Business | Investment

The world's a happening place

What a week this has been! Perhaps for the first time in such a short span, the global, local and regional converged in more ways than one, with ramifications which will echo for a long time, perhaps years.

  • By Gaurav Ghose, Financial Reporter
  • Published: 23:15 September 21, 2007
  • Gulf News

What a week this has been! Perhaps for the first time in such a short span, the global, local and regional converged in more ways than one, with ramifications which will echo for a long time, perhaps years.

On the one hand, it could be seen as the beginning of the region's consolidation in the march towards a bigger role in global finance. But, on the other, it might have triggered serious thoughts among some of the central bankers of the region and beyond whether the dollar can still be regarded as the 'benchmark', both in terms of exchange rates and government reserves.

First things first. Thursday was a red-letter day for Dubai as Borse Dubai entered into an agreement with Nasdaq to acquire the Nordic exchanges operator OMX, giving the local body close to 20 per cent stake in the US exchange. Borse Dubai gets a 28 per cent stake in the London Stock Exchange. The entire deal is a coup of sorts for Borse Dubai, giving it access to Europe and the US and maintaining its leading position in the region.

However, I could not help notice how it had all started and how it ended.

Nasdaq was desperate - Borse Dubai was not, since it knew well that it could match and in fact bid higher than Nasdaq if the latter came up with a revised price - to get the OMX. And the final denouement says it all. It's a win-win for both, and ultimately for global finance too.

Qatar factor

From the regional stake perspective, Qatar lost out in acquiring the 31 per cent Nasdaq stake in LSE, though it now has about 20 per cent in it. It also bought a 9.98 per cent stake in OMX. It would be fair to wonder whether Qatar, or indeed any such bidder, is in this pursuit just to show the world a trophy acquisition.

Meanwhile, Qatari-backed Delta Two fund has managed to secure funds to stake its claim in British, household-name retailer Sainsbury.

These Western and global companies know very well that money matters, and a large chunk of it is in the Middle Eastern countries.

Closer to home, this week also saw Mubadala Development Company, the Abu Dhabi government investment arm, acquire a 7.5 per cent equity stake in Carlyle Group for $1.35 billion.

Welcome move

In the middle of the week, the Fed's decision to cut rates by half a percentage point was hailed by Wall Street and many other markets. Here in the UAE, the central bank followed suit. Developers and traders welcomed it: borrowing will become cheaper, spurring real estate development and stock markets.

But, with the beleaguered dollar sinking to new lows, it will in all likelihood make the inflationary situation worse, with a large effect on expatriates' living conditions here.

Also, with various of their home currencies gaining new highs (India's rupee went below 40 to a dollar, the highest in nine years), money sent home is progressively having distinctly lesser value.

All of this puts a big question mark on the competitiveness of the UAE. And the situation does provoke thoughts on domestic monetary policy, and whether to divert more reserves in favour of the euro.

It's all happening! And this country and region is itself churning in the mix of financial changes now spreading around the world.

Gulf News
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