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from Breakingviews:

China is moving closer to its “Dubai moment”

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By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

China’s reform drive is getting closer to its “Dubai moment”. The emirate’s 2009 refusal to bail out its flagship holding company shocked lenders who had assumed all debt carried an implicit state guarantee. As China introduces market forces to its financial system, it will also have to draw a clearer line between public and private lending.

Graphic: Who funds China?

Dubai’s era of easy credit came to a halt in November 2009, when Dubai World asked lenders to forbear on its debts. Even though the company did not enjoy an official state guarantee, lenders mistakenly believed Dubai’s ruling family – and neighbour Abu Dhabi – would never permit a high-profile entity to default.

China’s binge is based on similar assumptions. Banks and investors have lent freely in the belief that financial institutions, state-owned enterprises and local governments will get official help if necessary. To date, that has proved correct: the country’s domestic bond market has yet to suffer a single default. However, if Chinese leaders are serious about letting market forces set the price of money, it cannot last. The state will need to spell out the limits of its support

from Breakingviews:

Dubai’s new boom assumes short memories

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By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Dubai has rediscovered its appetite for grand designs. A replica Taj Mahal four times bigger than the original, the world's biggest Ferris wheel, several new mega-malls, and over 100 new hotels are amongst a raft of extravagant projects aiming to boost tourism in the emirate. But lingering debt woes from its last boom-and-bust cycle should hopefully reduce the risk of runaway spending.

from Global Investing:

Golden days of the Turkey-Iran trade may be gone

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Global Investing has discussed in the past what a golden opportunity the Iranian crisis has proved for Turkey. Between January and July 2012 it ratcheted up gold exports to Iran ten-fold compared to 2011 as inflation-hit Iranians clamoured for the precious metal. Since August exports appear to have been routed via the UAE, possibly to circumvent U.S. sanctions on trade with Teheran.

The trade has been a handy little earner. Evidence of that has shown up in Turkey's data all year as its massive current account deficit has steadily shrunk. On Friday, official data showed the Turkish trade gap falling by a third in October from year-ago levels. And yes, precious metal exports (read gold) came in at $1.5 billion compared to $322.4 million last October. In short, a jump of 370 percent.

from The Great Debate:

Who’d want to host the Olympics?

Londoners are greeting the Olympics with all the enthusiasm of a child awaiting a root canal. The government has warned those unable to book coinciding holidays not to travel anywhere beyond walking distance of home as Communist-style “Olympic lanes” whisk dignitaries past the interminable traffic the Games cause. During the Olympics, London will be run under a curious kind of corporate martial law. Thousands of troops will handle security to make up for private contractor G4S’s staffing “shambles”; missiles have been placed atop public housing; an Orwellian "brand police" is sweeping the city to ensure no businesses other than 11 official sponsors use words like “gold,” “silver,” “bronze” and even “London.”

Putting up with this misery is supposedly justified by the commercial windfall, tourist bonanza and enhanced prestige the Olympics create. One Tube station poster depicts a man who, having identified alternative transport routes, is jauntily reading a newspaper as he whizzes past an escalator logjammed with athletes: The headline is “London 2012 Games a huge success, save British economy.”

from Global Investing:

A scar on Bahrain’s financial marketplace

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Bahrain's civil unrest -- which had a one-year anniversary this week -- has taken a toll on the local economy and left a deep scar on the Gulf state's aspiration to become an international financial hub.

A new paper from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Initiative, a research programme at Center for Emerging Market Enterprises (CEME) at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, examines how the political instability of 2011 is threatening Bahrain's efforts in the past 30 years to diversify its economy and develop the financial centre.

from Business Traveller:

The right type of travel writing?

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Travel writer and newspaper columnist A.A. Gill told listeners of BBC Radio 4’s Excess Baggage programme last week that he doesn’t do research, doesn’t take notes and considers himself a rather superficial traveller, a tripper.

Whatever his methods, not many writers can so succinctly drill down into a destination simply using well-honed observational skills. Gill seems to know by osmosis who best to chat with while dashing around a destination – and somehow plans his visit at a particularly prescient moment in time.

from The Great Debate:

Does everyone have a price?

DUBAI/

On Monday I went to Bloomingdales, the Gap and Starbucks but passed on a visit to Magnolia Bakery. Instead I  stopped by the St. Moritz bakery where you can order hot chocolate and sit by a video of a cozy winter  fire that overlooks the indoor ski slope and is just around the corner from the largest candy store in the world, which happens to face an aquarium that occupies an entire wall on one side of the world’s largest shopping malls. This by the way is opposite of what claims to be the world’s largest candystore whose mission statement is to make every day “happier’. Earlier, while exploring the watery depths of the bright Pink Atlantis Hotel (one of the white elephants of the property crash of 2007) I knew it was really the last kingdom because the fish swam around two cracked thrones and other kitschy stone artifacts.

Dubai is utterly overwhelming, the kind of  dystopia that blogger Evgeny Morozov sees in Huxley, a consumeristic paradise where mind-numbing shopping replaces real thought. Most of the I had no idea where I was except that my passport had been stamped Dubai  and many of the mall-going women were shrouded in black. After a few hours I sank into a state of ennuie. Given boatloads of oil money in the 1970s and the chance to build a whole new city, who on earth would decide to build a series of shopping malls?

from FaithWorld:

Mideast banks, funds seek to tap Muslim women’s wealth

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women banking (Photos: One of Dubai Islamic Bank's women-only branches in Deira, October 26, 2010./Jumana El-Heloueh)

Emirati housewife Sarah Alzarouni brushed past a group of women clad in floor-length black robes, some with only their eyes showing, to enter through the frosted doors of one of Dubai Islamic Bank's women-only branches. Clutching a Louis Vuitton bag to match her designer head scarf, Alzarouni greeted the female tellers and bank manager with three kisses on the cheek and sat down to do business.

"I am much more comfortable working with ladies than in a mixed environment," Alzarouni, 27, said. "When I come here, I feel like one of them. They understand my needs and I can move freely, not having to always think where I am and whether my (scarf) has moved. As a Muslim, it is really important for me to deal with an Islamic bank. "

from Summit Notebook:

No bonds for Arabtec; not for now anyway

MIDEAST-SUMMIT/ARABTEC Just to be clear, Arabtec is not considering a convertible bond issue.

The builder has no need for funds and has adequate access to capital if needed. But nonetheless its chief financial officer Ziad Makhzoumi is watching the region's increasing capital raising activities with interest.

"I don't think we need any funding whatsoever... As a CFO I have to look at all the options all the time," he told the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit in Dubai on Monday.

from Summit Notebook:

Is investor confidence returning to the Middle East?

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES/A recovery in the Middle East and the prospects for investment are on the agenda at the Reuters Middle East and Investment Summit, taking place in Dubai, Riyadh, Cairo, Kuwait, Beirut, Bagdad, Abu Dhabi and London.

In the wake of Dubai’s debt crisis, which rocked financial markets globally and dented confidence in the region, top executives and officials will discuss whether the investment climate in the region is improving and confidence returning. 2011 will be a year of more restructurings, but the region’s capital needs will lead to a surge in debt issues and even a possible revival of the IPO market.

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