Ultra-luxury Dubai property
The city continues to solidify its position and attract investors from around the world.

Dubai has the largest population of wealth residing in the Middle East.

Recent data indicates that there are 68,400 millionaires, 206 centi-millionaires – individuals with a net worth of at least AED367m ($100m).

Unique Properties also said Dubai has 15 billionaires.

Combined, this highlights a 62 per cent increase in the number of UHNWIs (ultra-high-net-worth individuals) from 2012 to 2022.

Across the Middle East, UNHWI growth is expected to surge 24 per cent over the next five years.

In turn, the supply and delivery of luxury residential units will also see a notable uptick.

Knight Frank also reported that 9,717 UHNWIs are currently based in the Middle East and this figure is expected to reach over 12,000 by 2026, with the majority of these individuals heading to Dubai as their primary residential option and contributing to not only the city’s property sector but also its overall economy.

Arash Jalili, Founder and CEO of Unique Properties, said: “Dubai has continued to push the boundaries of what people can expect when they come here from all over the world.

“The city provides expats with both top luxury units and strong investment opportunities for a comfortable and safe lifestyle, while also ensuring a good return on investment for their money.

“As the city continues to cement itself as the top destination in the Middle East and a preferred destination for the world’s highly-affluent, we are no longer looking at millionaires entering the market.

“Our attention has now also shifted to focus on centi-millionaires and billionaires who are looking to invest in luxury villas and penthouses in high-end areas, such as Palm Jumeirah and Emirates Hills.

“The city’s commitment to constant growth and security will continue attracting the world’s richest to come and invest here regardless of the price.”


Dubai real estate market records $6.3bn of land and property deals this week

scion Industrial Engineering

The Dubai real estate sector recorded transactions valued at AED23.1bn ($6.3bn) in the week ending August 55, according to data from the city Land Department.

In total there were 3,229 transactions.

183 plots were sold for AED1.33bn ($362m) and 2,361 apartments and villas were sold for AED5.77bn ($1.6bn).

Dubai real estate this week
The top three transactions for land were a plot in Madinat Dubai Almelaheyah sold for AED93.37m ($25.4m), followed by land sold for AED76m ($20.7m) in Palm Jumeirah, and a plot sold for AED64.1m ($17.5) in Al Barsha South Second.

Madinat Al Mataar recorded the most transactions for the week, with 51 sales transactions worth AED182.3m ($49.6m).

This was followed by Al Hebiah Fifth with 24 sales transactions worth AED59.3m ($16.1) and Saih Shuaib 1 with 19 sales transactions worth AED33m in third place ($8.9m).

The top three transfers for apartments and villas were all in Palm Jumeirah.

First up was a villa sold for AED65m ($17.7m), followed by other homes sold for AED57m ($15.5m) and AED54m ($14.7m).

The sum of the amount of mortgaged properties for the week was AED15.75bn ($4.3bn), with the highest being a massive AED14bn ($3.8bn) for land in Jebel Ali Industrial First.

121 properties were granted between first-degree relatives worth AED301m ($82m).


Monsha’at hosts franchise week to boost SME sector’s GDP contribution

Saudi Arabia’s franchise sector is set to enhance its contribution to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product with an initiative by the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority. This initiative aims to unlock multiple opportunities within the sector.

Also known as Monsha’at, the authority has organized the Commercial Franchise Week, a part of a series of business weeks, in collaboration with various government agencies, banks, and sectors dedicated to trademark allocation for small and medium enterprises.

Scheduled from Aug. 20-24, the event is designed to showcase key initiatives and programs that offer support to entrepreneurs, the Saudi Press Agency reported.


Saudi Fund for Development breaks ground for Mangoky Bridge in Madagascar


Affirming its commitment to the global fraternity, the Saudi Fund for Development has laid the foundation stone to kick off the construction of the Mangoky Bridge in Madagascar, an island country lying off the southeastern coast of Africa.

The SFD has contributed $20 million as a soft loan to the project, alongside contributions from institutions and development funds in the Arab Coordination Group and the government of Madagascar, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Mangoky Bridge will connect the Atsimo-Andrefana and Menabe regions, home to Madagascar’s most vital agricultural and tourism assets.

The bridge is also expected to reduce the travel time between these two regions, thus helping local farmers to get their products to the market much more quickly.

Mohammed Al-Shammari, the SFD’s director general for Africa operations, laid the foundation stone in the presence of Andry Rajoelina, president of Madagascar.

Several high-level officials, including Christian Ntsay, prime minister of Madagascar, were also present during the event.

During his speech at the event, Rajoelina thanked the fund for contributing to constructing the 878-meter bridge and other development projects in his country.

The fund has been contributing to developmental projects across the globe since its inception in 1974.

The SPA report also noted that the fund had provided six loans to finance six development projects in Madagascar worth $69 million.

In January, the fund signed a deal with Pakistan’s Economic Affairs Ministry to finance oil derivatives amounting to $1 billion.

Saudi Arabia’s helping hand to Pakistan came when the Asian nation was battling a tough economic crisis amid dwindling forex reserves and a rapidly depreciating national currency.

In the same month, the fund also forayed into Caribbean countries by signing an $80 million financing agreement for the University of the West Indies expansion project at Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda.

The financing deal aimed to reach sustainable development goals in the Caribbean, promote scientific innovation and add additional educational facilities to the university.


Saudi Arabia partners with Egypt and Turkiye on digital economy

Scion Industrial Engineering Pvt. Ltd.

In a bid to promote collaborative ties in the digital economy, Saudi Arabia’s minister of communications and information technology held talks with counterparts from Egypt and Turkiye on the sidelines of the G20 ministerial meeting in India.

These discussions reflected the Kingdom’s commitment to fostering international partnerships in the realm of digital transformation, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Abdullah Al-Swaha also discussed with Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Amr Talaat projects to promote youth, women and entrepreneurship.


Saudi Arabia issues 124 licenses to industrial units in different sectors in January

Scion Industrial Engineering

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources issued licenses to 124 industrial units in January, according to an official statement.

The total investment value of these units is estimated at SR2.4 billion ($639 million). The factories will be established in five economic sectors. According to the official data, 29 licenses were issued in the food sector, 18 permits were given for work in non-metallic minerals, 12 in the chemicals industry, 11 for the manufacture of formed metals excluding machinery and equipment, and eight licenses were issued for the manufacture of rubber products.

The new industrial units are dispersed across 12 regions in the Kingdom. Forty-four factories were licensed in Riyadh, 24 in Makkah, 24 in the Eastern Province, 10 in the Qassim region, eight in Madinah, five in Jazan, three in Asir, two in Hail, one in Northern Borders province, one in Tabuk, one in Al-Jouf province, and one in Najran.

Official data indicated that small-sized enterprises accounted for 86.29 percent of the newly issued licenses in January, followed by medium-sized enterprises with 11.29 percent, and micro-enterprises with 2.42 percent.

According to the type of investment, national plants topped the new licenses with 79.84 percent, followed by foreign establishments (10.48 percent), and joint investments comprised 9.68 percent of the total number.

The number of factories that commenced production in January reached 164 with total investments amounting to SR2.7 billion.


Saudi’s PIF eyes $5bn Oman investments

scion Industrial engineering

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Oman Investment Authority (OIA).

The MoU is intended to expand cooperation and investment between the two entities, enabling new and promising investments in Oman’s rapidly growing economy.

PIF to invest in Oman
The MoU provides benefits and incentives for PIF and its portfolio companies, which intend to unlock investment opportunities in Oman.

The MoU also represents a significant milestone in PIF’s and OIA’s strategic partnership as it aims to expand PIF’s portfolio in Oman, building on the recent establishment of the Saudi Omani Investment Company (SOIC), a PIF-wholly owned company, which intends to invest up to $5bn in promising sectors in Oman.

SOIC recently closed its first investment in Oman as a 20 per cent anchor investor in Abraj Energy Services’ IPO and continues to seek other investment opportunities with OIA and its companies.

Through this MoU, Public Investment Fund aims to streamline its investment activities in Oman across a wide range of asset classes and target industries.

The OIA is expected to explore attractive investment opportunities for cooperation and partnership with Public Investment Fund, in addition to providing all aspects of support required in the Omani market.

Deputy Governor and Head of MENA Investments at Public Investment Fund Yazeed A. Al-Humied said: “This MoU is an important step in further strengthening the relationship between PIF and OIA to expand investment and cooperation in the fast-growing Omani economy.

“PIF aims to create long-term strategic partnerships in the region that support the creation of sustainable returns, deliver value to local economies, maximize PIF’s assets, and diversify the Saudi Arabian economy in line with Vision 2030.”

Deputy President for Investment at OIA Mulhem Basheer Al Jarf said: “This MoU builds on our existing relationship with PIF and enables greater cooperation, driving economic diversification in Saudi Arabia and Oman.

“It aims to facilitate partnership opportunities for the private sector in both countries, in alignment with OIA’s efforts to attract FDI to the Sultanate of Oman through Oman’s 2040 vision.”

As a key government entity responsible for strategic investments, OIA plays a leading role in Oman’s efforts to diversify the economy, foster sustainable development, and create a prosperous future for its people.

By attracting capital, championing innovation, and implementing strategic initiatives, OIA plays an instrumental role in advancing Oman’s economic growth, elevating its global competitiveness, and driving the nation toward a prosperous and resilient future.