UAE’s membership to boost EBRD and NDB's scope of work

NDB sees Middle East as one of the most promising regions for its expansion

Skyscrapers along Sheikh Zayed Road, skyline from Jumeirah, Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Getty Images
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The UAE’s decision to join the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the New Development Bank founded by the "Brics" nations is expected to improve the capacity for both lenders to engage in new projects, according to experts.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced the UAE is joining both the London headquartered EBRD and Shanghai-based NDB as the country looks to grow its economic partnerships with various institutions.

"The UAE joining the marquee club of EBRD and Brics enhances the scale and scope of the work undertaken by the Development Financial Institutions significantly," Ullas Rao, assistant professor of finance at Heriot-Watt University Dubai, said.

The membership of these banks will provide "UAE companies with alternative access to capital where commercial bank support is not forthcoming", Sachin Kerur, Middle East head of law firm Reed Smith said.

"This will be particularly so for UAE companies involved in broader development projects where the risk profiles may be more challenging than the norm. This will include companies involved in sustainable and circular economy projects and renewable developments."

The EBRD is a major multilateral lender set up in 1991, initially to help fund the recovery of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is owned by 69 countries from five continents, as well as the European Union and the European Investment Bank.

The bank, which had total assets of €68.2bn ($81.3bn) by the end of 2019, has widened its remit to include investments in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Earlier this month, EBRD extended a $100 million financing package to Banque du Caire in Egypt to boost lending to local micro, small and medium-sized companies. It is also partnering with the Bank of Palestine to provide financial assistance to women entrepreneurs in Palestine.

The UAE's application to join the EBRD was approved by the bank’s shareholders earlier this year.

“The UAE is an important business and knowledge hub and its membership will benefit many of the economies where the EBRD invests and will open up further opportunities across our regions,” EBRD president Odile Renaud-Basso said in January.

The New Development Bank, on the other hand, is a multilateral development bank established by the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations as equal stakeholders in 2014. The bank supports public and private projects through loans, guarantees, equity participation and other financial instruments.

It is currently funding a number of projects including the €436m Beijing Gas Tianjin Nangang LNG Emergency Reserve Project as well as a $300m cellular network and cloud services expansion project in Russia.

The bank had total assets of $19.3bn as of September 30, 2020, up 64 per cent compared to the same period in the previous year.

"The NDB aims to increase the complexity and outreach of its operations as well as strengthen the bank's role as a platform for international cooperation, where member countries work constructively on issues of their shared interest," a spokesman from the bank told The National. "[The] Middle East is seen by the bank as one of the most promising regions for its expansion."