June 12th, 2012
02:16 PM GMT
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Vienna, Austria (CNN) – It is shaping up to be an intriguing two days in Vienna. Ministers with some of the largest oil reserves in the world will gather Thursday to determine if the more than $25 slide in global energy prices requires urgent action.  Ahead of the ministerial meeting, they will meet with their counterparts from the private sector and air their views at the OPEC seminar Wednesday at the Hofburg Palace, before an audience of 1,200 energy executives.

Uprisings throughout North Africa - which shut down 90% of Libya's oil production for months - military exercises in the Strait of Hormuz, and rising demand from China kept markets on edge and drove prices higher last year and through the first quarter of 2012.

April 2nd, 2012
01:49 AM GMT
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(Image: Getty Images)

(CNN) – It was a storybook finish at the world’s richest horse race. After a six-year drought on his home turf (actually a synthetic surface called Tapeta), Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum watched with a royal smile that could light up the Meydan Grandstand at the racing venue he built on the outskirts of his emirate Dubai.

Monterosso, ridden by the French jockey he personally picked, Mickael Barzalona, cruised to victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. In a CNN interview right off the winner’s circle at Meydan, the Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates told me, “My heart was in my throat at that time and I didn’t know what to say but thank God we won it and everybody has won - all of the country - I’m double happy now!” FULL POST

September 8th, 2011
02:23 PM GMT
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In the opulence of probably the world’s most luxurious hotel, finance ministers from more than 20 Arab countries have gathered to examine the state of the global economy. They are also calculating the impact the debt crisis in Europe and the slowdown in the United States could have at the crossroads of East and West, the Middle East.

But nearly nine months into the Arab Spring, the finance ministers who are in charge of regional economies without the benefit of huge oil and gas reserves have expressed deep concerns about funding transitions in Egypt and Tunisia and potentially in Syria and Yemen.

The Chairman of the Arab Monetary Fund Jassim Al Mannai painted a picture of a prolonged period of economic uncertainty: "The fear is that economies of countries whether those that witnessed political shifts or those that are still witnessing political unrest today, will take a long time before they recover and go back to normal.”


September 5th, 2011
05:27 PM GMT
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(CNN) – Qatar can be simply defined in the 21st century as the “little state that does.” From near bankruptcy 20 years ago in the face of declining oil reserves and a record budget deficit, the Gulf Arab state with a population of up to 1.6 million, roughly one-fifth of them Qataris, is punching well above its weight.

Qatar’s foray into the global investment arena is hard to miss. Its sovereign fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, has only been around since 2005, but its footprint is a long and wide one. The QIA has taken high profile stakes in German auto giants VW and Porsche, global banks Barclays and Credit Suisse, the London Stock Exchange and British supermarket giant J. Sainsbury and it even bought outright the luxury icon Harrod’s. The big splash year was 2009 when it invested $32 billion on a variety of transactions.

According to Jones LaSalle, the building and real estate group, Qatar was the largest property investor globally in 2010. It has taken high profile positions across London in the Canary Wharf financial district, Chelsea Barracks near the Thames River, and is owner of the current U.S. Embassy in Grosvenor Square.


July 15th, 2011
02:01 AM GMT
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Hong Kong (CNN) – The most expensive city in the world for expats is … in Africa? Ok I’ll admit I was surprised when I read this finding from Mercer’s 2011 Cost of Living Survey.  The place: Luanda, the capital city of Angola. But when you look at the consulting company’s formula, it makes sense.

Mercer looked at two main variables.  One is the strength or weakness of the local currency compared to the same time last year.  If it’s grown stronger against the U.S. dollar then that would push the city higher in the rankings.  The other is the price increase or decrease of a basket of commodities. If the price increased relative to the basket of goods based in New York, then that would push the city higher as well.

Here’s Mercer’s top 10 list this year. Is your city here?

July 6th, 2011
10:23 AM GMT
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(CNN) - Protests have rekindled in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on a grand scale. Hundreds are expressing their frustration at what they see as a snail’s pace of change after the Arab uprisings that began in Tunis six months ago.

Now is a good time to take stock since Mohamed Bouazizi, the fruit seller, lit himself on fire as he was unable to see a way out of poverty. Protestors took to the streets, putting their lives on the line, and expectations were high that change would follow. But we are witnessing a dangerous reality gap of what protestors expect and what governments have been able to deliver.

Mustapha Kamel Nabli Governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia says that reality gap has widened and he is urging regional and global investors to speed into action to assist in the recovery effort.

“If we do not act now we will see failure after the success of the uprising,” said Nabli during a World Economic Forum webinar with government and business leaders.

May 25th, 2011
07:00 PM GMT
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Like the royal wedding that preceded it, the visit of President Barack Obama to Britain has been orchestrated well. Beyond discussions of the essential relationship, the U.S. president went out of his way both in his speech before both chambers of the British parliament and in his news conference with Prime Minister David Cameron to support what he calls the emerging democracies of the Middle East.

At the front of the queue are the two countries that sparked the uprisings, one of the least populated, Tunisia, and the most populated in the region, Egypt. There has been criticism from many camps that the U.S. president has been dragging his feet in supporting the North African states who overthrew Zine El Abedine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak.


May 6th, 2011
11:11 AM GMT
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Astana, Kazakhstan: Being at the crossroads of Europe and Asia provided a vantage point to analyze the response to the death of Osama Bin Laden by Nobel Laureates, global investors and leaders from the largest country in Central Asia, Kazakhstan.

Astana, the relatively new capital of this vast land, is home to a sizable annual economic forum which brings together a handful of Nobel Prize winners and a full range of top economists, central bankers and investors who have a yearning for frontier markets.

Kazakhstan is part of what many like to call a circle of influence in a region which includes some tough neighbours: Pakistan and Afghanistan. Like everywhere else, the meeting rooms and coffee bars of the giant Independence Hall in Astana were filled with side-bar conversations about the death of Osama Bin Laden and the chain reaction it may set off.

Nobel Prize winner and the man known as the “Father of the Euro” Robert Mundell says a long-term risk has been removed for the West, but that near-term risk is not reduced following immediate calls for retaliation. After discussions with two dozen global players at the forum, it was abundantly clear that the 24 hour rally in the dollar and the subsequent fall in commodity prices would be short lived.

Miranda Xafa, global strategist with IJ Partners in Geneva, said the elimination of OBL will only embolden Al Qaeda even if it takes months if not longer for a major restructuring of its operations. More important to her and others I spoke with is the near-term outcome of the Arab uprisings, which is keeping a 10-15% premium on the price of crude.

Many expressed their deep concerns about Iran’s next moves after party unity in the Palestinian Territories between Fatah and Hamas – a deal brokered by Egypt no less. The simple translation for investors: More pressure will be applied against Israel, which will only ratchet up tensions in the Persian Gulf.

This scenario does not bode well for lower energy prices and the timing is precarious at best for the U.S. economy, which is sputtering as the Federal Reserve prepares to withdraw the record stimulus. I asked Sir James Mirless, another Nobel winner, if we are in the midst of structural change in America, with youth unemployment that rivals that of the Arab region. A recent U.S. study points to nearly a quarter of all 16-25 year olds as not working. Sir James, with his decades of hindsight, did not think so. Good old fashioned budget management and tax policy were the choices de jour for those in Astana.

Beyond the obvious security concerns sweeping the MENASA region at this juncture, the greatest worry was reserved for the ever-increasing mountains of debt in the U.S. and Europe. A $14 trillion U. S. federal debt pile is a steep hill to climb in a low growth, high unemployment climate. They chided lawmakers for thinking only in election cycles and not addressing the largest budget obligations, long-term pension and health care entitlements which continue to spiral out of control.

One potential net plus out of the “Business after Bin Laden” world is the possibility for a more unified approach in Washington D.C. After the elimination of one threat to security, could it be possible to chip away at a record debt which threatens the role of the U.S. dollar as the premiere reserve currency? The answer from the crossroads of East and West was a resounding no.

April 22nd, 2011
04:40 PM GMT
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It does not take much to get the market in Athens agitated these days. Not a trading session goes by without rumors of a pending restructuring of Greek debt.

But what seemed on the surface to be a straightforward exchange of internal thoughts at Citigroup created a storm matching the famously dry Meltemi winds that are a trademark of Mediterranean summers.

An email from London-based bond trader for Citigroup Paul Moss, the contents of which were shared from a government source, raised concerns Wednesday about “increased noise over Gr [Greek] debt restructuring as early as this Easter weekend.”

A close examination of the email shows Moss was not suggesting that the restructuring was happening, but that market interest rates and general discussion in the trading pits were suggesting this may transpire.


April 15th, 2011
02:20 PM GMT
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy had a grand plan in mind to make the Union of the Mediterranean a hallmark of his rotating EU Presidency in July 2008.

The math was simple, the scale grand, up to 44 nations of Europe, Middle East & North Africa that, among other things, would foster trade with the Mediterranean Sea as its center of gravity.

The French President wanted to expand the original plan launched in the mid-nineties under what is known in Brussels as the Barcelona Process. The policy structure under the title of the Euro-Med was in place, but the actual building of this economic blueprint never got off the ground.

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