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MIDEAST DAYBOOK: Egypt, Tunisia Ratings Lowered; Bahrain Risk

March 17 (Bloomberg) -- Egypt, the North African nation whose president was ousted after popular protests last month, had its bond ratings cut one level at Moody’s Investors Service on political instability and the impact on the economy.

Tunisia’s credit rating was cut one notch to BBB- at Standard & Poor’s, which said the country’s political turmoil this year has hurt its economic prospects.

Moody’s Investors Service sees “a substantial risk that the medium-term credit fundamentals of Bahrain will be impaired by the present crisis,” the agency said.

CONFERENCES: * Qatar Alternative Energy Investors Summit, Doha.

WHAT TO WATCH: * About 1,000 people in Saudi Arabia’s eastern city of al-Qatif defied a ban on demonstrations and protested peacefully to demand the country’s troops end their incursion into Bahrain. * Fitch Ratings downgraded Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat Holding Co.’s long-term issuer default rating and senior unsecured rating by two levels to BBB, the second- lowest investment grade. * Egypt plans to raise 6 billion Egyptian pounds through sales of treasury bills in Cairo. * Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s warplanes bombed the Benghazi airport, rebels said, bringing the war to the opposition capital for the first time since loyalist forces were driven out of the city last month. * HSBC Holdings Plc and Standard Chartered Plc, two British banks, shut their branches in Bahrain as clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters intensified. * Qatar Holding LLC is looking at several Spanish savings banks as it seeks investment opportunities, Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Al-Sayed said in Madrid. * China’s top economic planner has approved China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. and Kuwait Petroleum Corp.’s $9 billion refinery development in the southern province of Guangdong. * Egyptian natural-gas flows to Israel and Jordan resumed almost six weeks after an explosion at an energy facility in the Sinai halted shipments. * Bombs and tear gas are threatening to smother the “Arab Spring” that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia and promised to spread democracy in the Middle East. * Syrian authorities arrested as many as 35 people after 150 protesters demonstrated outside the Interior Ministry in Damascus, opponents of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and human-rights activists said. * Wataniya Airways of Kuwait said it will cease all operations with the return of its scheduled flight to Kuwait last night.

MARKETS: * Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2 percent. * Crude oil futures for April delivery lost 0.1 percent to $97.86 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 8 a.m. in Dubai. * Gold for April delivery fell 0.2 percent to $1,393.1 an ounce. * Kuwait Stock Exchange Index declined 1.2 percent, QE Index fell 0.8 percent, Muscat Securities Market dropped 0.7 percent and ADX General Index declined 0.6 percent. Dubai Financial Market General Index gained 0.5 percent. * Tunis Stock Exchange’s Tunidex retreated 0.3 percent, while the Casablanca Stock Exchange Index lost 0.2 percent. * Saudi Arabia’s market is closed for the weekend.

EQUITY MOVERS: * Gulf General Investment Co. (GGICO UH) had its ratings cut one level to B2, the fifth highest non-investment grade, at Moody’s Investors Service. * Sharjah Islamic Bank (NBS UH), a United Arab Emirates lender, hired HSBC Holdings Plc and Standard Chartered Plc for a planned sales of $500 million of Islamic bonds. * Air Arabia (AIRARABI UH) was cut to “neutral” from “buy” at EFG-Hermes with a price estimate of 86 fils a share. * Emirates Telecommunications Corp. (ETISALAT UH), the biggest telephone company in the United Arab Emirates, plans to spend $15 billion in five years to expand infrastructure, Chief Operating Officer Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar said in Abu Dhabi. * Qatar International Islamic Bank (QIIK QD) agreed to buy out the part of Islamic Bank of Britain Plc it doesn’t already own for about 4.8 million pounds ($7.7 million) as it tries to create an international Shariah-compliant lender. * Asec Co. for Mining (ASCM EY), a unit of Egyptian private equity firm Citadel Capital, said its annual profit dropped 69 percent. * Banque Centrale Populaire (BCM MC), the third-largest publicly traded lender in Morocco, said it plans to double its capital by issuing free shares. * Paints & Chemical Industries Co. (PNCI EY), an Egyptian paint producer, said it suspended operations in Libya starting Feb. 20 because of unrest in the North African country. * Credit Agricole Egypt SAE (CIEB EY) was cut to “underweight” from “strong buy” at investment bank CI Capital because of political and economic instability in Egypt.

FINANCIAL RESULTS AND MEETINGS: * Ezdan Real Estate Co. (ERES QD) financial results.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Shaji Mathew at

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