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#Saudi Arabia's Arbah Capital buys Glasgow's Sauchiehall building

Saudi Arabia-based Arbah Capital has acquired the Sauchiehall building in Glasgow, UK, valued at $76m (SAR285m), through a sharia'a-compliant investment structure. Arbah Capital stated that the acquisition represented a core long term investment and would help attain value at a time of uncertainty in the UK. The investment firm added that the Sauchiehall building aligned with its main strategy to focus on acquisitions of distinctive assets. The mixed-use property is a 2.87ha LG+G+6F structure, and features a multi-storey car park as well. Arbah Capital's CEO Mahmood Al Kooheji says this purchase enhances Arbah’s strategic alliances and relationships which further supports its position as an international gateway into the investment market.

#Dubai: Low-income #housing policy to be introduced

A low-income housing policy will be introduced in Dubai, to provide housing units for individuals earning low income and renovate some old areas in the emirate. The Crown Prince of Dubai HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum approved the policy. It will classify low-income people into Emiratis and non-Emiratis, including expats and workers, in strategic sectors in Dubai. The policy will also include families’ income levels, place of residence, and public benefits and will compare them with requirements and the extent of challenges families are facing. Sheikh Hamdan approved two main programmes. The first one aims to cooperate with real estate developers in order to provide housing units for low-income families while the second aims to refurbish some old areas in Dubai.

#GCC: Minimum #parking requirements must be revised

In order to improve the feasibility of middle- and low-income housing, eight main links must be optimised. The cost of land, trunk infrastructure, site planning, design, financing, construction, offtake, and management must all be lowered, while producing high-quality units close to employment, healthcare, educational, and recreational amenities. In turn, policy-makers and developers must examine each development stage carefully, identifying associated costs and eliminating unnecessary ones. Minimum onsite parking requrements can negatively impact the feasibility of middle- and low-income housing. Changes to onsite parking requirements must be supported by well-managed on-street parking and other public parking options. Advanced data collection technology could also be enlisted to measure parking use in residential buildings and to fine-tune parking options based on real-world conditions.

#Qatar: Barwa signs $165m project finance agreement

Qatar-based developer Barwa Real Estate has signed a new facility agreement with Qatar International Islamic Bank (QIIB) worth $165m (QAR600m). According to the official statement, the move is aimed at securing finance for a part of its upcoming projects. This agreement reinforces Barwa’s strategy of strengthening its financial position by funding the upcoming projects through credit facilities with favorable rates, terms and conditions.

Barwa Bank appoints group chief operating officer

Barwa Bank has appointed Nasser Rashid Al Humaidi as group chief operating officer. Reporting to the acting GCEO of Barwa Bank Group, Khalid Yousef Al-Subeai, Al-Humaidi will be tasked with developing a unified structure to improve operational efficiency, increase proficiency and modernise processes and procedures, by using the latest financial sector tools. With more than 19 years’ experience in the operations management and information technology sectors, Al-Humaidi has a track record in a number of institutions from different sectors, including telecom, real estate development, oil and gas as well as national steering committees. He worked as the executive director for Operations & Support at Qatar Development Bank for the past three years.

Saudi Arabia approves 2.5% ‘white land tax’

Saudi Arabia has approved proposals for a 2.5% ‘white land tax’, which will apply to undeveloped residential and residential/commercial plots within urban boundaries. The law will come into force six months after the Ministry of Housing’s release of detailed regulations, the publication of which will take place within the next six months. Once implemented, proceeds from the tax will be deposited into an account of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, and will be used to fund housing and related infrastructure projects in the Kingdom. The law is intended to stimulate further development to meet the demand for middle-income housing in Saudi Arabia. JLL predicts that some land owners will bring forward plans and begin development in order to avoid the additional tax burden of holding undeveloped land. Others, it suggests, will seek to sell sites to other developers, which should help to reduce land values.

Qatar's Barwa takes $175m refinancing loan

Qatari firm Barwa Real Estate Company, has raised $175m through an Islamic loan from International Bank of Qatar to refinance its existing debt. The sharia-compliant loan will last for seven years from the date that the company draws down on the facility. In an effort to refinance its current debt obligations, Barwa Real Estate intends to increase the lifespan of the maturities on the best available terms, as part of its five-year business plan running between 2016 and 2020. As Qatar’s largest listed developer, Barwa Real Estate reported more than doubling its fourth quarter net profit in March this year, as well as an improved dividend payout for the full year. Barwa Real estate is listed on the Qatar Stock Exchange.

Drake & Scull prepares for dollar sukuk issue

Drake & Scull International (DSI) announced it has mandated five banks for an issue of perpetual USD sukuk, subject to market conditions. Emirates NBD Capital and HSBC have been mandated as joint global coordinators, and Al Hilal Bank, Emirates NBD Capital, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank as joint lead managers to arrange a series of fixed income investor meetings in the Middle East and Europe commencing on 4 June, 2015. DSI reported $302m (AED1.11bn) in revenues and $7.6m (AED27.8m) in net profit in Q1 2015. DSI's order backlog closed at $375m (AED13.8bn) as of March 31, 2015.

Barwa Bank's profit up by 43% year-on-year

Barwa Bank's profit reached QR641mn in the third quarter of this year, up by 43% on this time last year. The bank registered a third-quarter net profit of QR447mn in 2013, with total assets increasing to QR36.6bn, a 28% rise over the same period in 2013. Financing assets showed a 31% growth to QR22bn in the third quarter and customer deposits grew by 30% to QR22.1bn. Earnings-per-share improved to QR2.12 compared with QR1.9 for the same period last year. The bank's acting group chief executive officer, Khalid Yousef al-Subeai attributted the growth to improvment in processes and managment practises, which has led to greater efficiency and improved profitibilty.

Bahrain's GFH to build $3bn Tunisian development

Bahrain's Gulf Finance House (GFH) will start building a $3bn financial park and real estate development north of Tunisia's capital, a project that had been suspended for five years. The project will be one of the largest private foreign investments in the North African state. GFH's project was scheduled to begin in 2009, but financial difficulties at the Islamic bank and Tunisia's 2011 uprising froze several large-scale projects. The $3bn project will start on 15 March, and an agreement has been signed with the Tunisian contracting companies to start practical implementation of the project in a few days, according to Lotfi Zar, the executive director of the project.

The richest nation on earth

Qatar is striving to raise its credit rating to ‘AAA’, two levels higher than its current rating of 'AA' with a stable outlook. The country’s economic growth accelerated to an average 13% during the period from 2008 to 2012. Such favourable international ratings, combined with a healthy financial climate, ensured that Qatar enjoyed a stable economic outlook. However, Qatar may find it difficult to win a credit rating upgrade in the next two years unless the nation reduces its reliance on public spending. According to Standard & Poor's, Qatar’s limited monetary flexibility, and its banks’ increasing dependence on external financing stand in the way of raising the rating from ‘AA’.

Qatari Islamic bank targets construction SMEs

Qatar Islamic Bank is introducing specific sector-related packages which shall correspond to the different needs of SMEs. The first such packages focus on the key sectors of construction, trading and services. A new programme is being launched which shall providing special services to the country's small and medium sized enterprises. Exclusive financial benefits, guidance and advice will be offered. The programme is named Aamaly and will support SMEs which are recognized as one of the main contributors in innovation and job creation in the country.

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