Fortnightly, 20 April 2016

Fortnightly, 20 April 2016

April 20, 2016


20 April 2016
12 Nisan 5776
13 Rajab 1437




1.1  Israel Expects $8 Billion Boost From Energy Efficiency Plan
1.2  Netanyahu Scraps Plans to Regulate Cyber Security Companies


2.1  Over 30 Israeli Startups Raise More Than $10 Million Each in Funding in First Quarter
2.2  Vasona Networks Adds $14.6 Million in Venture Capital
2.3  Mintigo Raises $15 Million
2.4  Top Sensor Manufacturers Make Strategic Investment in CropX
2.5  Motorola Solutions to Set Up Israel Innovation Center
2.6  Acquisition of Crosswise Strengthens Oracle’s Data as a Service Offering
2.7  Azerbaijan Airlines to Launch Tel Aviv – New York Flights Via Baku
2.8  El Al Ranked Next to Last on Landing Punctuality


3.1  Kuwait Signs Long-Delayed Deal to Buy 28 Eurofighter Jets
3.2  Evoqua to Provide Carbon Adsorbers for Sohar Refinery Improvement Project
3.3  SPAR International Said to Target 24 New Stores in Oman
3.4  Babson College to Help Open Campus in Saudi Arabia
3.5  NanoMech Receives $10 Million Investment from Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures


4.1  GCC Countries Set to Pump $100 Billion Into Renewable Energy


5.1  Jordan’s Defense Budget Stands at $1.7 Billion for 2016
5.2  KRG Oil Exports Average 327,000 bpd for March

♦♦Arabian Gulf

5.3  Dubai Targets 500,000 Medical Tourists by 2020 With New Website
5.4  Dubai Health Authority to Fully Implement Mandatory Health Insurance by June
5.5  Tourism Adds $36.4 Billion to UAE’s GDP in 2015
5.6  Indian PM Modi Signs Labor Agreement with Saudi Arabia
5.7  Saudi Oil Exports Fall to 7.553 Million bpd in February

♦♦North Africa

5.8  Egypt’s Annual Inflation Down to 9% in March
5.9  Egypt to Cut Fuel Subsidies by 43% as Cairo Seeks to Reduce Deficit
5.10  Moroccan Diaspora Remittances Reached $6.4 Billion in 2015
5.11  Saudi Arabia & Morocco Sign $230 Million Aid Agreement


6.1  Turkey’s Budget Deficit at $2.4 Billion In March
6.2  Turkey’s Unemployment Rate Rose to 11 Month High in January
6.3  Approximately 300,000 SME Workers Lose Jobs After Turkey’s Minimum Wage Hike



7.1  Passover Observance Will Begin on 22 April


8.1  Lycored’s Cardi-O-Mato Selected as a Finalist for the 2016 NutraIngredients Awards
8.2  BioSight Completed Treatment of Patients in Astarabine Phase I/IIa Clinical Trial
8.3  Periods Are Awful! Livia’s Here to Relieve Your Pain


9.1  Karamba Security Emerges From Stealth Mode to Protect Connected Cars from Cyber Attacks
9.2  Israel Aerospace Begins Producing F-35 C4 Systems
9.3  Hexadite Adds Mac & Linux Coverage to Intelligent Security Orchestration
9.4  Stratoscale Chosen as a 2016 Red Herring Europe Winner
9.5  LightCyber Introduces Security Industry’s First Attack Detection Metrics
9.6  Humavox Brings New Smart Wireless Charging Technology to Hearing Aids and Hearables
9.7  NTT Electronics Partners with VideoFlow for Broadcast Quality Video over Any IP Network
9.8  VisIC Technologies New 650V Half-Bridge Evaluation Board
9.9  Mutual Trust Life in Production with Sapiens ALIS Policy Administration System
9.10  SolidRun Announces the World’s Smallest Intel Braswell-based Computer


10.1  Israel’s Inflation Rate Drops 0.2% in March
10.2  Israeli Exports Fall by 14% in the First Quarter
10.3  Israel’s Foreign Currency Reserves Surge to Record Amounts
10.4  Israeli Defense Exports Up Despite Concerns
10.5  Employee Tax Burden Rising In Israel
10.6  Israel Railways Breaks Monthly Passenger Record


11.1  ISRAEL: Israeli Startups Raise $1.09 Billion in First Quarter
11.2  SAUDI ARABIA: Fitch Downgrades Saudi Arabia to ‘AA-‘; Outlook Remains Negative
11.3  SAUDI ARABIA: Laying the Foundation for a Post-Oil Centric Economy
11.4  EGYPT: Sailing Through the Straits
11.5  SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi Arabia Tilts Toward India
11.6  TURKEY: What Turkey’s New Central Bank Chief Means for the Economy
11.7  TURKEY: Turkey’s New 4G Mobile Network Comes With Many Dark Clouds


1.1  Israel Expects $8 Billion Boost From Energy Efficiency Plan

On 11 April, the Netanyahu government unanimously approved a plan for reducing greenhouse gases and increasing energy efficiency to benefit the economy.  Government officials expect the cumulative benefit to Israel’s economy to reach more than NIS 30 billion ($8 billion), the Finance, Energy, Environment and Economy ministries said.  Under the plan, which follows last year’s international climate accord in Paris, Israel will grant NIS 500 million ($132 million) in guarantees for loans to boost energy efficiency and NIS 300 million ($80 million) in grants for projects that will lead to efficiency in industry, the business sector and municipalities.

Israel has committed to cut per capita greenhouse gas emissions to 7.7 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030.  This represents a reduction of 26% over emissions in 2005.  Cabinet ministers said they would examine ways to lower the use of coal and encourage the transition to natural gas to lead to a substantial drop in air pollution.  They also will study measures to help make transportation more efficient and cut travel times, while setting up a team to remove barriers to encourage Israel’s clean-tech sector and give tax incentives to encourage the use of renewable energy and promote green building projects.  (IH 11.04)

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1.2  Netanyahu Scraps Plans to Regulate Cyber Security Companies

In a dramatic development in the plan by the National Cyber Bureau and the Defense Ministry Defense Export Controls Agency (DECA) to institute supervision of cyber systems exports from Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered that the continuation of procedures for drawing up the order be canceled.  Netanyahu’s decision came after he adopted the recommendations by a recently formed team for consideration of aspects of the draft order and the effects of such an order on the Israeli cyber industry.  The team members heard the views of the industrialists and cyber company heads, who expressed concern that implementing this order would have a negative impact on the development of the sector in Israel, lead to a brain drain, and divert planned investments in companies to countries not having regulation in this matter.

As a substitute for implementing a supervision order for cyber systems exports, the Prime Minister and National Cyber Bureau head Dr. Matania decided that Israel would comply with the Wassenaar Arrangement on this question – an international convention adopted by Israel that regulates exports of dual-purpose developments – civilian developments that when adapted somewhat can be used for military and aggressive purposes. In principle, all of the world’s countries supervise cyber systems exports on the basis of this convention.

Dozens of objections were submitted to the Ministry of Defense and the National Cyber Bureau in recent months by companies in the industry seeking to halt progress on the order.  Among other things, these companies asserted that the order had been formulated too generally, and that there was no clarity concerning the circumstances in which a product would require authorization before it is exported.  They further alleged that deals made by the companies would be delayed and jeopardized before being given the go-ahead by the state authorities.

Under the Prime Minister’s decision, DECA will supervise exports of cyber systems for security purposes, such as offensive and defensive cyber systems, while supervision of exports of cyber systems with a civilian character will be through a new authority to be established in the Ministry of Economy and Industry.  (Globes 19.04)

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2.1  Over 30 Israeli Startups Raise More Than  $10 Million Each in Funding in First Quarter

Ethosia reported that Israel’s high-tech sector posted a confident first quarter with over 30 startups raising more than $10 million each in funding rounds from January to March 2016.  The 33 high-tech companies raising more than $10 million each totaled $869.3 million in Q1/16 investments.  These include cyber security analytics company Skybox Security ($96 million), network security company ForeScout Technologies ($76 million), immunotherapy startup Adicet bio ($51 million), JFrog, a developer of open source software distribution tools ($50 million), Zerto disaster recovery software solution ($50 million) and business analytics software company Sisense ($50 million).  In addition, invoice financing startup BlueVine ($40 million), Elastifile flash storage solution ($35 million), V-Wave Unidirectional Shunt System ($28 million) and online financing company Ezbob ($28 million) raised significant funds, as did Insightec ($22 million), enSilo ($21 million), AppCard ($20 million), CartiHeal ($15 million) and TravelersBox ($10 million), among others.

The Ethosia report also highlighted the top five exits in the first three months of the year: Leaba ($350 million), Altair ($200 million), Replay ($170 million), TowerSec ($75 million) and Volicon (tens of millions, full details not disclosed).  (Various 10.04)

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2.2  Vasona Networks Adds $14.6 Million in Venture Capital

Vasona Networks announced a $14.6 million series C Round, bringing total funds raised by the company to $48 million.  The financing builds on global momentum that has seen the company’s solutions used by tier-one mobile network operators in four of the world’s largest cities, including announced use by Telefonica UK in its London O2 system.  The additional venture capital supports these deployments and drives ongoing research and development efforts, such as extension of Vasona Networks’ leadership in the emerging edge computing movement. Participants in the funding round include Bessemer Venture Partners, New Venture Partners and NexStar Partners.

Key Vasona Networks offerings include the SmartAIR edge application controller and SmartVISION analysis suite.  These platforms leverage edge locations between core and radio access networks, which is a key position for precise traffic management and monitoring at scale.  SmartAIR assesses each cell’s conditions and acts on congestion in real time, taking into account the cause and the subscriber’s location.  SmartVISION gives unprecedented live and historical visibility into networks at the level of individual cell performance.

Founded in 2009, Tel Aviv’s Vasona Networks works with global mobile network operators to deliver better subscriber experiences. The company’s pioneering edge application controller, the SmartAIR1000™, takes a holistic approach to addressing mobile network data traffic.  (Vasona 07.04)

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2.3  Mintigo Raises $15 Million

Israeli predictive marketing company Mintigo has raised $15 million in a financing round led by Sequoia Capital.  The startup generated 700% growth in 2015 – partnering with enterprise customers such as Oracle, Getty Images, Equinix, SolarWinds and Red Hat.  Mintigo has developed a cloud-based software platform that enables sales and marketing teams to use data and predictive analytics to increase sales.  Mintigo’s primary difference for B2B marketing and sales comes as a result of being able to quickly access the data that actually matters.  A unit of data can best be described as “anything that makes a difference.”  The difficulty for marketers is in knowing what that really means.

Ra’anana’s Mintigo believes in the power of data science to revolutionize marketing.  Data for marketing is like GPS for driving – in the past, finding the fastest route required planning and making the right decisions at each and every turn.  Mintigo is building the ultimate “GPS for marketers”.  Mintigo’s Predictive Marketing Platform empowers marketers to be successful and get the results they want…every time.  It helps marketers drive better marketing and find the fastest route to revenue.  (Globes 07.04)

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2.4  Top Sensor Manufacturers Make Strategic Investment in CropX

CropX announced that global leaders in the sensor manufacturing space – Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH (RBVC) and the Flex technology accelerator, Lab IX – have invested in the company.  Already serving 20 top farms across the United States, CropX plans to use the strategic partnerships to accelerate product development and rapidly expand market adoption.  In tandem, CropX also unveiled a new version of its proven soil sensors that drastically reduces installation time.  CropX’ proprietary science helps farmers better understand water usage across their fields. Its low-cost soil sensors can increase crop yields while simultaneously cutting water usage by one third. In just one irrigation season, CropX sensors were installed on thousands of acres of all major row crops and demonstrated immense value, with early customers across the United States reporting dramatic water, manpower and cost savings, as well as massive crop yield gains.  During the current growing season, CropX technology will be rolled out across hundreds of thousands of acres.

The company’s Series A financing, which was extended from $9M to $10M to accommodate investor interest, is now closed.  Leading AgTech investors Finistere Ventures, Innovation Endeavors, GreenSoil Investments and OurCrowd welcomed the addition of RBVC and Flex into the oversubscribed round due to their sensor manufacturing leadership.  The funding will support the company’s continued growth and product development, including advances in nutrition, plant protection, planting and harvesting.

Tel Aviv’s CropX, the world’s most advanced adaptive irrigation software service, delivers dramatic crop yield increase and water and energy cost savings, while conserving the environment.  Optimizing irrigation to help farmers around the globe, CropX generates daily, accurate, hassle-free irrigation maps and automatically applies the right amount of water to different parts of the same field.  CropX is led by a team of top scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs with a track record of identifying and commercializing disruptive technologies.  (CropX 12.04)

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2.5  Motorola Solutions to Set Up Israel Innovation Center

Motorola Solutions has announced it will be establishing an innovation center in Israel that will deal with cyber, analytics, mobile and the Internet of Things.  On 13 April, Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Motorola Solutions Chairman and CEO Brown in Jerusalem, where the decision was formally announced.  The move will be a boost to the Israeli economy, providing jobs and helping to encourage future investments in the Jewish state.  Motorola Solutions noted that it views its Israeli branch “as a strategic asset and that the establishment of the aforesaid center expresses its continued long-term commitment to Israel and Israeli industry, which began in the 1970’s with the establishment – in Israel – of the company’s first development center outside North America.  (Arutz Sheva 14.04)

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2.6  Acquisition of Crosswise Strengthens Oracle’s Data as a Service Offering

On April 14, 2016, Oracle announced it signed an agreement to acquire Tel Aviv, Israel’s Crosswise, a leading provider of machine-learning based cross-device data which enables marketers and premium publishers to realize the benefits of cross-device advertising, personalization and analytics.  Crosswise’s innovative technology processes over one petabyte of user and device activity data from billions of unique devices every month.  By applying advanced data science and proprietary machine-learning techniques to this data, Crosswise constructs a new probabilistic Device Map matching multiple devices to individual users in an accurate, scalable and high quality manner.

Oracle Data Cloud is the fastest growing global Data as a Service business, aggregating more than 3 billion profiles from over 15 million websites in its data marketplace and operating the most accurate ID Graph to enable understanding of consumer behavior across all media channels.  Oracle Data Cloud ingests third-party data, extracts value, and activates the data to drive insights and harness this knowledge for targeting, personalization and measurement to help more than 80% of the top U.S. advertisers maximize their marketing spend.  The addition of Crosswise further broadens the Oracle ID Graph to construct a complete view of consumers’ digital interactions across multiple devices.  (Oracle 14.04)

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2.7  Azerbaijan Airlines to Launch Tel Aviv – New York Flights Via Baku

On Sunday, 24 April, Azerbaijan Airlines will begin weekly Tel Aviv-New York flights.  Initially there will be two weekly flights on the route between Ben Gurion Airport and New York JFK on Sundays and Wednesdays, which will include a two hour stopover at Azerbaijan Airlines hub airport in Baku.  Azerbaijan Airlines is represented in Israel by Mona Tours.  Return flights begin from $700.  (Globes 18.04)

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2.8  El Al Ranked Next to Last on Landing Punctuality

FlightStats, which tracks real-time information about airlines and airports, reported that Israel’s national air carrier, El Al, runs late – some 45% of the company’s flights for March 2016 landed over 15 minutes late at their destinations, putting the airline next-to-last.  El Al flights landed an average of 44 minutes late in March.  Out of 44 airlines surveyed, El Al placed 43rd, which means that the only airline in the survey less punctual was Pakistan Airlines, 46% of whose flights landed late and which had an average delay in landing time of an hour.  The most punctual airline was Austrian Airways, with only 9.7% of the Austrian carrier’s flights landing more than 15 minutes late.  El Al replied to say that they enjoy an operational accuracy of 79% in departures, while concerns with safety and security may play more of a role in Israel’s case.  (FlightStats 07.04)

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3.1  Kuwait Signs Long-Delayed Deal to Buy 28 Eurofighter Jets

Italy’s Finmeccanica signed a long-delayed contract with Kuwait for 28 Eurofighter jets on 5 April.  A memorandum of understanding for the multi-billion jet deal was signed in September but the closing of the deal had been repeatedly postponed.  The contract includes logistics, operational support and the training of flight crews and ground personnel, which will be carried out in cooperation with the Italian Air Force.  Finmeccanica did not give the value of the deal, but it is estimated to be worth between €7 and €8 billion, with Finmeccanica’s share seen at roughly half of the total.  The rest is in the hands of a group of companies in the Eurofighter consortium, including plane maker Airbus (AIR.PA) and Britain’s BAE Systems.  (Reuters 05.04)

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3.2  Evoqua to Provide Carbon Adsorbers for Sohar Refinery Improvement Project

Pittsburgh’s Evoqua, a global leader in helping municipalities and industrial customers protect and improve the world’s most fundamental natural resource: water, was chosen to provide carbon adsorption equipment for the $2.1 billion Sohar Refinery Improvement Project (SRIP) in Sohar Port, Liwa, Oman.  Scheduled for commissioning in late 2016, the SRIP project will add five new units to the Sohar refinery, improving its production volume, environmental performance and ability to process heavier Omani crude oil. Evoqua will provide the equipment to an energy contractor of the EPC directing the project for Orpic, the owner of the refinery.  Evoqua has been asked to provide Vent-Scrub Vapor Phase carbon adsorption systems, proven to be the simplest and most cost-effective way to treat malodorous and VOC emission problems.  The systems will be used for removing hydrogen sulfide, mercaptans and other sour gases created as byproducts of the refining process.  (Evoqua 06.04)

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3.3  SPAR International Said to Target 24 New Stores in Oman

Dutch supermarket chain SPAR International reportedly plans to open 24 outlets in Oman by 2017, as part of significant expansion plans in the Arabian Gulf.  SPAR is focusing on a multi-format retail offer – unlike the large store formats of regional giants such as Carrefour and Lulu – tailored to suit particular regions.  The openings will reportedly be overseen by SPAR’s Oman franchise partner Khimji Ramdas.  Treating the GCC retail market as a whole, about 7% of food retail comes from Oman.  Looking at the current market in GCC, the most concentrated market is UAE, where the top three retail players have 27% share of the market.  In Saudi Arabia, the top three players have only 12% of the market.  (AB 18.04)

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3.4  Babson College to Help Open Campus in Saudi Arabia

The College for Business and Entrepreneurship at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) is being developed by a subsidiary of Babson College, a Massachusetts-based private business school, with US defense giant Lockheed Martin providing 10 years of funding.  The project will be led by a third partner, the Saudi Arabia Economic Offset Program.  The move is designed to boost KAEC’s credentials as an educational and entrepreneurship hub.  Located about an hour north of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast, the $100 billion megaproject features a major point, an Industrial Valley, a series of residential communities and strong transport connections to other cities in the country.  The college will be based on Babson’s methodology and expertise, which has made the school the number-one ranked college in America for the past 20 years, according to US News & World Report.  When complete, the college will have a capacity of 1,400 students in graduate, undergraduate and entrepreneurship development programs.  (AB 16.04)

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3.5  NanoMech Receives $10 Million Investment from Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures

Springdale, Arkansas’ NanoMech has secured $10 million in capital for leading its Series C Financing round from Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV), the corporate venturing subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s national oil company.  This capital infusion and relationship will significantly accelerate NanoMech’s manufacturing, sales and product development.  NanoMech uses nanotechnology to develop advanced products for industrial and mechanical applications – such as lubricants, coatings and specialty chemicals.  These products have enabled a step change in performance, efficiency and reliability in multiple industries such as energy, transportation, aerospace, manufacturing, automotive, agricultural equipment and military. NanoMech has validated and commercialized its innovations to iconic world-leading businesses and has completed scale up of its smart factory and labs.  Several Fortune 100 and emerging companies have incorporated NanoMech’s nano-engineered solutions, to create disruptive and higher-performance products. This announcement represents NanoMech’s most significant milestone in the continued validation and authentication of its unique technology.

Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures is the corporate venturing subsidiary of the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco), the world’s leading fully integrated energy and petrochemical enterprise. Headquartered in Dhahran, with offices in North America and Europe, SAEV’s mission is to invest globally in startups and high growth companies with technologies of strategic importance to its parent, Saudi Aramco.  (NanoMech 13.04)

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4.1  GCC Countries Set to Pump $100 Billion Into Renewable Energy

According to the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), GCC countries are planning to invest some $100 billion into renewable energy projects over the next 20 years.  The director-general of KISR, said such robust funding aims to meet the growing energy consumption in the GCC states, estimated at 3% annually.  A few years ago, KISR launched Al-Saqaya renewable energy complex, which covers an area of 100 sq. km, with a compound capacity of 200,000 MW; the project will go operational by the end of 2016.

In January, Dubai’s Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) said it was calling on consulting firms to tender for advisory and regulatory development services for the emirate’s planned 100 billion dirham ($27 billion) clean energy fund.  The “Dubai Green Fund”, announced in November, will provide low-cost loans for investors in Dubai’s clean energy sector as part of wider green energy investment program in the desert city state of 2.4 million people.  Dubai uses large amounts of energy to cool buildings and public spaces and to provide water through energy-intensive desalination plants.  (AB 05.04)

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5.1  Jordan’s Defense Budget Stands at $1.7 Billion for 2016

Research and Markets has announced the addition of the “Future of the Jordanian Defense Industry – Market Attractiveness, Competitive Landscape and Forecasts to 2020” report to their offering.  Jordan’s defense budget increased marginally from $1.70 billion in 2011 to $1.71 billion in 2015, registering a CAGR of 0.27%.  The slow growth rate can be attributed to the country’s struggling economy, high unemployment rates, lack of natural resources, and the burden of hosting a large refugee population.  However, Jordan’s recent attempts to upgrade its military equipment are expected to drive its defense expenditure over the forecast period, which is projected to rise from $1.8 billion in 2015 to $1.9 billion by 2020, at a CAGR of 2.05%.  The country is estimated to maintain the budget allocation for capital expenditure at an average of 3.3% over the forecast period, which is expected to be $8.8 billion cumulatively.  The key areas of investment are expected to be armored vehicles, patrol boats, and border surveillance equipment.  (R&M 07.04)

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5.2  KRG Oil Exports Average 327,000 bpd for March

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has published its monthly crude oil export report for March 2016.  The KRG exported 10,148,487 barrels of crude oil (an average of 327,371 barrels per day (bpd)) in the month of March through the Kurdistan pipeline network to the port of Ceyhan in Turkey.  Due to circumstances beyond the KRG’s control that occurred within the territory of Turkey, during the month of March there were approximately 12 days of downtime for the export pipeline.  This was the continuation of the downtime period that started in the middle of February.  The buyers of the KRG crude oil lifted 10 cargoes (totaling 9,232,371 barrels) according to the volumes allocated to them under their contracts.  The cargo volumes lifted exceeded the March KRG export volumes.  The excess derived from the previously exported oil accumulated in the storage tanks in Ceyhan.  The KRG received $557,272,177 on account in March (including $350,000,000 in loans and prepayments) from its crude oil export, of which $36,014,177 was allocated to the producers. $4,258,000 was authorized and paid to Biwater Ltd on behalf of the Ministry of Municipalities and Tourism.  (KRG 03.04)

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►►Arabian Gulf

5.3  Dubai Targets 500,000 Medical Tourists by 2020 With New Website

The world’s first medical tourism portal has been launched in Dubai with aim of increasing the number of international medical tourists to 500,000 by 2020.  Sheikh Hamdan, Dubai Crown Prince, launched ‘Dubai Health Experience’ (DXH), the online portal that allows international medical tourists to book medical procedures via a website (, and avail of a discounted travel rates.

Dubai attracted 630,833 international and domestic medical tourists in 2015, generating over $400 million in revenues, with 296,491 (47%) of those tourists coming from international countries.  Driven by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), the website will offer medical packages for procedures like wellness, cosmetic and dental services, ophthalmology, orthopedics and physiotherapy.

Medical tourists who book the procedures through the website at any of the 25 healthcare centers in Dubai that are part of the DXH Group, will able to access special discounted airfares through Emirates, as well as a visa, medical insurance, hotel stay, leisure activities and a marhaba (VIP) service for airport transfer.

The move comes in lines with the vision of the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to develop the tourism sector and make Dubai city a hub for medical, family and shopping tourism capable to woo over 500,000 tourists with the advent of Expo 2020 Dubai.  (AB 11.04)

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5.4  Dubai Health Authority to Fully Implement Mandatory Health Insurance by June

With over 75% of Dubai’s expatriates already benefiting from the mandatory health insurance, which began coming into effect in phases starting January 2014, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) announced that it is on the verge of fully implementing Dubai’s mandatory health insurance scheme ISAHD (Bringing Happiness) by the end of June.  DHA is currently in the third and final phase of implementing the scheme on companies with less than 100 employees — including all spouses, dependents and domestic workers  The implementation of the scheme — to have all Dubai residents covered by health insurance — is going according to the adopted time frame.  The DHA has completed the first phase that included companies with more than 1,000 employees in 2014 and the second phase, which included companies with 999 to 100 employees, in 2015.

Companies can get the health insurance packages that are in line with the scheme from the 46 health insurance companies permitted by DHA, which includes nine companies that provide the essential benefits package.  Employers are required to put in place health cover for their staff that meets the minimum requirements of the law.  The law stipulates that employers cannot simply pass on the cost of the cover to their staff, and the DHA has made clear that it will treat any attempts to do so seriously.  As a means of ensuring cover is put in place and maintained, the renewal of an employee’s visa will be subject to the employee having health insurance in place.  Employers have to provide a basic health coverage with an annual premium anywhere between Dh500-Dh700 and a maximum insurance cover per person per annum of Dh150,000.

Dubai’s health insurance rules do not require employers to provide coverage for the dependents of their employees, whereas this is the case in Abu Dhabi.  The reasoning behind this is that by making family cover compulsory, companies could be biased towards hiring single executives to save costs which could, in turn, shift the balance of Dubai’s demographic make-up away from its current family-orientated focus.  Instead, cover for dependents falls on the sponsor themselves.  So where a dependent does not receive cover from an employer, it becomes the responsibility of the sponsor to put in place and maintain the required cover (though this does not apply until July).  (Gulf News 16.04)

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5.5  Tourism Adds $36.4 Billion to UAE’s GDP in 2015

The UAE’s Minister of Economy has revealed that tourism contributed about $36.4 billion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) last year.  Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri said the local tourism industry will be even more reliable in the post-oil economy.  He said the sector accounted for 8.7% of GDP to grow by 4.4% this year, according to data issued by the World Travel and Tourism Council., adding that this contribution will rise at a rate of 5.4% annually over the next 10 years.  Al Mansouri said that the tourism sector is an important part of the national economy and a core pillar of economic diversification policy of the state.  (WAM 06.04)

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5.6  Indian PM Modi Signs Labor Agreement with Saudi Arabia

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has signed a labor agreement with Saudi Arabian officials aimed at improving the welfare and rights of blue collar workers in the kingdom.  Modi spent two days in Saudi Arabia on an official visit from 2 -4 April, during which he signed a number of agreements with Saudi Arabia.  In a series of tweets from his official Twitter account, Modi revealed that he had a number of productive meetings, discussing ways to increase India-Saudi Arabia cooperation.  He also reviewed the cases of Indians who are serving sentences for minor offences, prompting the Saudi Government to look at the cases sympathetically & constitute a review mechanism with immediate effect.  (AB 06.04)

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5.7  Saudi Oil Exports Fall to 7.553 Million bpd in February

Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports in February fell to 7.553 million barrels per day from 7.835 million bpd in January, official data showed.  The world’s largest oil exporter produced 10.220 million bpd of crude in February compared with 10.230 million bpd in January, the data showed.  Monthly export figures are provided by Riyadh and other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to the Joint Organization Data Initiative.  Saudi Arabia’s domestic crude oil inventories fell to 305.599 million barrels in February from 314.119 million barrels a month earlier.  Domestic refineries processed 2.67 million bpd of crude, compared with 2.468 million bpd in January, while exports of refined oil products rose to 1.55 million bpd from 1.343 million bpd.  In February, crude oil burnt to generate power fell to 291,000 bpd from 293,000 bpd in January, the JODI data showed.  (Reuters 18.04)

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►►North Africa

5.8  Egypt’s Annual Inflation Down to 9% in March

Despite widespread anecdotal reports of price hikes due to the devaluation of the pound in mid-March, the Central Bank of Egypt announced annual consumer price inflation declined to 9% in March.  This puts Egypt’s inflation in single digits for the second month in a row, and marks the fourth consecutive month of declines, following an annual rate of 11.06 in December 2015, 10.1% in January and 9.13% in February.  The Bank attributes the decrease in the annual rate to positive base effects from last year. Annual inflation in March 2015 measured 11.5%, the second highest rate that year.  Meanwhile, the monthly rate accelerated to 1.44%, compared to an increase of 0.97% in February.

Core inflation — which leaves out volatile commodities like fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as items with prices regulated by the government — increased to 8.41% in March, compared to 7.5% the month before.  Monthly core inflation increased by 0.88%, decelerating from the February rate of 1.62%.  Central Bank statistics show that prices for fruits and vegetables increased by 1.71% in March, accelerating from 1.1% in February.  The annual rate of inflation for fruits and vegetables hit 25.44%, which represented a decrease from the 30.35% recorded in February.  (Mada Masr 10.04)

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5.9  Egypt to Cut Fuel Subsidies by 43% as Cairo Seeks to Reduce Deficit

Egypt will reduce spending on fuel subsidies by nearly 43% in the 2016/17 budget due mainly to lower global energy costs.  Finance Minister Amr al-Garhy told a news conference that state energy subsidies would fall to EGP 35 billion ($3.94 billion) from about EGP 61 billion in the 2015/16 budget.

Consumers reacted angrily when the government cut spending on energy subsidies in mid-2014, a measure that caused domestic prices of natural gas, diesel and other fuels to rise by as much as 78%.  They were reduced again in the current budget.  However, deputy finance minister for fiscal policy Ahmed Kojak said a decline in international oil prices would account for the bulk of the reduced subsidy spending in the next fiscal year.  He said that thus is also a saving of about EGP 8-10 billion that will come as a result of new reforms that the Petroleum Ministry.

Egypt is struggling to revive its economy since a popular uprising in 2011 shook investor confidence and drove tourists and foreign investors away.  Its foreign currency reserves stood at $16.56 billion in March, down from about $36 billion in 2011.  The government has been trying to cut subsidies, which eat up a big chunk of the budget.  President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has approved a draft state budget that reduces the budget deficit in the 2016/17 fiscal year to 9.8% of gross domestic product (GDP) from the current 11.5%.  (Reuters 10.04)

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5.10  Moroccan Diaspora Remittances Reached $6.4 Billion in 2015

The World Bank expects the value of remittances received by the Maghreb to increase “only modestly” in 2016 and 2017 compared to other regions, according to the international banking organization’s recent report titled the “Migration and Development Brief.”  The report estimated that the Moroccan diaspora community sent approximately $6.4 billion to their home country in 2015, making the kingdom the third-largest receiver of remittances among countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  Egypt benefitted the most from remittances in 2015, the report said, as the country received an estimated $19.7 billion from citizens living and working abroad last year – equivalent to 6.8% of republic’s total GDP in 2014.  Lebanon’s remittances were the second-highest at $7.2 billion.  After Morocco at third place, Jordan imported $3.8 billion from its expatriates, with Yemen ($3.4 billion), Tunis ($2.3 billion) and Algeria ($2 billion).  The bank predicts remittances to MENA will increase at a modest rate of 2.6% in 2016, falling short of the 4% growth the region witnessed in 2014.  (MWN 15.04)

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5.11  Saudi Arabia & Morocco Sign $230 Million Aid Agreement

Saudi Arabia and Morocco signed an aid agreement worth $230 million as part of a five-year package of financial assistance extended by wealthy Gulf states.  Four Gulf states – Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates – agreed in 2012 to provide aid worth a total of $5 billion to Morocco in the period 2012-2017 to help it weather “Arab Spring” protests.  Each of the four countries has committed $1.25 billion to Morocco for the whole five-year period, in an effort to build up its infrastructure, strengthen its economy and foster tourism.  The agreement signed on 6 April is Saudi Arabia’s 2016 part, Morocco’s finance minister said.

The $230 million agreement was signed in Bahrain by the Moroccan minister, Mohammed Boussaid, and Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz al-Assaf.  It includes $100 million of support to small and medium-size enterprises), $80 million of aid to agriculture and $50 million for the health ministry.  Morocco has budgeted to receive a total $1 billion in aid from the Gulf states for 2016.  It hopes to cut its budget deficit to 3.5% of GDP this year from an estimated 4.3% in 2015.  Moroccan officials have said Morocco had received only 4 billion dirhams of the 13 billion ($1 billion) expected in last year.  It was unclear which Gulf countries have not provided their 2015 aid.  The Gulf states have agreed a similar package of aid, also worth a total $5 billion over a five-year period, for Jordan.  (Reuters 06.04)

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6.1  Turkey’s Budget Deficit at $2.4 Billion In March

Turkey’s government ran a TL6.6 billion ($2.4 billion) budget deficit in March, the country’s finance minister said on 15 April.  The deficit was TL 200 million lower compared to the TL6.8 billion deficit recorded in March last year.  Government revenue in March stood at TL46.8 billion– an 11.4% increase year-on-year.  Budget expenditure totaled TL40.3 billion, up 22.3% from a year earlier.  The central government budget showed a surplus of TL46 million in the first three months of the year.

According to the Finance Ministry, the Turkish government’s budget revenue reached TL131.7 billion in the first three months of the year, a 16.4% increase compared with the same period last year.  Tax revenue also increased by 12.7% within the period to TL108.5 liras.  Budget expenditures between January and March rose to TL131.7 billion, marking an 11% increase year-on-year.  In 2016, the Finance Ministry estimated that budget expenses for the fiscal year would reach TL570.5 billion, while budget income would reach TL540.8 billion, resulting in a budget deficit of TL29.7 billion.  (AA 15.04)

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6.2  Turkey’s Unemployment Rate Rose to 11 Month High in January

Turkey’s unemployment rate increased to an eleven-month high of 11.1% in January from 10.8% in December, the Turkish Statistics Institute (TUIK) stated on 15 April.  The unemployment rate was 11.3% last January, according to TUIK.  The number of unemployed people aged 15 years and over rose to 3.29 million in January, an increase of 31,000 from the previous year largely due to the rising labor force participation rate.  The labor participation rate was 50.7%, with a 0.7% increase from a year earlier.  The total size of the Turkish labor force was announced as 29.57 million, with an 852,000 increase in January from a year earlier.  Youth unemployment fell to 19.2% in January, down 0.8% from a year earlier.  (HDN 15.04)

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6.3  Approximately 300,000 SME Workers Lose Jobs After Turkey’s Minimum Wage Hike

Following Turkey’s recent minimum wage hike, a total of 379,000 people lost their jobs in January, 76,000 of whom were women.  They were working for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to a new report by the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV).  TEPAV’s research showed that around 78% of the drop in the number of registered workers was seen in SMEs.  Their total registered employment fell to around 11 million in January from the previous month, marking a fall of around 294,000.  The research also revealed that the total number of SMEs dropped by 30,000 to 1.7 million in the same period.  In this period, only the number of public servants rose, by around 1,000, to 3.03 million.

Turkey recently raised the minimum wage by 30% to TL 1,300 for around 8.5 million workers.  The government said it would cover 40% of the cost of a hike in the minimum wage for 8.5 million employees, which came into effect on the first day of 2016, but only for one year.  Business leaders had warned that layoffs could begin and some facilities would be forced to be closed if the conditions were not eased.  The number of people awaiting approval to receive employment benefits in January also rose by 38% compared to the same month of the previous year, according to the TEPAV report.  (HDN 15.04)

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7.1  Passover Observance Will Begin on 22 April

On Friday night, 22 April, Israel and world Jewry will begin the week-long celebration of the Passover (Pesach) holiday.  Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jewish People from slavery in Egypt by the hand of G-d.  It is central to Jewish identity and Jewish practice, since the Exodus and life in the wilderness led to the true birth of the Jews as a distinct entity.  Jacob and Josef came to Egypt numbering 70 souls and Moses led 600,000 out after the defeat of Pharaoh.  Probably the most significant observance related to Pesach involves the removal of chametz (or leaven) from Jewish homes and businesses.  This commemorates the fact that the Jews leaving Egypt were in a hurry and did not have time to let their bread rise.  Even converts to Judaism relate to the Exodus as their own ancestors as having left Egypt.  It is also a symbolic way of removing the “puffiness” (arrogance, pride) from our souls.  Instead, special non-leavened bread called matzah is consumed, among a myriad of other special holiday dishes.

On the first night of Pesach (first two nights for Jews outside of Israel), there is a special family meal filled with ritual to remind Jews of the significance of the holiday.  This meal is called a seder, from a Hebrew root word meaning “order,” because there is a specific set of information that must be discussed in a specific order.  The seder is full of symbolism, all pointing to one salient point:  that Jews all remember that G-d took us out of slavery in Egypt to freedom to observe his Torah.  Pesach lasts for seven days (eight days outside of Israel).  The first and last days of the holiday (first two and last two outside of Israel) are days on which no work is permitted.  Work is permitted on the intermediate days.  These intermediate days on which work is permitted are referred to as Chol Ha-Mo’ed, as are the intermediate days of Sukkot.  Though work is permitted, many take vacations and a full work environment returns only after the holiday.  Passover ends on 29 April in Israel, 30 April in the Diaspora.

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8.1  Lycored’s Cardi-O-Mato Selected as a Finalist for the 2016 NutraIngredients Awards

Lycored announced its hero supplement, Cardi-O-Mato, has been chosen as a finalist in the second annual NutraIngredients Awards.  The awards reward true innovation and cutting edge research in health foods, supplements and nutrition and Cardio-O-Mato is a finalist for the best Finished Product of the Year – Heart Health.  With more than 120 high-quality entries, Lycored’s Cardi-O-Mato was one out of 33 stand-out products to make the final cut in the 2016 NutraIngredients Awards.

Lycored’s Cardi-O-Mato is scientifically proven to support cardiovascular health and contribute to normal heart and vascular function, with measurable results in just six weeks.  Supported by numerous clinical trials, Cardi-O-Mato manages and improves various conditions that effect heart health, including reducing oxidized LDL cholesterol, lowering systolic blood pressure already within the normal range, and preserving the endothelium, which lines artery walls and supports the proper functioning of blood vessels among healthy population.  Cardi-O-Mato contains a unique and synergistic composition of the active compounds found in tomato fruit including lycopene, phytoene, phytofluene, beta-carotene, phytosterols, & tocopherols (vitamin E) which have been standardized and optimized to support their heart healthy quantities, with the final composition tested for effectiveness using pharma-grade human trials.  In just one capsule at day, Cardi-O-Mato provides consumers with a revolutionary supplement that can help them take one giant positive step towards a healthier heart.

Committed to ‘Cultivating Wellness’, Israel’s Lycored is an international company at the forefront of unearthing and combining nature’s nutrition potential with cutting edge science to develop natural ingredients and products.  Established in 1995, Lycored is the global leader in natural carotenoids for food, beverage and dietary supplement products.  The company develops and supplies natural ingredient formulations into four main business areas: active health ingredients for wellness; colorings; ingredients for taste & texture improvement; and nutrient premixes for fortification.  (Lycored 14.04)

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8.2  BioSight Completed Treatment of Patients in Astarabine Phase I/IIa Clinical Trial

BioSight announced completion of patient treatment in its ongoing Phase I/IIa clinical study of Astarabine in acute leukemia patients.  The company expects to report the final results in the coming months.  Astarabine is a non-toxic conjugate of the chemotherapy drug cytarabine (Ara-C) and the amino acid asparagine.  Cytarabine is the first-line treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and relapsed/refractory Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), however it is highly toxic with severe side effects such as cerebellar toxicity and bone marrow suppression.  While the average age AML patients is almost 70 years, cytarabine doses are significantly attenuated for older patients due to its severe toxicity, and administration of high-dose cytarabine is precluded in patients with hepatic or renal dysfunction. Hence, the toxicity significantly limits its use, especially for older patients.  Unlike cytarabine, the toxicity of Astarabine is mostly specific to leukemia cells, as it is preferentially taken up by leukemia cells where it triggers cellular mechanisms which lead to their death.

Karmiel’s BioSight is a private Israeli clinical-stage drug development company that focuses on development of chemotherapy pro-drugs with reduced toxicity, based on its proprietary technology S2DOT for chemotherapy pro-drug design and synthesis.  BioSight develops a pipeline of targeted chemotherapy pro-drugs with reduced toxicity, thus, aiming to revolutionize the treatment for cancer patients, to enable safe and effective treatment to cancer patients around the world.  Its lead proprietary product Astarabine is in clinical stages for treatment of leukemia. Additional products are in pre-clinical stages, addressing unmet medical needs and multi-billion dollar markets.  (BioSight 19.04)

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8.3  Periods Are Awful!  Livia’s Here to Relieve Your Pain

Livia, also known as the off switch for menstrual cramps, is a discrete wearable device which is used during menstruation to organically block pain receptors through electrical stimulation.  Livia was unveiled on 7 April on Indiegogo and is aiming to bring the device into mass production to help the countless women who suffer from severe cramps, in a drug-free, all-natural way.

No matter what term they use, riding the crimson wave, or mother nature’s monthly gift, any woman will tell you that getting your period is annoying!  Dealing with bloating and food cravings is so uncomfortable, not to mention the most wonderful womanly experience: cramps.  They can sometimes be so severe that women often call in sick to work, and stay in bed popping pain killers, waiting for them to kick in.  Livia’s portable device, on the other hand, provides instant relief from cramps, and lasts up to 15 hours on a single charge, long after those pills wear off.  The company has tapped into physiotherapy tech to block pain receptors through electrical pulses.  This is a game changer, especially during times when Aunt Flo can keep women in bed all day.  Livia is extremely user-friendly, and a natural alternative to painkillers and other drugs. The fun colors, and non-conventional design make it even more discreet.

Tiberias’ iPulse Medical, the company behind Livia was founded in April 2015.  The company aims to help every woman take control of her period and have a more comfortable few days each month.  Livia uses a technology that has been proven effective and safe to use in several clinical studies.  (iPulse Medical 07.04)

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9.1  Karamba Security Emerges From Stealth Mode to Protect Connected Cars from Cyber Attacks

On 7 April, Karamba Security announced that it was coming out of stealth mode to launch its unique approach to in-car security.  Karamba has purpose-built an ECU endpoint solution that protects a car’s externally connected components, identifying attack attempts and blocking exploits from infiltrating the car’s network to ensure drivers’ safety.  The FBI’s recent warning has highlighted the cybersecurity risks of the increasingly connected car.  Attackers have been able to infiltrate and take control over car systems, even killing a car’s engine as it drove on the freeway.  Karamba enables car companies to protect their automobiles from these threats by hardening Electronic Control Units (ECUs) that are open to external access (via the internet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.), so they can’t be used by hackers to infiltrate the car’s network and launch attacks.  With Karamba, automotive companies can embed robust security detection and enforcement capabilities directly on the ECU to ensure only explicitly allowed code and applications can be loaded and run on the controller.  Karamba blocks any foreign code, which means the controller is safe from attackers, regardless of how they entered (via the internet, USB drive, service port, etc.), with no false alarms.

Tel Aviv’s Karamba Security is a pioneer in ECU endpoint security to protect the connected car.  The company hardens the connected Electronic Control Units (ECUs) within automobiles to protect them from cyber-attacks and ensure the car’s safe, ongoing operations.  (Karamba 07.04)

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9.2  Israel Aerospace Begins Producing F-35 C4 Systems

Israel Aerospace Industries is beginning production of the Command, Control, Communications and Computing (C4) systems developed for the Adir – F-35I, Israel’s variant of the Fifth Generation Fighter F-35.  The company recently completed system definition, prototyping and testing phases.  The system developed exclusively for the F-35I by IAI’s LAHAV Division is part of IAI’s cutting edge ‘tactical C4 architecture’ introducing unique force multipliers in the modern, networked battle arena.  The induction of advanced systems of this type with the Israel Air Force (IAF) combat fleet will enable the IAF to better manage, and rapidly field networked applications that interface with core services over proprietary protocols developed especially for the IAF.  Using generic communications infrastructure based on the latest Software Defined Radios (SDR), IAI’s new C4 system developed for the Adir will provide the backbone of the IAF future airborne communications network.  This network will dramatically improve over legacy systems currently operating with the current fleet of 4th Generation aircraft (F-16, F-15).

The integration of IAI’s C4 systems in the F-35I avionics program represents major milestone in the introduction of advanced, indigenous capabilities to the multinational F-35 program.  Fully embedded into the aircraft integrated avionic system, IAI’s new C4 system provides the user the latest, most advanced processing capabilities with relative independence of the aircraft manufacturer.  Part of the F-35I avionic system, the C4 system introduces a new level of freedom for the IAF, as it paves the way for additional advanced capabilities to be embedded in the F-35I in the future.  (Globes 07.04)

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9.3  Hexadite Adds Mac & Linux Coverage to Intelligent Security Orchestration

Hexadite, creator of the only agentless intelligent security orchestration and automation platform, announced industry-first support for Mac and Linux-based devices.  By extending its capabilities to additional operating systems, the company confirms its commitment to mitigating security incidents on any device and becomes the first solution capable of automating the end-to-end investigation and resolution process on machines running Mac and Linux.

Hexadite amplifies the capabilities of a security team by automatically and intelligently performing the same steps that a security analyst would implement to address a threat.  Once a company’s detection systems (SIEM, endpoint solution/EDR, IDS, Gateway anti-malware detection, etc.) identify a threat, Hexadite aggregates relevant information from the network and devices.  Its intelligent, proprietary algorithms and tools analyze the information to identify whether an alert is a false alarm, a low level threat or a security breach.  Based on best practices codified in the system, Hexadite automatically determines the best course of action for each alert, and applies targeted mitigation efforts to stop the full extent of a breach.

Tel Aviv’s Hexadite is the only agentless intelligent security orchestration and automation platform for Global 2000 companies.  By easily integrating with customers’ existing security technologies and harnessing artificial intelligence that automatically investigates every cyber alert and drives remediation actions, Hexadite enables security teams to amplify their ability to mitigate cyber threats in real-time.  (Hexadite 07.04)

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9.4  Stratoscale Chosen as a 2016 Red Herring Europe Winner

Stratoscale has been recognized as a Red Herring Europe 2016 winner for its hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution.  The prestigious list honors the year’s most promising private technology ventures from the European business region.  Stratoscale delivers cloud-scale economics to data centers of all sizes with efficiency and operational simplicity. Its SDDC solution, Stratoscale Symphony, brings the agility of the public cloud into the enterprise data center, providing capabilities that are scalable, affordable and easy to deploy with existing IT teams.

The Red Herring editorial team selected the most innovative companies and entrepreneurs from a pool of hundreds across Europe.  The nominees were evaluated on 20 main quantitative and qualitative criterion, including: disruptive impact, market footprint, proof of concept, financial performance, technological innovation, social value, quality of management, execution of strategy, and integration into their respective industries.

Herzliya’s Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution.  With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere, IT is empowered to take control of their data centers.  Stratoscale is offering a Hyper-converged cloud supporting OpenStack out of the box.  (Stratoscale 15.04)

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9.5  LightCyber Introduces Security Industry’s First Attack Detection Metrics

LightCyber announced new Attack Detection Metrics – the first of their kind – to measure the Accuracy and Efficiency of security solutions in detecting stealth attackers that have circumvented conventional threat preventions systems.  LightCyber simultaneously revealed its own Attack Detection Metric results, derived from actual customer deployment data, indicating that its Magna platform has achieved a level of efficacy two orders of magnitude better than incumbent solutions.  By focusing scarce security personnel on the critical few security alerts related to active attackers while dramatically reducing false positives, security organizations can take immediate and decisive action to thwart attackers early in the attack lifecycle, reducing or eliminating damage before it is done.

Quarterly, LightCyber will self-report its own measured Attack Detection Metrics based on aggregated and anonymous metadata from customer production deployments.  For Q1/16, LightCyber customers achieved a median Efficiency of 1.1 alerts per 1,000 endpoints per day.  For example, a company with 5,000 endpoints would expect to receive a median of 5.5 total alerts per day from LightCyber Magna.  As it relates to Accuracy metrics, Magna creates three categories of alerts: Confirmed, Suspicious and Unverified attacks.  The median Accuracy reported for LightCyber customers is 62% percent useful alerts across all alert categories, as compared to 4% typically produced by other security products.  The subset of alerts automatically categorized by Magna as “Confirmed” attacks achieved an accuracy of 99%.

Ramat Gan’s LightCyber is a leading provider of Behavioral Attack Detection solutions that provide accurate and efficient security visibility into attacks that have slipped through the cracks of traditional security controls. The LightCyber Magna™ platform is the first security product to integrate user, network and endpoint context to provide security visibility into a range of attack activity.  (LightCyber 13.04)

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9.6  Humavox Brings New Smart Wireless Charging Technology to Hearing Aids and Hearables

Humavox is advancing the next generation of hearing aids and hearables with the introduction of wireless charging.  The company will wirelessly power rechargeable batteries through the utilization of their proprietary radio frequency (RF) technology.  Humavox’s unique technology uses one of ON Semiconductor’s energy efficient innovations to bring quality charging to hearing aids, in order to simplify the lives of the hearing impaired.

New generation hearing aids are becoming much smaller, more sophisticated, and packed with dense electronics, yet still lack effective charging solutions.  Humavox’s flexible hardware platform, ETERNA, includes the smallest power receiver available in the market, making it able to fit into the tiniest of hearing aids.  Wireless charging technology also enables bypassing the USB port, which allows for a waterproof design.  This is of significant value to hearing aid manufacturers as well as manufacturers of various hearables, such as wireless earbuds, for commercial use.

Humavox’s ETERNA platform uses HPM10, a power management IC (PMIC) from ON Semiconductor, designed specifically to support rechargeable batteries within hearing aids.  This unique technology automatically detects the battery chemistry deployed in the hearing aid, and then operates as a high-efficiency regulator to provide the necessary charging supply voltage.  HPM10’s built-in charger communication interface (CCIF) can send data to the hearing aid charger during the charging cycle.  This enables communication of battery parameters such as battery voltage levels, current levels, temperature and different forms of battery status and failures. With HPM10’s advanced communication interface, Humavox’s platform receives data, which can be used to optimize the charging process.

Tel Aviv’s Humavox is an innovative developer of groundbreaking technology in the field of wireless power. With its ETERNA platform, Humavox uses near-field radio frequency (RF) technology, and provides users with a simple and intuitive charging experience (“drop & charge”).  The technology can be implemented in the smallest of devices, such as wearables and IoT devices.  (Humavox 13.04)

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9.7  NTT Electronics Partners with VideoFlow for Broadcast Quality Video over Any IP Network

Yokohama, Japan’s NTT Electronics, a leading supplier of codec solutions, and VideoFlow are partnering to enable the delivery of high reliability, low delay professional-quality video over any IP network.  Committed to providing customers with a reliable and cost-effective solution for video delivery over IP, various NEL encoders now leverage VideoFlow’s DVP Controlled Adaptive Rate (CAR) technology to ensure continuity of service over unmanaged IP connections.  The DVP constantly probes the connection’s bitrate capacity.  In the event of a change, DVP adapts the NEL MVE5000 encoder bitrate in real time to be slightly below the network capacity, thereby avoiding congestion.  The MVE5000 responds to the DVP’s commands in a seamless manner, adapting the video bitrate on-the-fly with no interruption to the service.

The MVE5000 encoder is the newest NEL encoder to benefit from the partnership with VideoFlow.  Now, broadcasters looking to deliver live video over IP can choose among the MVE5000 and NEL’s HVE9x00 encoder family.  The MVE5000 is already the encoder of choice for many major broadcasters, and the addition of VideoFlow’s CAR technology has accelerated the evaluation of this encoder for professional live broadcasts over IP.  In addition, MVE5000 can bring users the super low latency, seamless protection switching and multiple FEC functions required to enhance the robustness of the transmission system.

Rosh HaAyin’s VideoFlow is a leading provider of products that enable a secure, uninterrupted and reliable live video broadcast over any IP network.  By boosting the reliability of IP networks through patent-pending technology and a rich built-in feature set, VideoFlow’s Digital Video Protection (DVP) product line has made service continuity an affordable reality.  These products allow customers to accelerate ROI through lower operational costs and new revenue streams.  (VideoFlow 12.04)

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9.8  VisIC Technologies New 650V Half-Bridge Evaluation Board

VisIC Technologies announced its new Half-Bridge Evaluation Board using its VT15R65A GaN Power ALL Switch (Advanced Low Loss Switch) in a “work horse,” half-bridge power conversion circuit.  The VT15R65A-EVBHB demonstrates 98.5% power conversion efficiency operating at a switching frequency of 200kHz. Silicon MOSFET-based systems demonstrating similar efficiencies in this power range are limited to operation at 60kHz or less, and competitive GaN devices have only shown similar efficiency at 100kHz.  The evaluation board can be easily configured into any half bridge-based topology such as synchronous Boost or Buck conversion.  The board can also operate in a pulsed switching configuration for evaluating transistor waveforms. The VisIC’s GaN ALL Switch is driven by standard industry high frequency drivers.

Based in Ness Ziona, Israel, VisIC Technologies was established in 2010 by experts in Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology to develop and sell advanced GaN-based power conversion products.  VisIC has successfully developed, and is bringing to market, high power GaN-based transistors and modules.  (GaN is expected to replace most of the Silicon-based (Si) products currently used in power conversion systems.)  VisIC has been granted keystone patents for GaN technology and has additional patents pending.  (VisIC 14.04)

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9.9  Mutual Trust Life in Production with Sapiens ALIS Policy Administration System

Sapiens International Corporation announced today that Mutual Trust Life (MTL), a Pan-American life insurance company, based in Oakbrook, Ill., has successfully deployed the Sapiens ALIS policy administration system to support its life insurance business.  The launch includes the roll-out of the Sapiens ALIS Agent and Commission module to manage MTL’s sales and distribution network.  The deployment of Sapiens ALIS completes the first phase of a multi-phased transformation initiative to modernize MTL’s technical infrastructure.  The program includes utilizing the Sapiens ALIS platform to support all of MTL’s product offerings, including whole life, universal life, term and fixed annuities for new business and its in-force book of business.

Holon’s Sapiens International Corporation is a leading global provider of software solutions for the insurance industry, with a growing presence in the financial services sector.  Sapiens offers core, end-to-end solutions to the global general insurance, property and casualty, life, pension and annuities, reinsurance and retirement markets, as well as business decision management software.  (Sapiens 14.04)

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9.10  SolidRun Announces the World’s Smallest Intel Braswell-based Computer

SolidRun announced the first member of its new Intel-based SolidPC Q4 family, the world’s smallest Braswell-based Single Board Computer (SBC).  Designed for fast, flexible IoT system implementations, the computer provides powerful x86 computing capabilities, combined with rich connectivity features.  At 100mm x 80mm, the SolidPC Q4 is intended to provide outstanding form-factor flexibility for a wide range of applications, including mission-critical IoT systems, 4K video analytics, point of sales and digital signage.  The SolidPC Q4 is equipped with Dual HDMI 4K Display and DisplayPort interfaces, three USB-3.0 Host ports, Dual GigE LAN interfaces, MicroSD interface, headphone and microphone ports, and an infrared receiver, and is extendable via its miniPCIe and M.2 connectors.

Established in 2010, Tel Aviv’s SolidRun is a global leading developer and manufacturer of powerful, energy-efficient System on Modules (SoMs) and mini computers.  SolidRun’s innovative ARM and Intel based embedded architectures are simple, compact, and include comprehensive software packages, drivers and support for major operating systems.  Investing in software as one of its key differentiators, SolidRun is a proud member of the OSS community and strongly believes in its principles.  (SolidRun 19.04)

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10.1  Israel’s Inflation Rate Drops 0.2% in March

The Central Bureau of Statistics announced on 15 April that Israel’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell by 0.2% in March to 98.1 points.  This follows a 0.3% drop in February and 0.5% in January.  The index without housing costs fell more sharply, by 0.4% in March.  Over the past 12 months, the CPI fell 0.7% and it has fallen 1% in the first three months of 2016, fueled by the fall in world oil prices.  This is well below the government’s inflation target range of between 1% and 3% although with oil prices now recovering CPI’s from this month will likely start rising, after falling for the past five consecutive months.  Outstanding declines in price during March included fresh fruit and vegetables (3.9%), public transport (1%) and food (0.5%).  Leading price increases in March included culture and entertainment (0.7%) and housing costs (0.4%).  (CBS 15.04)

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10.2  Israeli Exports Fall by 14% in the First Quarter

Figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on13 April show Israeli exports fell at an annualized rate of 14.1% in Q1/16, following a 5.9% annualized decline in Q4/15.  The first quarter’s weak exports caused an exceptional NIS 10.1 billion trade deficit in goods, compared with a NIS 4.1 billion deficit in Q1/15.  The Q1/16 trade deficit for goods was greater than the trade deficit in goods for all of 2015.

Exports of goods in March 2016 totaled NIS 17.5 billion.  According to trend data, exports by medium-high technology industries declined 12.1%, following a 4% annualized drop in Q4/15.  Export figures by sector show an annualized 21.8% decrease in chemicals and chemical products (an average monthly drop of 2%).  Exports by low-tech industries increased.

Imports of goods totaled NIS 22.1 billion in Q1.  Dividing the data by sector indicates a continued rise in private consumption, the economy’s growth engine for the past two years.  According to trend data, imports of consumer products in January-March 2016 were up by an annualized 9%, following a 14.0% annualized increase in October-December 2015.  Another encouraging figure is imports of investment products (excluding ships and aircraft), which rose by an annualized 18.1% in Q1/16, following an annualized 28% increase (an average monthly increase of 2.1%) in Q4/15.  Imports of machinery and equipment, which account for 54% of imports of investment products, were up by an annualized 4.9%. Imports of vehicles for investment soared by an annualized 35%, an average monthly increase of 2.4%.  (CBS 13.04)

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10.3  Israel’s Foreign Currency Reserves Surge to Record Amounts

Israel’s foreign exchange reserves stood at a record $94.775 billion at the end of March 2016, up $4.156 billion from their level at the end of the previous month, which was itself a new record, the Bank of Israel announced.  The increase was the result of foreign currency purchases by the Bank of Israel totaling $700 million, of which $300 million were bought as part of the purchase program intended to offset the effects of natural gas production on the exchange rate.  In addition, there was a revaluation that increased the reserves by about $1.885 billion, government transfers from abroad of about $1,505 million, and an increase of about $66 million derived from private sector transactions.  Israel’s foreign currency reserves have risen from $88.9 billion at the end of 2015 and $84.9 billion twelve months ago.  (BoI 07.04)

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10.4  Israeli Defense Exports Up Despite Concerns

Israel’s arms exports in 2015 were surprisingly high.  Israeli defense companies signed export deals worth $5.7 billion last year, according to figures reported by SIBAT (the International Defense Cooperation Directorate of the Israel Ministry of Defense).  The figures indicate a slight rise in Israel’s defense exports in comparison with 2014, when exports totaled $5.6 billion.

Towards the end of 2015, the heads of Israel’s four largest defense companies, Elbit Systems, Israel Military Industries, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries expressed concern that defense exports would fall to their lowest level in a decade because of the decline of the global economy, shrinking defense markets, and tough competition.  The two leading categories in Israel’s 2015 defense exports were upgrading of airplanes, mainly by Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems and the sale of ammunition and weapons platforms.  Each of these categories accounted for 14% of exports by defense companies last year.

The main destination of the defense companies’ export production last year was Asia and the Pacific; exports of products and systems to the region exceeded $2.3 billion.  Europe received over $1.6 billion in Israeli exports of weapons and systems, the US and Canada over $1 billion, Latin America $577 million, and Africa $163 million.  SIBAT predicted that despite the intense competition between defense companies for weapons tenders in the various markets, Israeli companies would maintain their levels of new contracts.  Advanced negotiations are taking place between some of the companies and countries for the signing of deals, and some of these deals are significant and very valuable.  (Globes 06.04)

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10.5  Employee Tax Burden Rising In Israel

Israel is one of the five developed countries in the world that increased the tax burden on labor in 2015, according to a review of taxes on labor published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  The review indicates that the direct tax burden in Israel rose by nearly 0.5% as a result of a real 0.25% income tax hike.  The National Insurance tax remained unchanged.

Together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon led a 1% cut in VAT (starting in October 2015) and a 1.5% cut in corporation tax (starting on January 1, 2016), but there was no cut in income tax.  Formally, the income tax rate has not risen since 2013, and it is therefore possible that the reason for the increased tax burden in Israel is negative inflation (-1% in 2015 and -0.2% in 2014).  Published on 12 April, the OECD survey analyzes the tax burden on labor in the organization’s 34 member countries.  Taxes on income from labor are also called direct taxes, in contrast to taxes on spending or consumption, which are called indirect taxes.  Israel is considered a country with a low direct tax burden, but a relatively high indirect tax burden.

As of the end of 2015, the direct tax burden in Israel was 21.6%, compared with the OECD average of 35.9%.  The tax burden on a worker with children was lower 18.9% for a family with one breadwinner and two children.  The direct tax burden in Israel consists of income tax, which averages 8.9% on income from labor, and National Insurance tax: 7.5% for the worker and 5.1% for the employer.  The cost of employing a worker in Israel is $36, 094 in purchasing power parity (PPP), and the average annual income is $34,241.  (Globes 13.04)

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10.6  Israel Railways Breaks Monthly Passenger Record

Israel Railways recorded an all-time number of passengers in March, some 5.4 million rides, 17% more than the 4.6 million rides in March 2015 and 29% more than in March 2014.  The previous record of 4.9 million rides was in November 2015.  Israel Railways said that the biggest increase in the number of rides was 25% on the Tel Aviv-Binyamina line (compared with the corresponding month last year).  Rides were up 24% on the Ashkelon-Tel Aviv route and 19% on the Hod HaSharon-Tel Aviv route, compared with the corresponding period last year.  (Globes 13.04)

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11.1  ISRAEL:  Israeli Startups Raise $1.09 Billion in First Quarter

IVC and KPMG reported on 19 April that in Q1/16, 173 Israeli high-tech companies raised a combined total of $1.09 billion in private financing rounds, a 10% decrease from the $1.2 billion attracted by 201 companies in Q4/15, which was a record quarter.  According to the Survey editors, fourth quarters typically exhibit the highest amounts in capital raising, and a five-year trend suggests an average 12% decline in investments between the last quarter of the year and the ensuing first quarter.  The capital raised in the first quarter of 2016 represented an 8% year-on-year increase ($1 billion was raised by 162 companies in Q1/15), and was in keeping with the quarterly average in the five previous quarters ($1.1 billion).

Koby Simana, CEO of IVC Research Center, explained: “Despite of the slowdown reported in high-tech capital raising and venture capital investments in the United States, and until now – despite of various forecasts published lately regarding the industry in Israel – the results of the first quarter of 2016 indicate stability.  The capital volume, the number of quarterly deals, and the mix of deals by size, are very similar to the averages of 2015, which was considered very successful.  The following quarters will determine if the slowdown trend which began in the United States will take hold in Israel as well, or perhaps the fact that the Israeli market didn’t experience the same peak as Silicon Valley and China in the past years indicates lower local volatility overall.

The average company financing round in the first quarter stood at $6.3 million, slightly above the $6.1 million and $6.2 million averages of Q4/15 and Q1/15, respectively.

Ninety six VC-backed deals amounted to $744 million in Q1/16, a 19% plunge from $915 million raised in 108 deals in Q4/15, and a 12% year-on-year decrease from the $849 million attracted by 91 deals a year earlier.

The share of VC-backed deals shrunk to 68% in Q1/16, lower than their 75% share in the previous quarter, and far lower than the 84% recorded by VC-backed deals in Q1/15.  However, VC-backed deals maintained their share out of the total number of deals, with a steady 55%, in keeping with the two-year 56% average.

Ofer Sela, Partner in KPMG Somekh Chaikin’s Technology group commented, “This quarter is quite interesting, as there is still much available cash around, ready to be invested, and a significant number of interesting companies that are good candidates for investments.  On the other hand, there is fear that the global technology market is about to shrink.  Nevertheless, the amount of available cash and attractive companies have their pull – as can be seen from the total volume of investments this quarter, the industry is hard at work and the investors are still in the game.

Israeli VC Fund Investment Activity

Israeli venture capital funds invested $130 million in Israeli high-tech companies, just 12% of all investments in Q1/16.  This figure represents a whopping 40% drop from the $217 million (18% of total) raised in Q4/15, and a 23% year-on-year drop ($168 million, (17%) in Q1/15).

The fourth quarter of 2015 was exceptionally strong for first investments by Israeli VC funds, with 47% of their total capital investments directed into new portfolio companies. In Q1/16, first investments by Israeli VCs declined to 30%, slightly below the 33% five-year average.

Capital Raised by Sector, Stage and Deal Size

Software companies raised a total of $392 million in the first quarter of 2016, ranking the sector first with 36% of total capital, a slight increase over the 32% attracted in Q4/15, and well over the 19% share in Q1/15. The life science sector placed second with 30%, an increase from 21% of total capital in Q4/15, and 22% in Q1/15.

The Internet sector experienced its weakest quarter since 2013, with only $100 million raised by 37 companies or a mere 9% of the total capital.  This was a plunge from the previous quarter’s best ever record, at $389 million (32%), as well as a drop from the $339 million (34%) raised in Q1/15.

Growth stage deals declined in Q1/16, reaching 26% of total capital, down from 41% in Q4/15.  At the same time, early stage deal share increased from 20% to 30% with a total of $322 million raised, while initial revenue (mid-stage) deals grew from 32% to 38%, placing first in capital raising, with a total of $411 million raised in Q1/16.

KPMG’s Ofer Sela explains: “A significant portion of the investments in mature companies is led and driven by private equity funds focusing on growth, and mature entrepreneurs that have made exits back in 2013-2014 are starting new ventures based on money from investors which deem them trustworthy. It seems that the industry is far from a crisis, although some shrinkage is expected in the near future.”

IVC Research Center is the leading online provider of data and analyses on Israel’s high-tech, venture capital and private equity industries. Its information is used by all key decision-makers, strategic and financial investors, government agencies and academic and research institutions in Israel.  (IVC 19.04)

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11.2  SAUDI ARABIA:  Fitch Downgrades Saudi Arabia to ‘AA-‘; Outlook Remains Negative

On 12 April 2016, Fitch Ratings downgraded Saudi Arabia’s Long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) to ‘AA-‘ from ‘AA’.  The Outlooks on the Long-term IDRs remain Negative. The Country Ceiling is affirmed at ‘AA+’ and the Short-term foreign-currency IDR is affirmed at ‘F1+’.

Key Rating Drivers

The downgrade of the IDRs reflects the following key rating drivers:

The downward revision of our oil price assumptions for 2016 and 2017 to $35/b and $45/b, respectively, has major negative implications for Saudi Arabia’s fiscal and external balances.  The central government deficit widened to 14.8% of GDP in 2015, after a deficit of 2.3% in 2014 and continuous surpluses in previous years since 2010.  Fitch forecasts the deficit-to-GDP ratio to narrow only marginally in 2016 and, on the back of a moderate recovery in oil prices, more substantially in 2017.

A large share of the government’s financing needs will be funded by disposing of foreign financial assets, but the government has also started raising debt domestically.  It is also in negotiations on a syndicated loan of up to $10bn and is planning a first Eurobond issue later this year.  This should push the general government debt-to-GDP ratio to 9.4% of GDP in 2017 from 1.5% in 2014, which will still be low compared with peers (36.9%).

The sovereign net foreign asset (SNFA) position will decline quite sharply to 78% of GDP in 2017 from 113% in 2014.  While this will still be one of the highest ratios among Fitch-rated sovereigns, it will be considerably less than half of SNFA/GDP for Kuwait, Abu Dhabi or Qatar.  In 2015, the current-account balance recorded a deficit of 8.2% of GDP, Saudi Arabia’s first since 1998, which we expect to worsen to 14% in 2016.

The pace of fiscal consolidation has increased. Utility and fuel prices have been hiked and some taxes raised.  Further reforms are to be presented as part of a National Transformation Program that, if implemented, would boost non-oil revenues and streamline spending sustainably.  According to press reports, the measures could raise non-oil revenue by $100b per year by 2020.  In addition, the government is re-prioritizing and re-negotiating projects and spending plans to make substantial savings.

The authorities will be careful to sequence fiscal reforms to avoid adverse social consequences.  Even if fully implemented, the measures will not prevent a substantial erosion of fiscal and external buffers during 2016 and 2017, although the buffers will still be sufficiently high to constitute an important rating strength.

Saudi Arabia’s IDRs also reflect the following key rating drivers:

Real GDP grew 3.4% in 2015, supported by a strong expansion of oil production and continued work on major projects, but growth will slow to 1.5% in 2016 and 1.7% in 2017.  We expect oil output to stabilize and non-oil GDP to be hit by fiscal consolidation measures and weaker confidence.  Monetary policy remains constrained by the peg to the US dollar, although this provides an important nominal anchor. Despite heightened speculation about devaluation, a change in the peg remains highly unlikely.

Control over economic policy making has been concentrated in the hands of Prince Mohamed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince and son of the king who is also chairman of the Council on Economic and Development Affairs as well as defense minister.  This may have contributed to an acceleration of the economic policymaking process, but has also reduced the predictability of decision-making.  The degree of support for this accumulation of power from other parts of the royal family is uncertain.

Fitch considers geopolitical risks high relative to ‘AA’-rated peers. Tensions have risen between Saudi Arabia and its long-standing regional rival Iran, and are expected to persist, although a direct confrontation is highly unlikely. Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen and in Syria shows a greater assertiveness in foreign policy.

Structural indicators are generally weaker than peers, despite recent improvements in some areas. GDP per capita and World Bank governance indicators are well below peer medians.  The World Bank measure for voice and accountability is the lowest among all rated sovereigns.

The banking sector remains healthy but the weaker economic climate has started to affect profitability, with the return on equity falling to 14.5% in Q4/15, the lowest since 2013.  A slowdown in loan growth will accompany a moderate rise of the ratio of non-performing loans- to-total gross loans, from a low level of 1.2% in 2015. The sector remains well-supervised with conservative regulation in place.

Rating Sensitivities

The main factors that could lead to a downgrade are:

  • Continued erosion of fiscal or external buffers.
  • A slower-than-expected narrowing in the fiscal deficit, for example as a result of a failure to implement fiscal reforms or due to a renewed fall in oil prices.
  • Spill-over from regional conflicts or a domestic political shock that threatens stability or affects key economic activities.

The Outlook is Negative.  Consequently, Fitch does not currently anticipate developments with a material likelihood of leading to an upgrade.  However, the following factors could lead to the Outlook being revised to Stable:

  • Fiscal consolidation sufficient to stem the depletion of fiscal and external buffers and put the budget on a path to a surplus.
  • A sustained period of higher oil prices.

Key Assumptions – Fitch forecasts Brent crude oil prices to average $35/b in 2016 and $45/b in 2017.  (Fitch12.04)

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11.3  SAUDI ARABIA:  Laying the Foundation for a Post-Oil Centric Economy

On 8 April, Diane Munro posted at the Arab Gulf States Institute that an unprecedented transformation of Saudi Arabia’s economic future is underway with recently unveiled plans to establish a $2 trillion sovereign wealth fund secured by state-owned giant Aramco as a key pillar of this new strategy.  Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) announced in a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg on 1 April that the government plans to use a share offering in Aramco to sharply increase the value of the country’s Public Investment Fund.

The PIF could become one of the largest investment funds in the world following an initial public offering of Aramco.  As currently planned, the IPO would be for “less than 5%” and listed on the domestic Tadawul stock exchange in 2017 or 2018 at the latest.  MbS estimates the value of the fund could exceed $2 trillion.  “IPOing Aramco and transferring its shares to the PIF will technically make investments the source of Saudi government revenue, not oil,” MbS said.

Saudi Arabia embarked on an aggressive new strategy of economic reforms and transformative policies in the past year in the wake of the 60% drop in global oil prices since mid-2014.  The goal is to enable the country to diversify its investments in non-oil entities both domestically and globally.  “What is left now is to diversify investments.  So within 20 years, we will be an economy or state that doesn’t depend mainly on oil,” MbS said.

Saudi Arabia’s existing PIF launched its sovereign wealth fund with assets of $5.3 billion in 2008 but is dwarfed by its Gulf neighbors’ more robust investment vehicles.  Kuwait launched the world’s first sovereign wealth fund in 1953 and today the Kuwait Investment Authority’s assets are estimated at just under $600 billion.  The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority was launched in 1976 and has an asset base of between $750 billion and $800 billion.  The Gulf state’s sovereign wealth funds are designed to invest oil income in non-oil global financial instruments, stocks, companies, or real estate as a means to diversify the state’s income sources, hedge against oil market volatility, and create long-term, non-oil investment returns for future generations in a post-oil era.

Saudi Arabia’s PIF foreign asset base is pegged at just 5% but plans are to increase that share to 50% by 2020, Yasir Al Rumayyan, the fund’s secretary-general said in an interview with Bloomberg.  The PIF has been quietly ramping up its operations since 2015, in part due to criticism that the fund has been too conservative with investments and that they are largely domestic.  The fund has been hiring specialists in international markets, private equity, and risk management, according to Al Rumayyan.  The share offering of Aramco, with its massive cash injection, will play a pivotal role in turning the PIF into a world-class investment fund for future generations.

The ambitious plans for a sovereign wealth fund and share offering in Saudi Aramco are being orchestrated by MbS as head of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs.  CEDA, which replaced the Supreme Economic Council in 2015, has already instituted policies aimed at curbing spending by reducing subsidies for fuel and electricity and capping the deficit at 15% of gross domestic product – all part of a broader plan to counter the budget crisis brought on by lower oil prices.

The Devil is in the Details

MbS used a broad brush when announcing the plans for a share offering in Aramco, making it nearly impossible to assess the value of the planned IPO at this early stage.  MbS introduced the prospect of an Aramco IPO in an interview with The Economist on 4 January, with speculation rife that Saudi Arabia’s coveted oil reserves would be part of the offering.  However, Khalid Al-Falih, Aramco’s chairman of the board of directors, clarified in an interview on Al Arabiya television in late January that oil and gas reserves would not be included in the IPO.  “What will be offered is the economic value of Saudi Aramco and not its oil reserves,” Al-Falih said in the interview.  “The oil reserves belong to the state. Therefore, we will offer the ability of the company to produce from those reserves,” he explained.

MbS elaborated on the Aramco IPO in the latest interview with Bloomberg, saying “The mother company will be offered to the public as well as a number of its subsidiaries.”  This imprecise language has again raised expectations that the country’s oil reserves would be part of an IPO.  For international investors, inclusion of the country’s prized reserves is key.  Saudi Arabia has historically guarded its reserve base as a state secret and therein lies a problem for assessing a value – the lack of transparency that is part and parcel of a state-owned enterprise.

Aramco includes an estimate of around 260 billion barrels for its reserves in its annual report but that figure has not been updated in more than 25 years. (In comparison, U.S. reserves stood at 39.9 billion barrels as of 2014.)  Since the early 1980s, after the government assumed full control of the company from its partners, field and reserve data have been withheld from the public domain, leaving outside experts unable to verify the country’s reserves.  An IPO would notionally oblige the government to provide more transparency on its opaque oil reserves, something many veteran Saudi observers doubt will be forthcoming.

The market uses booked reserves as a key measure to assess the value of international oil companies such as Exxon and Chevron.  Without access to verifiable data, the investment community would be hard-pressed to place a comprehensive value on Aramco assets.  Technically, however, Saudi Arabia’s crude oil reserves are owned by the government, not Aramco.  Any IPO of Saudi Aramco would likely include some mechanism to book oil and gas reserves for financial reporting purposes, though the oil in the ground remains the property of the Saudi state.

Yet it is not implausible that as part of the process of developing the IPO the new regime may finally lift the veil on the country’s reserves and put an end to decades of speculation.  Indeed, a new level of transparency will be a financial imperative in whatever form the final share offering takes, not least because Saudi laws require financial audits for stock listings.  The task ahead of preparing for an IPO is daunting, especially for a company like Aramco that has never before even officially reported revenue.

Saudi Aramco Saudi Arabia’s sale of shares in Aramco could lead to a publicly listed company valued in the trillions, with some estimates as high as $10 trillion.  This compares with Exxon Mobil, the largest publicly traded oil company, with an estimated market value of $332 billion on average in first quarter 2016.

While the prospect of a share offering has been mooted over the past year, serious studies have yet to be undertaken.  With new urgency, in late February the government issued tenders for bids to consultants to study various scenarios for an IPO.  Options include, but are not limited to, selling shares in the parent company that would include producing assets, creating holding companies for various asset groups such as refineries, or selling shares in existing joint ventures.  While estimates of trillions of dollars are making headlines, a parcel package of assets is expected to fall in the smaller $100 billion to $500 billion range, which would still make for a world-class offering.  The record-breaking share offering of Alibaba in 2014 was valued at $170 billion.

The unprecedented size of the potential IPO will require an enormous effort that could take 18 to 24 months, if not longer, given the imperative for an unprecedented level of financial and operating data transparency.  Equally, the sensitive nature of putting the family firm on the block will require deft, behind-the-scenes politicking to gain much-needed political goodwill among the various factions of the royal family.  Recent public statements by MbS about the need for transparency and for rooting out corruption no doubt rankled some family members and sparked concern about future largess from the monarchy.  Current funds for the royal family are reportedly channeled from Aramco to the king’s executive office, the Royal Diwan.  One option under an IPO scenario could involve allocating shares to the Royal Diwan or even buying a portion of the shares issued by Saudi Aramco.

A restructuring of Aramco, expected to be announced by mid-year, may provide further clarity ahead of the IPO.  “We will also announce Aramco’s new strategy and will transform it from an oil and gas company to an energy/industrial company,” MbS also told Bloomberg.  In 2015, Aramco was brought under the broader umbrella of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, separating the state oil company from the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources.  As part of the restructuring, the company was placed under the control of a newly created Supreme Council for Saudi Aramco, also chaired by MbS.  Saudi Aramco’s operations are ranked as the best in class and run by top technocrats, which will underpin any change in strategy.

Ironically, however, the long lead time needed to develop and execute what could be the world’s largest IPO may be useful for a country that has always taken a conservative, go-slow approach, allowing the executives in charge time to navigate the complex financial mechanisms and sensitive family issues.  In any event, with oil prices at near 12-year lows, there is little incentive to hurry the process near term.

Diane Munro is a former senior oil market analyst at the International Energy Agency and a contributing writer at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.  (AGSIW 08.04)

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11.4  EGYPT:  Sailing Through the Straits

Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman and Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum wrote on 17 April in the BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 340 that the fact that Saudi Arabia has now undertaken to uphold in practice the obligations assumed by Egypt under its peace treaty with Israel, means that Israel’s place in the region is no longer perceived by Arab leader Saudi Arabia as an anomaly to be corrected.  This is a far cry from normalization of Saudi relations with Israel, but it is nevertheless a welcome ray of light, demonstrating the benefits of cooperation and coordination in a region beset by violence.

For Israelis above a certain age, mentioning the name of Tiran and Sanafir islands is enough to send a thrill – or a chill – down their spines, bringing to mind the proud refrain of a popular song, written in the tense days just before the Six Day War: “We shall make our way/ at nighttime or day/ with our flag, blue and white/ through the Tiran Straits.”

Indeed, the Straits were the casus belli back in 1967, when Gamal Abd al-Nasser cast all caution (and international norms) to the wind and closed them to Israeli shipping.  Eilat is a strategic asset and the terminus of Israel’s trade with much of Asia and Africa.  Even the secretive Protocol of Sevres signed by Britain, France and Israel in October 1956 had included an explicit reference to Israel’s needs concerning the two islands.

Israel captured the islands in the Six Day War, but the 1979 Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt enshrined Egypt’s commitment to international norms regarding the freedom of navigation and the islands were returned.  One of the region’s neuralgic points was thus removed for many years from the headlines and from the field of conflict.

Will it now re-emerge again as a source of tension?  The answer, at least for the foreseeable future, can be deduced from the circumstances of this recent dramatic announcement. It came as the culminating achievement of Saudi King Salman’s historic visit to Cairo, which cemented the vital relationship between these two pillars of regional stability and saw the promulgation of a long list of bilateral agreements on economic and strategic cooperation.

Having played a major role in sustaining the present Egyptian regime against political and economic challenges, the Saudis were now in a position to finalize the restoration of their sovereignty over the islands, control of which they have ceded to Egypt back in 1949 in the context of the latter’s better ability to utilize them in the struggle with Israel – which has by now become irrelevant.  Their legal case was apparently unassailable, and it was thus more a matter of when rather than whether they will actually assert their claim.

This came as no surprise to Israel.  Back in July 2015, the “Cairo Declaration” issued during the visit of Salman’s activist son, Muhammad – serving as Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister – included an explicit reference to the need to settle certain questions of maritime demarcation between the two countries – which could only mean the two islands.  Egypt took care to explain its decision to Israel and to allay any fears that this may have any effect on the freedom of navigation.  The Saudis did so as well, according to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, albeit in their own way, while asserting that no direct coordination with Israel can be expected (nor is it necessary).

Israel’s freedom of navigation in the Straits was guaranteed in the deal, said Ayalon.  Indeed, the restoration of sovereignty serves to bolster the Saudi commitment to Egyptian stability – which goes a long way towards explaining the rage expressed by the Muslim Brotherhood at this breach of Egypt’s “national rights.”  With the need to confront Iran high above all other considerations in the Saudi and Egyptian national security playbook – and in Israel’s – any major step that helps bring together the “camp of stability” in the region under joint Egyptian-Saudi leadership will also serve Israel’s interests.

Moreover, despite the disavowal of any direct contacts over this issue – and other important issues – over the years, the very fact that Saudi Arabia now undertakes to uphold in practice the obligations assumed by Egypt under the peace treaty means that Israel’s place in the region is no longer perceived by Arab leader Saudi Arabia as an anomaly to be corrected.  This is a far cry from “normalization” (tatbi`) – which remains a dirty word in the Arab dictionary.  But it is nevertheless a welcome ray of light, demonstrating the benefits of cooperation and coordination in a region beset by so much violence.

Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman is former deputy for foreign policy and international affairs at the Israel National Security Council. He served for two decades in Israeli military intelligence.  Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, an expert on the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, and pan-Arab issues, teaches in the department of Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University. Both are senior research associates at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.  (BESA 17.04)

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11.5  SAUDI ARABIA:  Saudi Arabia Tilts Toward India

Bruce Riedel posted in Al-Monitor on 6 April that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud gave Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a very warm welcome recently in a public tilt of Saudi policy toward New Delhi and away from its traditional ally Pakistan.  Economic interests are part of the tilt, but so too is Saudi pique at Pakistan’s refusal to back its military adventure in Yemen.

Pakistan, after refusing to supply troops for Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen, finds the Gulf kingdom improving relations with Pakistani archenemy India.

Modi and the Saudis signed five new bilateral agreements to improve relations, covering intelligence sharing on terrorism financing, increasing private investment and enhancing defense cooperation.  Salman bestowed the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit medal on the prime minister; it is the kingdom’s highest honor and has never been given to a purely civilian Pakistani leader (although it was given in 2007 to President Pervez Musharraf, a general who ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a 1999 coup).  Modi in turn gave the king a gold replica of the Cheraman Juma Masjid mosque in Kerala, the first mosque in India, dating from the seventh century, and a symbol of trade between Arabia and the Indian subcontinent.

Just days before the visit, the United States and Saudi Arabia jointly announced sanctions against four individuals and two organizations in Pakistan involved in financing terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba.  The joint announcement was unprecedented. Four years ago, the kingdom deported a senior Lashkar-e-Taiba official to India who had been involved in the 2008 Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on Mumbai, which was backed by Pakistani intelligence.  Modi met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is also minister of interior and the kingdom’s top counterterrorism official.

Economics play a big role in the Saudi-India relationship.  About 3 million Indians work in Saudi Arabia, almost half the 7.3 million Indian worker population in the Gulf states.  Bilateral trade in 2015 was almost $40 billion and India imports a fifth of its oil from the kingdom.  The Pakistani emigre population is about 1.5 million and trade was about $6 billion last year.  Modi met with senior Aramco officials to discuss more energy and investment opportunities.

This was only the fourth visit ever by an Indian prime minister to the kingdom.  By contrast, Pakistani prime ministers often visit that many times in a single year.  Sharif, who is again prime minister, was in Saudi Arabia in early March to watch the Northern Thunder military parade in which troops from 21 Muslim countries participated, although the place of honor next to the king was given to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

A year ago, Sharif wisely rebuffed Salman’s request to provide Pakistani troops to join the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen fighting the Houthi rebellion.  The Pakistanis thought the Saudi war plan was impetuous and not thought out.  They were not eager to get in the middle of another Saudi-Iran conflict.  They expected a costly stalemate would ensue.

The Pakistani move removed a key component of the Saudi plan for a quick, decisive victory in Yemen.  Sharif’s decision was very popular at home, however, and was endorsed by a unanimous vote in the parliament.  Lashkar-e-Taiba was among the few voices critical of Sharif’s decision.  His top aides privately anticipated some blowback from the Saudis would result.

Pakistan is very wary of the Saudi campaign against Iran.  Last month, Islamabad hosted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in his first foreign trip since the beginning of the Iranian new year.  Sharif and Rouhani signed several agreements and discussed the long-standing plan to build a gas pipeline linking the two neighbors.  Pakistan conditioned its participation in the Northern Thunder military exercise on the premise that the exercise and the new Saudi-sponsored Islamic military alliance is not directed against any country, meaning Iran.  Of course, the main point of the exercise and the alliance, from Riyadh’s perspective, is precisely to challenge Iran.  Sharif has allegedly rebuffed Saudi suggestions that Pakistan’s chief of army staff be made the titular commander of the alliance.

The Saudis now seem eager for the Yemen war to end.  They have proclaimed a victory in preventing the emergence of an Iranian foothold in the Arabian Peninsula.  Whether that was ever a serious danger is uncertain, but it gives Riyadh some face-saving cover for ending the war with the Houthis still in Sanaa.  Talks are planned for 18 April in Kuwait to end the conflict.

The war has created a humanitarian disaster for Arabia’s poorest country and generated widespread criticism of the kingdom around the world.  The European Parliament voted to cut off all arms sales to Saudi Arabia, for example. While not a binding vote, it is a symbolic defeat for Saudi diplomacy.

Pakistan will remain a key ally for Saudi Arabia.  The kingdom has invested billions in supporting Pakistan for decades.  The military relationship between the two remains robust despite the differences over Yemen.  The bonds of religion and history unite the two Islamic countries.  Sharif knows Riyadh will want to avoid any damage to its ties to Islamabad.  But Salman is also warning Pakistan that the kingdom has other suitors.

Bruce Riedel is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Gulf Pulse. He is the director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution. His new book, “JFK’s Forgotten Crisis: Tibet, the CIA and the Sino-Indian War,” was published this fall.  (Al-Monitor 06.04)

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11.6  TURKEY:  What Turkey’s New Central Bank Chief Means for the Economy

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s war on interest rates began immediately after his Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002.  Flouting the conventional economic theory, the Turkish leader advanced his own theory with the unusual argument that high inflation is the product of high interest rates.  As a result, he has often clashed with Central Bank governors, incensed that they kept interest rates too high.

In a first for Turkey, Kerim Karakaya observed on 12 April in Al-Monitor, an Islamic finance professional has been named Central Bank governor amid questions of whether the appointment is linked to Erdogan’s war on interest rates.

For Erdogan, the “merciless” interest rate system is “the biggest weapon of colonialism,” while his political opponents are an “interest-rate lobby” greedy for higher rates.  Thus, he believes, interest-free Islamic banking should be strengthened and expanded.  Fourteen years into office, Erdogan may have finally found the perfect Central Bank chief to put his rebellious economic vision into practice.

On 11 April, Turkey’s Central Bank got its first governor with an Islamic finance background, Murat Cetinkaya, as a replacement to the outgoing Erdem Basci.  For the past four years, Cetinkaya served as the bank’s deputy governor, a post he assumed after a career with Islamic banks such as Albaraka Turk and Kuveyt Turk.

The biggest question in Turkey now is whether or not this appointment reflects Erdogan’s Islamist-inspired economic vision, which many have come to call Erdoganomics.  The answer is not easy, for both Cetinkaya and his economic views are a mystery to the public.  “We know nothing about Cetinkaya. We have not even heard him speaking so far.  We’ll have to see his policies,” economist Haluk Burumcekci told Al-Monitor.  “His selection was likely a compromise between Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, which means no radical changes should be expected.”

Unlike Erdogan, Davutoglu and his deputy in charge of the economy, Mehmet Simsek, embrace the rules of the free market economy and the conventional economic wisdom, hence they believe in fighting inflation and not interest rates.

For Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners, a business consultancy, the new Central Bank chief represents a rare victory for Davutoglu over Erdogan.  “I think he is the best of a bad lot.  The appointment of someone from within the Central Bank rather than a direct Erdogan crony is a victory for Davutoglu. It’s the best possible option in the current conditions.”

Former Central Bank governor Durmus Yilmaz, who served from 2006 to 2011, warned that a shift to the policies  Erdogan favors would mean a drastic paradigm change, which could shortly trigger an economic crisis.  “Turkey is a country with a savings gap.  How are the savings to be increased without an interest rate?  Would foreign investors come to Turkey then?  If interest rates are cut at the pace the president wants, we’ll plunge into a crisis in three months’ time,” Yilmaz told Al-Monitor.

Back in the summer of 2013, when environmentalist protests at Istanbul’s Gezi Park grew into nationwide anti-government demonstrations, Erdogan claimed an “interest-rate lobby” seeking to push up the rates was behind the unrest.  Dissatisfied with the Central Bank’s rate cuts, he accused Basci of “treason” and said the 5% share of Islamic banking in Turkey’s banking sector should be increased to 25% by 2025.  “The interest rate system is unfair and merciless. It’s the biggest weapon of colonialism,” he added.

The president’s aides often slam the Central Bank, as well.  Last month, for instance, chief economy adviser Cemil Ertem said, “Let me put it openly here that the Central Bank debate is not a debate about who the [new] governor will be.  It is a debate about if and when one of the last strongholds of economic tutelage in Turkey will be torn down.  In this sense, it is a debate about whether Turkey’s economy and monetary policies are shaped in [Turkey] or in London or Washington.”  Cetinkaya’s first major test with the financial markets will be on 20 April, when he makes his maiden interest rate decision.

Yilmaz, who is remembered for a remarkable resistance to government pressures during his term at the Central Bank’s helm, said, “The markets will no doubt test the new governor.  They did the same with me as well.  They wanted to see how much influence the government wielded over me or how independent my policies would be. It took me three years to convince them I was independent.”  Cetinkaya’s background in Islamic banking, coupled with scarce information about his economic vision and political leanings, has deepened uncertainty over the Central Bank’s independence and monetary policies in the coming period.  If one thing is certain, however, it’s that the new governor will have to always consider Erdogan’s unrelenting aversion to interest rates before making a move.  (Al-Monitor 12.04)

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11.7  TURKEY:  Turkey’s New 4G Mobile Network Comes With Many Dark Clouds

Barin Kayaoglu posted in Al-Monitor on 14 April that on April 1, the fourth-generation (4G) mobile data network finally arrived in Turkey — nearly eight years after arriving in Scandinavia and South Korea.

As Al-Monitor reported last year, Turkish mobile phone users had to wait for bureaucratic infighting and uncertain market conditions to clear up before they could use faster data connections.  In May 2015, following an intervention by President Erdogan and lobbying efforts by a mobile service provider that was not ready to compete, Turkey’s Information and Communications Technologies Authority postponed the 4G tender to August 2015.

Today, those uncertainties seem to be a thing of the past.  Turkey’s move to its self-declared “4.5G” network is taking place amid much pomp and fanfare.  On 1 April, Minister of Communications Binali Yildirim launched the new system by holding a videoconference with Erdogan, who was in Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit.

Turkish mobile operators have engaged in even more impressive marketing stunts to sell new phones and data plans.  The market leader Turkcell appeals to popular and patriotic sentiments with its “bagliyiz biz” (we are tied / connected / loyal to each other) campaign.  Vodafone, with its “4 bucak g” (4 corners g) campaign, showcases folk dancers from the four corners of Turkey performing their own regional dances as well as those of other areas.  Former telecom monopoly Turk Telekom (previously Avea) takes a different route and uses Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo to emphasize its 4G network’s speed.

These campaigns, however, have had a limited effect on the target audience.  While service providers, phone vendors and consumers are excited about the long-awaited boost to connection speeds, high prices discourage customers.  Three storeowners in Ankara’s affluent Cankaya district told Al-Monitor that although customers with phones that are not equipped to use mobile data have expressed interest in upgrading to 4G-compatible phones, they get cold feet upon finding out that the cheapest devices cost 750 Turkish lira (about $265).

Subscription plans also do not come cheap.  Modest plans with 2 gigabytes (GB) of data, 1,000 text messages and 1,000 minutes of phone calls vary between 35-50 Turkish lira ($12 to $17).  But some plans with 15 GB of data can reach as high as 159 Turkish lira ($55), including taxes and other fees.  For a country where the net minimum wage is 1,300 Turkish lira ($457), even the cheapest data plan seems like a luxury.

To boost consumer demand and usage, Turkey must create a mature 4G network and, more importantly, a robust Internet infrastructure.

Kozan Demircan, one of the country’s leading technology experts, calls the new 4.5G an “April Fool’s joke” because Turkey simply does not have the fiber optic network to support the promised connection speeds.  High levels of fiber optic penetration (an area in which Turkey comes up short) enable high-quality connections between personal computers, mobile devices and cell towers.

As another expert told Al-Monitor a few months ago, Portugal — with a total area of 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles) — boasts a fiber optic network of 545,000 kilometers (338,000 miles).  But Turkey, with nearly eight times the area of Portugal, only has 250,000 kilometers of fiber optic cable (a figure that was already 150,000 kilometers in 2005), when it should have over 4.5 million kilometers of fiber optic cable to catch up with Portugal.

These shortcomings slow connection speeds.  Demircan points out that “whereas the targeted speed with 4.5G is around 330 to 400 megabits per second [Mbps], average connection speeds are 30-40 Mbps.”  Although those figures are a respectable improvement over actual speeds of 14 Mbps on the 3G network, even those limited speeds are not available to Turks who live in major cities such as Istanbul and Ankara.  According to Akamai Technologies, a global content delivery company, Turkey’s average Internet connection speed was 6.2 Mbps in the third quarter of 2015.  As Demircan warns, there is a positive relationship between high broadband Internet penetration and its contribution to high levels of national income.

So why does Turkey focus on the flashy aspects of the 4G network but not do the heavy lifting (and digging) that would help to grow its economy?

A big part of the problem is the Turkish state’s inability to open up the market to competition.  In particular, Turk Telekom, which owns most of the fiber optic network thanks to its former status as Turkey’s telecom monopoly, does not want to share its property with service providers.  Likewise, Turkish municipalities continue to charge exorbitant fees whenever service providers attempt to lay new fiber optic cables.

A bigger challenge is the allegation that the Turkish state and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) view high-speed Internet with suspicion.  One Turkish internet expert and former government employee told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that after the Gezi protests of 2013 and the Gulen-AKP fallout in early 2014, the state — especially the national security apparatus — has become wary of very high speed internet connections.  “You cannot upload high-quality videos or extended audio files on the 3G,” said the expert.  So there is not much enthusiasm to improve conditions through the 4G network.

That last point is particularly unfortunate considering that much of the hardware and software for Turkey’s new 4G network was supposed to be based on the indigenous ULAK system.  Developed through public-private cooperation under the guidance of the Ministry of Communication and the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, the ULAK system could have provided a majority of the new 4G-compatible 80,000 cell towers and saved Turkey considerable sums in foreign currency.  However, Turkey’s renowned technology expert and entrepreneur Fusun Sarp Nebil warns that only 1,700 ULAK towers may become part of the 4G network.

Nebil raises the agonizing possibility that Turkey, having had a late start to the 4G game, could also miss out on the 5G system once it debuts in 2020 and fall further behind in economic development.  (Al-Monitor 14.04)

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The Fortnightly newsletter is a free service of Atid, EDI. We are a team of economic and trade development consultants, headquartered in Jerusalem, but active throughout the region and beyond. EDI works with an international clientele interested in identifying and researching business opportunities in the region. We also serve as the regional representative offices for a number of U.S. states and bilateral Chambers of Commerce, as well as European clients.