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BankMuscat conducts Training programme for its Direct Sales unit

Muscat, June 2011: BankMuscat, the leading financial services provider in the Sultanate recently conducted a Direct Sales Training programme for its direct sales unit as part of its commitment to enhance professional development. This initiative falls under the ‘Learning and Development’ (L&D) category of the bank and was conducted at the new BankMuscat head office in Seeb. A two day training programme, the course included several topics ranging from effective customer relationship, strategic sales management which enhances customer service to effective communication including soft skills and presentation techniques.


BankMuscat’s direct sales unit is a dynamic, vibrant, rapidly expanding channel of distribution for the marketing of its products and services; the Bank offers door step banking to corporate customers for opening bulk salary accounts and to individual customers for cards, Sayyarati, Consumer loans and Bancassurance products. Consumer research shows that face-to-face and word of mouth communication is often more credible source of product information. On-to-one selling tends to be appropriate for high value customers. This is because customers often require individualised sales pitches before they make a decision involving larger investments. The Bank is also committed on establishing long term relationships with the customers and direct selling provides an opportunity to understand the customer better and tailor market offering to their needs.


Under the Corporate Learning Network partnership with the International Institute of Management Development (IMD) Lausanne, the bank also has access to several customised programmes and resources for use by employees.


Salim Mohammed Al Kaabi, AGM Human Resources, BankMuscat, says, “The people learning and development strategies undertaken by BankMuscat are integrated with its overall strategies. They are drawn up by the various departments in accordance with the business plans of the bank.

We firmly believe that every employee is an asset to the bank and therefore we conduct this induction programme of every new employee. In a competitive environment, it is very important to place focus on key areas of development. There will be a series of similar training programmes to enhance the soft skills of our employees.”


BankMuscat attaches priority in personnel investment to improve the performance of the organisation. The Learning and Development Centre also conducts advanced programmes relevant to employee needs, skills and job profile. Besides in-house expertise, the Learning and Development Centre partners with the best institutes in Oman and abroad to offer basic and advanced training programmes for its staff. On average, the centre offers around 150 programmes every quarter and 550 programmes in a year. This translates to approximately 12000 seats for staff members.


Employees are also nominated to attended relevant courses abroad which gives them an opportunity to exchange ideas, interact and learn from peers in global markets. For this, the bank collaborates with international bigwigs like Euromoney, Moody’s, DC Gardner, SHL Group, Hays Group, Hewitt Associates, Harvard Law School and The Achievement Centre, in Canada.


This strategy focuses on reinforcing the bank’s position as the ‘employer of choice’. The bank pursues a comprehensive plan to develop the skills of employees as part of its commitment to nationalisation.

Adel El-Labban Wins the Euromoney Award for Outstanding Contribution to Financial Services in the Middle East

Release Date: 15 June 2011


Adel El-Labban, Member of the Board of Directors of Ahli Bank S.A.O.G and Group CEO & Managing Director of parent group Ahli United Bank B.S.C, was announced as the 2011 recipient of the “Outstanding Contribution to Financial Services in the Middle East” award by Euromoney, one of the leading and most respected international financial publications.


The award, which honours banking leaders who made major contributions to advancing the financial services industry in the Middle East over the years, was formally presented to Mr. El-Labban during in the special award ceremony held in Dubai. The award ceremony gathered some of the region’s most senior bankers, government officials as well as representative of the international and regional media.


In selecting Mr. El-Labban for its flagship award, Euromoney Editor, Clive Horwood, said: “Adel El-Labban has clearly made a name for himself as one of the most effective chief executives of his generation. The leadership he provided at the helm of some of the region’s most successful banks whether in Cairo, London or Bahrain, was instrumental in consistently raising the bar for banking in the Middle East. While never losing sight of fundamentals, his vision and innovations were the driving force behind CIB’s transformation into Egypt’s leading private sector bank and in AUB’s first decade of unparalleled growth and achievements”.


In accepting the award, Mr. El-Labban said, “My profound thanks to Euromoney for their very gratifying and unexpected award which I am delighted and honoured to accept on behalf of all my colleagues with whom I have been privileged to work over the past 33 years. Their dedication and professionalism has made this award possible and it is to them that the real credit is due”.


“We all agree that the prosperity and future stakes of this region hinge on its ability to create sustainable economic opportunities for all, which can only be achieved through inclusion within and integration beyond borders. This is why we saw it both as our mandate and our challenge to be the financial enablers locally and the financial bridge builders regionally, and in the process help foster a resilient and vibrant regional banking industry which transcends the legacy domestic focus dominating banks in the Middle East, and which enables to efficiently service our client base which is rapidly evolving beyond the single state boundaries“, added Mr. El-Labban.


The award for Outstanding Contribution to Financial Services in the Middle East is the only award given by Euromoney to an individual each year. Previous winners included Raymond Audi, Sulaiman Al Rajhi, Abdulaziz Al-Ghurair, Eisa Al-Eisa, Ibrahim Dabdoub and the Shoman Family.

First Islamic Banking Conference in Oman by ITS

Global Islamic finance sector currently estimated at 0.38 trillion Omani riyals; 24% annual growth expected1


Muscat – June 14th, 2011: International Turnkey Solutions (ITS), one of the leading business and technology solutions providers for banking, Islamic finance, higher education and telecommunications sectors, will host its first Islamic banking conference in Oman at the Shangri-la’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa on June 20th, 2011. Following an Omani royal decree in early May authorizing the establishment of Sharia-compliant services, the event will feature top Islamic banking experts discussing opportunities for Omani banks interested in taking advantage of this new opportunity.


“I am very excited to join ITS in discussing Islamic banking issues with the Omani banking sector, which is facing a unique opportunity today with the opening up of an Islamic finance sector,” said Dr. Mabid Al-Jarhi, President, International Association for Islamic Economics, who will present at the Conference. “This is surely a situation where early adopters will pick up the most benefits but much planning and expertise is required to assure long-term growth, profitability and credibility.”


HRH Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said’s royal decree authorizing Sharia-compliant financial products sparked interest in the Islamic finance sector. The decree comes as studies indicate that the global Islamic finance industry is set to grow 24 percent annually and has weathered the financial crisis, with total value of assets controlled growing from 154 billion OR at the end of 2008 to more than 0.38 trillion OR in 2010.2


“The royal decree ushers in a new era for Omani finance. Demand from the youth, who make up 65 percent of the GCC, will certainly drive this industry. We are proud to extend our support to ITS who will leverage their years of experience to benefit Oman’s burgeoning Islamic finance industry,” said Dr. Haroun Dharsey, Senior Vice President Operational Projects, Dubai Islamic Bank, and speaker at the ITS Islamic Banking Conference.


The seminars will bring together industry experts and speakers from regional Islamic institutions who will discuss the challenges involved in migrating to a Sharia-compliant structure. Those challenges include overhauling the IT infrastructure, training staff and integrating with the global banking system, elaborated Tarek Khalifa, SGR Area Manager of ITS


“AT ITS, we are taking the initiative and sharing our 30 years of industry experience with what is sure to become a key market. The expertise we have accumulated through our operations in Saudi Arabia and various Islamic knowledge centers allow us to design turnkey solutions that will help our clients migrate to Sharia compliancy quickly and seamlessly,” said Khalid Al-Saeid, MD and General Manager of ITS. The seminars are targeting key decision-makers in the banking industry such as top management officials and C-level executives.


15June 2011 Muscat, BankDhofar announced the winners of its Al Heson R.O. 10,000 weekly prize as well as winners from the exclusive ladies and Mazin and Mazoon children’s account, with a prize win of RO 5,000 each. The draw was held at the Bank’s Khabura Branch under the auspices of Shiek Abdullah Bin Zahir Bin Saif Al Hosni.


Mr. Ziyad Ramadhan Khamis Bahaja from the Salalah branch took home the Al Heson weekly prize of 10,000 Rials. Also celebrating were the winning customers of the Ladies Account and the Children’s Savings Accounts Mazen & Mazoon who both were awarded 5,000 Rials each. The Ladies account prize draw winner went to Ms. Amina Sabeit Zayid from the Sur branch and the Mazen & Mazoon prize draw win went to Ms. Husna Ibrahim Said Hamed from the bank’s Bahla Branch.


BankDhofar’s Al Heson 2011 Prize Draw Scheme, gives customers a chance to win in weekly draws as well as in monthly draws for 100,000 Rials.

BofA Merrill Lynch Fund Manager Survey Shows Investors Moving out of Equities as Caution Takes Grip

Growth Expectations Dampen but Investors Suggest QE3 Not Needed


NEW YORK and LONDON – Investors have scaled back risk taking in the past month, reducing exposure to equities and commodities while upping allocations to cash and bonds, according to the BofA Merrill Lynch Survey of Fund Managers for June.


Asset allocators have been adjusting portfolios in the face of falling world markets, significantly reducing their holdings in equities, according to the survey completed between June 3 and June 9. The net percentage overweight equities fell to 27 percent from 41 percent in May, with Europe leading the way. The proportion of investors underweight eurozone equities rose to a net 15 percent from a net 1 percent. The proportion of investors overweight commodities fell to a net 6 percent from a net 12 percent.


A net 18 percent of asset allocators are now overweight cash. This represents the highest cash overweight level since July 2009 and a sharp move upwards from last month’s reading of a net 6 percent. Investors have an average cash balance of 4.2 percent of their portfolio, up from 3.9 percent in May. The proportion of investors taking lower-than-average risk across their portfolios has risen to a net 26 percent from a net 15 percent in May.


Bonds, unloved throughout much of the past two years, have enjoyed a recovery during the past two months. A net 35 percent of asset allocators are underweight bonds, compared with a net 58 percent in April and 44 percent in May.


Behind the shifts in allocations are concerns about sovereign debt funding in Europe, which investors have named as the biggest tail risk in this month’s survey. Investors have also lowered expectations of strong growth in global profits, but broad sentiment towards the global economy has stabilized. While economic optimism is down, investors are not pessimistic enough to be calling for a third round of quantitative easing (QE3). Nearly two-thirds of the panel says that they do not expect QE3.


“Investors are scaling back risk, but rather than capitulating, they are simply moving to neutral positions in equities, bonds and cash,” said Gary Baker, head of European equities strategy at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research. “Investor capitulation from risk assets is not yet visible despite higher cash levels and defensive rotation. Fears on global growth will need to rise further before hopes for QE3 can begin to be priced in,” said Michael Hartnett, chief global equity strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research.


Emerging market optimism defies China pessimism


Investors are struggling to form a clear and consistent view towards emerging markets. While optimism towards emerging market equities as a whole is on the up, concerns over the direction of China’s economy continue to grow.


Allocation to emerging market equities fell in June, with a net 23 percent of asset allocators overweight the region, down from a net 29 percent in May. Looking ahead, however, emerging markets could become the preferred destination for investment once again.


A net 22 percent of investors would most like to overweight emerging market equities, up from a net 16 percent a month ago when the U.S. was ranked number one. A net 29 percent believes the outlook for corporate profits is more favorable in emerging markets than any other region, up from a net 19 percent in May.


This optimism sits in contrast to evidence of growing pessimism towards China, the engine of emerging market growth. A net 40 percent of regional fund managers from across emerging markets, Asia-Pacific and Japan, believe that China’s economy will weaken in the coming 12 months. This represents the most negative sentiment towards China in more than two years and a shift of 12 percentage points in the past month. Regional investors have reduced exposure to Chinese equities. A net 33 percent of global emerging market investors are overweight China, down from a net 42 percent a month ago.


Sharp turnaround in Japanese economic sentiment


Sentiment within Japan is recovering. Many domestic investors have shifted from bearish to strongly bullish about Japan’s economy in the space of two months. In April, immediately after the earthquake in the northeast of the country, the panel was evenly split between those predicting a weaker economy and those predicting a stronger economy. This month an overwhelming net 89 percent of respondents in Japan predict a stronger economy.


Optimism on earnings has enjoyed a similar turnaround. In April, a net 33 percent of domestic respondents predicted a decline in Japanese earnings per share over the coming year. In June, a net 54 percent predicts growth in earnings. Contrary to colleagues in other regions, Japanese investors have been reducing their cash positions.


Global investors have yet to re-embrace Japan, however. A net 22 percent of asset allocators are underweight Japanese equities, up from a net 17 percent in May.


Cautious sector stance


In line with the cautious, risk-averse tone of June’s survey, investors have reduced allocations to cyclical sectors such as Industrials, Discretionary and Materials. The largest reduction in allocations during the month was in Insurance, in the wake of claims stemming from a series of catastrophic events including earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes. The only sectors to see increased allocations were traditional counter-cyclicals Pharmaceuticals and Utilities.


Survey of Fund Managers


An overall total 282 panelists with US$828 billion of assets under management participated in the survey from 3 June to 9 June. A total of 199 fund managers, managing a total of US$634 billion, participated in the global survey. A total of 155 managers, managing US$379 billion, participated in the regional surveys. The survey was conducted by BofA Merrill Lynch Research with the help of market research company TNS. Through its international network in more than 50 countries, TNS provides market information services in over 80 countries to national and multi-national organizations. It is ranked as the fourth-largest market information group in the world.


The BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research franchise covers over 3,200 stocks and 880 credits globally and ranks in the top tier in many external surveys. Most recently, the group was named 2010 Top Global Broker (second consecutive year), Top Europe Broker, No. 2 U.S. Broker and No. 3 Asia broker by Financial Times/StarMine. The team was also named Best Brokerage by Forbes/Zacks for the second consecutive year.


In addition, the group was named No. 1 in the 2010 Institutional Investor All-Emerging Europe and All-Latin America Research team surveys and No. 3 in the 2010 Institutional Investor All-America Equity, All-America Fixed Income and All-Europe Research team surveys. The group was also the winner of the Emerging Markets’ magazine EM Research Global Award for 2010.


Bank of America


Bank of America is one of the world's largest financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small- and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving approximately 58 million consumer and small business relationships with approximately 5,800 retail banking offices and approximately 18,000 ATMs and award-winning online banking with 30 million active users. Bank of America is among the world's leading wealth management companies and is a global leader in corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to approximately 4 million small business owners through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients through operations in more than 40 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.


Bank of America Merrill Lynch is the marketing name for the global banking and global markets businesses of Bank of America Corporation. Lending, derivatives, and other commercial banking activities are performed globally by banking affiliates of Bank of America Corporation, including Bank of America, N.A., member FDIC. Securities, strategic advisory, and other investment banking activities are performed globally by investment banking affiliates of Bank of America Corporation (“Investment Banking Affiliates”), including, in the United States, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated, which is a registered broker-dealer and a member of FINRA and SIPC, and, in other jurisdictions, locally registered entities. Investment products offered by Investment Banking Affiliates: Are Not FDIC Insured * May Lose Value * Are Not Bank Guaranteed.

BankDhofar launches Credit Card summer promotion

14 June2011 Muscat: BankDhofar launched its exciting credit card summer promotion that presents credit cardholders with access to popular outlets and discounts guaranteed to delight customers across Oman.

BankDhofar credit cardholders will now enjoy offers at some of the best retail outlets, restaurants, hotels and spas across Oman and the UAE with privileged access to several airport lounges during summer travel.

“Our customers deserve the very best, therefore we have selected the best brands and services to facilitate their needs with which they can enjoy exclusive privileges as cardholders" said Mr. Ali Taqi, Senior Manager Card Center.



Organize and participate in fund-raising initiatives and volunteering activities as part of the company’s overall commitment to charitable giving

Dubai – UAE, June 13, 2011: Western Union (NYSE: WU), the leading global money transfer company recently celebrated its 160th anniversary and employees from the company’s Middle East and Africa offices in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Pakistan and South Africa marked this achievement with a series of volunteering activities and staff events. Celebrations included various fund-raising auctions and charitable initiatives, further emphasizing the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility.

Highlighting the excitement among the employees in the company’s Dubai office, Sobia Rahman, Western Union's Regional Vice President for the Gulf, Pakistan and Afghanistan said, “Western Union has a long history of giving. We have been actively engaged in social initiatives and campaigns through the Western Union Foundation, which since its inception has given almost $72 million to help millions of people in 105 countries. 160 years of successful business operations is a phenomenal achievement and there couldn’t have been a better way to celebrate it than through charitable giving.”


Iraq Stock Exchange and DirectFN/Mubasher launch real-time market data information

June 13, 2011

The Iraq Stock Exchange today announced that it has launched the dissemination of real time and delayed Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) market data in conjunction with DirectFN, popularly known as Mubasher in the Middle East. The launch is part of the ISX plan to allow local and foreign investors to view real-time stock prices for the companies listed on the ISX. With this undertaking ISX and DirectFN underline their commitment to provide world-class solutions to local and foreign investors looking to expand their trading activities in Iraq.

DirectFN have provided the technology that will enable the ISX to disseminate real-time market data information to different segments such as local, regional and international investment companies and banks, and across different channels including online, mobile, media and TV among others. The real-time information will be available on DirectFN's advanced and sophisticated terminals such as DirectFN Pro, DFNI and also the DFNeXtream consolidated data feed.

Taha Ahmed Abdulsalam, CEO, Iraq Stock Exchange, said, “ISX is pleased to partner with DirectFN in providing real-time information to investors worldwide, which strongly supports our ongoing growth plans. We are very excited about the long-term prospects of this new partnership as DirectFN is globally renowned for its technology platform that ensures the delivery of up-to-date market data to local and foreign investors anywhere in the world."


ME Weekly Report – The USA to expand investments in Oman

Albert Fahil

The Muscat Securities Market reversed again on June 8, 2011 recording 53.94 (0.89%) decrease to the day high value of 6,053.98 and the Dubai Financial Market drooped 12.14 (0.78%) to the day high value of 1,568.09 points. The Bahrain Stock Exchange increased slightly from 8.18 (0.61%) to the day high value of 1,346.80 points and the Qatar Stock Exchange decreased 0.09 (0.00%) to the day high value of 8,193.35 points. The Kuwait Stock Exchange too performed the same role declining 6.00 (0.10%) to the day high value of 6,314.80 points and the Saudi Stock Exchange declined from 73.48 (1.11%) to the day high value of 6,614 points. 

Jindal Group, a major Indian steel company, decided to increase its investment in Oman for the next two years. The increase recorded as $1 billion and it will be invested mainly in mining and power generation. About $400 million will be spent on Sohar Plant to finish its two phase development project. Meanwhile, Oman Ministry of Agriculture is set to invest RO 5mn to build new fish markets, and related infrastructure development. The safety measures to ensure quality of sea food is on the agenda as well.

Oman Air Cargo expanded its service to other GCC countries starting from this month. The new Pan-GCC trucking service connects major airports in the GCC countries. It was earlier operated only between Muscat and Salalah cities. With a special report, Moody highlighted this week that the telecommunication and utility sectors of ME will be boosting despite the regional unrest. Nevertheless, the report points out that the ME property segments will be stagnant due to the oversupply in the key regional property markets.


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