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Deals win through despite regional anxiety

Middle East

While major markets around the world show signs of intense anxiety over the prospect of a US-led attack on Iraq, across most of the Middle East it is business as usual.

Gold has reached new heights as investors look for safe havens and Brent crude futures have climbed on fears that a war would raise the price of oil still further.

Meanwhile, in the Gulf, a region not famed for vast amounts of capital market activity, record deals are getting done. Kuwaiti mobile phone company MTC acquired Jordanian mobile operator Fastlink from Egypt's Orascom in the largest-ever deal of its kind in the region, Saudi Arabia saw its first IPO in nearly 20 years, and Bahrain made a success of its $500 million debut bond issue.

Upbeat about mobiles

In late December MTC agreed to buy 91.6% of Fastlink from Orascom for $423.9 million to raise its equity interest in the Jordanian mobile phone company to 96.5%. The deal, managed by National Bank of Kuwait and EFG Hermes Investment Banking of Egypt, was also by far the largest private-sector investment in Jordan by a private company in the Gulf.

Despite the threat of another war in neighbouring Iraq, Kuwaiti bankers seem surprisingly upbeat about business in 2003.

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