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The Middle East across the decades

Working in Beirut in 1974 was a formative experience for Padraic Fallon, the long-serving editor and later chairman of Euromoney, and since then the magazine has set the standard for coverage of this often misunderstood region.

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The 1960s & 1970s

Miiddle East decades

Oil: The best investment (September 1973)

Just before the OPEC embargo sent oil prices sky high, Yves Truffert of Banque Arabe et Internationale d’Investissement, asked: “What will the Arabs do with their money?” The impact on global stock markets would be great if only a small portion of petrodollars went to equity

“Play it again, Sama”, implored Padraic Fallon, in one of his first editorials. Forerunners of Credit Suisse, JPMorgan and UBS were jostling for investment and advisory mandates at the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency – then based in an unmarked building in the “somnolent Red Sea port” of Jeddah

It may seem strange now, but in the mid 1970s Tehran seemed on the cusp of becoming the Middle East’s primary banking hub. It had the will and resources to achieve that objective

“Everyone misses Beirut, the lost playground and former financial nexus of the Middle East.” So began our cover story on the effects of the Lebanese civil war, which had begun the previous year, on the Beiruti banking sector. The bitter conflict would not end until 1990

International banks scrambled for Qatar’s first international loan of $350 million for the national oil, petrochemical, fertilizer and steel companies. The emirate raised eyebrows by handing the mandate to Chase Manhattan at the last minute, over rival syndicates led by Kidder Peabody, France’s BAII and the UK’s Hambros

The 1980s & 1990s

Miiddle East decades

The ordeal of a central banker (February 1982)

Euromoney interviewed Ali-Reza Nobari, former governor of the Iranian central bank. This was the personal story of a young but powerful member of a revolutionary administration that had exchanged the tyranny of the Shah for the tyranny of the mullahs – and of the disillusionment that followed

Sulaiman Abdul-Aziz al-Rajhi, then the world’s richest “self-made man”, had never before spoken at length to a western journalist. But in 1983 the co-founder of Saudi Arabia’s Al Rajhi Bank sat down with Euromoney to tell his rags-to-riches story

Investcorp, now the largest private-sector investment firm in the Persian Gulf, was still little known when Euromoney first devoted an extended feature to it in 1983. The cover image of a man half-cowboy half-sheikh perfectly encapsulated the firm’s cross-border ambition

“London’s Kuwait Investment Office, like Germany’s Bundesbank, is an increasingly powerful actor in international finance. Its 20% stake in British Petroleum sparks fierce debate in the UK parliament.” Euromoney’s March 1988 cover story examined the internal politics of the Bundesbank and the KIO

Euromoney chronicled the First Gulf War in its September 1990 issue: “Gulf bankers have been through a trauma – and there is more pain to come.” But while conflict had crippled some financial institutions, many were successfully weathering the storm

It was one of the largest criminal trials involving Italian finance: 50 people were charged in Venice with complicity in illegal arms trafficking to Iran. Interviews with senior banking officials and with the examining magistrate painted a picture of malpractice at the highest levels of bank management

The 2000s

The Dubai International Financial Centre is now viewed as one of the prime assets for Dubai as an international banking hub. But that success should not obscure the tale of its troubled early days, best told in the pages of Euromoney by one of its key figures, Ian Hay Davison, chief regulator from 2002 until his abrupt dismissal in 2004

As the second Gulf oil boom got underway, Euromoney lifted the lid on the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. Four years before ADIA was to publish its first annual review, we detailed the fund’s structures, asset allocation breakdown and use of derivatives as a more discreet means to buy and sell stocks

Global banking chiefs were flocking to Riyadh as Saudi Arabia’s incipient oil boom promised lucrative mandates. The Tadawul had grown bigger than China’s stock exchange. But an unfolding war between the Capital Markets Authority and manipulators brought the bubble crashing down, hurting the small shareholders the boom was supposed to benefit

Iranian government officials talked enthusiastically about a new privatization programme under president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Meanwhile, central bank vice-governor Reza Raei lauded a new anti-money laundering law and called US sanctions “financial terrorism”

Serious doubts about international banks’ activities in the Middle East followed defaults by the Al Gosaibi and Saad groups. Although linked by marriage, Saad’s Maan Al Sanea pushed back against the Al Gosaibi family’s accusations that he had caused their troubles

The 2010s

David Proctor, former chief executive of Al Khaliji Bank, finally managed to leave Qatar after news organizations around the world followed up on Euromoney’s story about the state’s refusal to grant him an exit visa, despite not filing any charges against him or even confirming any kind of investigation

The precipitous collapse of its property market brought Dubai back to earth with a thud. The Dubai government and linked entities scrambled to meet looming debt maturities of $55 billion. As Dubai had to turn to its bigger neighbour for financial support, even the recent completion of the world’s tallest building came with a tinge of regret

Only 11 days before Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president, Samir Radwan talked of his surprise appointment as finance minister from his ministerial car, which went unnoticed past Tahrir Square – the site of the protests that brought down Mubarak. Radwan himself was ousted three months later

Abu Dhabi’s £3.5 billion investment in Barclays Bank eventually helped Sheikh Mansour make a profit of more than £3 billion on a fundraising mired in controversy. Euromoney revealed the contents of an exclusive dossier of documents regarding the involvement of British dealmaker Amanda Staveley, who had acted as broker on the trade

Immediately after Donald Trump’s election victory, Euromoney visited Tehran to gauge the reaction of Iran’s banking community. Trump’s win – and tearing up of an international nuclear agreement – looked set to jeopardize the hard-won gains of Iranian finance

Behind the perpetual grim headlines on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an unlikely partnership of convenience was formed between the monetary authorities of both countries. This little-known technocratic collaboration, where cross-border central banking gets done via WhatsApp, revealed what can be done even in the harshest of circumstances

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