A customer buys fresh fish from a trader using Omani riyal currency banknotes at the Mutrah fish market in Muscat, Oman, on Monday, May 7, 2018. Being the Switzerland of the Gulf served the country well over the decades, helping the sultanate survive, thrive and make it a key conduit for trade and diplomacy in the turbulent Middle East. Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg
Bloomberg

Oman Arab Bank and Alizz Islamic merger ‘credit positive’, says Moody’s



The proposed merger between Oman Arab Bank and Alizz Islamic Bank – the latest in a wave of planned consolidations between GCC banks – would be credit positive for Oman Arab Bank and form an Islamic banking entity with around $7.6 billion in assets, Moody’s said on Friday.

“Successful completion of the proposed merger would provide OAB with a larger Islamic franchise and asset base, allowing it to improve its interest income and deposit-gathering ability,” the credit rating agency said in a report.

An OAB and Alizz Islamic merger would help the banks capitalise on the fast-growing Islamic banking segment in Oman. The sector accounted for 13 per cent of banking assets in the sultanate in June, up from 2 per cent in March 2013 following the introduction of the country’s Islamic Banking Regulatory Framework in 2012.

The two Muscat-listed banks said in May they were “exploring the possibility of a strategic collaboration that may lead to an eventual merger of the two entities”.

Earlier this week, they signed a memorandum of understanding pledging to continue merger talks, including appointing legal and financial advisors to conduct due diligence and pave the way for a potential deal.

“The success of the merger between the two institutions will result in the formation of a new financial entity that will be more competitive, both locally and regionally, and be in a position to promote the development of the financial sector in the sultanate in line with the latest international standards,” said Rashad Al Zubair, chairman of OAB in a statement to the Muscat Securities Exchange.

The proposed merger would offer a number of synergies as the banks currently have complementary products, systems, technologies and customer segments, he added.

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Banks in the Arabian Gulf are increasingly looking at mergers and collaborations as low oil prices in the past three years have squeezed their profit margins. Regional banks are set to see a stronger performance this year and into 2019 as macroeconomic conditions improve, but they are still seeking cost efficiencies to drive growth.

Earlier this year, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland in Saudi Arabia reached an initial agreement on the terms of a possible merger. In July, National Bank of Oman and Bank Dhofar said their boards had agreed to discuss a potential merger – which would create $20bn in combined assets and be the second-largest financial institution in the country, EFG Hermes said in a report in August.

Moody’s Investor Services maintained a negative outlook on Oman's banking system in a separate report last week, but said its economy is set to rebound this year and capital will remain sound, “providing loss absorbency”.

Islamic banking in particular has considerable potential for further growth in Oman, given its recent introduction and low penetration compared with other GCC countries and the country’s almost entirely Muslim population, according to Moody’s report on the OAB and Alizz merger talks.

“The banks agreed that Alizz would continue to operate as a dedicated Islamic banking franchise with management autonomy, which would help preserve Alizz’s customer relationships,” the report said.

The report estimated that the combined entity would have total assets (both conventional and Islamic) of around $7.6bn as of June 2018, a 9 per cent share of the Omani banking system.

OAB currently has a 7 per cent market share in terms of total assets and is larger than Alizz, which has a 2 per cent share, according to Moody’s. However, Alizz has a larger share of the Islamic assets market at 15 per cent as of the end of 2017, compared with 2 per cent for OAB.

Prop idols

Girls full-contact rugby may be in its infancy in the Middle East, but there are already a number of role models for players to look up to.

Sophie Shams (Dubai Exiles mini, England sevens international)

An Emirati student who is blazing a trail in rugby. She first learnt the game at Dubai Exiles and captained her JESS Primary school team. After going to study geophysics at university in the UK, she scored a sensational try in a cup final at Twickenham. She has played for England sevens, and is now contracted to top Premiership club Saracens.

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Seren Gough-Walters (Sharjah Wanderers mini, Wales rugby league international)

Few players anywhere will have taken a more circuitous route to playing rugby on Sky Sports. Gough-Walters was born in Al Wasl Hospital in Dubai, raised in Sharjah, did not take up rugby seriously till she was 15, has a master’s in global governance and ethics, and once worked as an immigration officer at the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi. In the summer of 2021 she played for Wales against England in rugby league, in a match that was broadcast live on TV.

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Erin King (Dubai Hurricanes mini, Ireland sevens international)

Aged five, Australia-born King went to Dubai Hurricanes training at The Sevens with her brothers. She immediately struck up a deep affection for rugby. She returned to the city at the end of last year to play at the Dubai Rugby Sevens in the colours of Ireland in the Women’s World Series tournament on Pitch 1.

The specs

Engine: 4.0-litre, six-cylinder

Transmission: six-speed manual

Power: 395bhp

Torque: 420Nm

Price: from Dh321,200

On sale: now

Veil (Object Lessons)
Rafia Zakaria
​​​​​​​Bloomsbury Academic

Our legal advisor

Rasmi Ragy is a senior counsel at Charles Russell Speechlys, a law firm headquartered in London with offices in Europe, the Middle East and Hong Kong.

Experience: Prosecutor in Egypt with more than 40 years experience across the GCC.

Education: Ain Shams University, Egypt, in 1978.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Director: Jon Watts

Stars: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon 

Rating:*****

Key products and UAE prices

iPhone XS
With a 5.8-inch screen, it will be an advance version of the iPhone X. It will be dual sim and comes with better battery life, a faster processor and better camera. A new gold colour will be available.
Price: Dh4,229

iPhone XS Max
It is expected to be a grander version of the iPhone X with a 6.5-inch screen; an inch bigger than the screen of the iPhone 8 Plus.
Price: Dh4,649

iPhone XR
A low-cost version of the iPhone X with a 6.1-inch screen, it is expected to attract mass attention. According to industry experts, it is likely to have aluminium edges instead of stainless steel.
Price: Dh3,179

Apple Watch Series 4
More comprehensive health device with edge-to-edge displays that are more than 30 per cent bigger than displays on current models.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Elmawkaa
Based: Hub71, Abu Dhabi
Founders: Ebrahem Anwar, Mahmoud Habib and Mohamed Thabet
Sector: PropTech
Total funding: $400,000
Investors: 500 Startups, Flat6Labs and angel investors
Number of employees: 12

Honeymoonish

Director: Elie El Samaan

Starring: Nour Al Ghandour, Mahmoud Boushahri

Rating: 3/5

THE SPECS

Engine: 1.5-litre

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Power: 110 horsepower

Torque: 147Nm

Price: From Dh59,700

On sale: now

if you go

The flights

Air France offer flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Cayenne, connecting in Paris from Dh7,300.

The tour

Cox & Kings (coxandkings.com) has a 14-night Hidden Guianas tour of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. It includes accommodation, domestic flights, transfers, a local tour manager and guided sightseeing. Contact for price.

Scores

Oman 109-3 in 18.4 overs (Aqib Ilyas 45 not out, Aamir Kaleem 27) beat UAE 108-9 in 20 overs (Usman 27, Mustafa 24, Fayyaz 3-16, Bilal 3-23)

MATCH INFO

AC Milan v Inter, Sunday, 6pm (UAE), match live on BeIN Sports

Avengers: Endgame

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Josh Brolin

4/5 stars 

Meydan racecard:

6.30pm: Handicap | US$135,000 (Dirt) | 1,400 metres

7.05pm: Handicap | $135,000 (Turf) | 1,200m

7.40pm: Dubai Millennium Stakes | Group 3 | $200,000 (T) | 2,000m

8.15pm: UAE Oaks | Group 3 | $250,000 (D) | 1,900m

8.50pm: Zabeel Mile | Group 2 | $250,000 (T) | 1,600m

9.20pm: Handicap | $135,000 (T) | 1,600m

Our legal consultants

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

MEYDAN CARD

6.30pm Maiden Dh165,000 (Dirt) 1,600m

7.05pm Conditions Dh240,000 (D) 1,600m

7.40pm Handicap Dh190,000 (D) 2,000m

8.15pm Handicap Dh170,000 (D) 2,200m

8.50pm The Entisar Listed Dh265,000 (D) 2,000m

9.25pm The Garhoud Sprint Listed Dh265,000 (D) 1,200m

10pm Handicap Dh185,000 (D) 1,400m

 

The National selections

6.30pm Majestic Thunder

7.05pm Commanding

7.40pm Mark Of Approval

8.15pm Mulfit

8.50pm Gronkowski

9.25pm Walking Thunder

10pm Midnight Sands

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League, semi-final result:

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona

Liverpool win 4-3 on aggregate

Champions Legaue final: June 1, Madrid

Usain Bolt's World Championships record

2007 Osaka

200m Silver

4x100m relay Silver

2009 Berlin

100m Gold

200m Gold

4x100m relay Gold

2011 Daegu

100m Disqualified in final for false start

200m Gold

4x100m relay Gold

2013 Moscow

100m Gold

200m Gold

4x100m relay Gold

2015 Beijing

100m Gold

200m Gold

4x100m relay Gold

How it works

1) The liquid nanoclay is a mixture of water and clay that aims to convert desert land to fertile ground

2) Instead of water draining straight through the sand, it apparently helps the soil retain water

3) One application is said to last five years

4) The cost of treatment per hectare (2.4 acres) of desert varies from $7,000 to $10,000 per hectare 

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE.

Part three: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE

Scoreline

Liverpool 3
Mane (7'), Salah (69'), Firmino (90')

Bournemouth 0

LOVE AGAIN

Director: Jim Strouse

Stars: Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Sam Heughan, Celine Dion

Rating: 2/5


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