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Market Headlines

UAE is the most digital-friendly country in the Middle East 

The UAE is the most digital friendly country in the Middle East and also the best country where digital companies can thrive, according to a new study. Ranked 24th worldwide and the best performer in the region, the UAE offers an impressive trade infrastructure coupled with a supportive business environment. Bahrain was ranked second in the GCC and 38th globally, according to Euler Hermes' report titled 'The enabling digitilisation index: Which countries are digital friendly'? While Qatar ranked 33rd, Saudi Arabia 50th, Oman at 53rd, Jordan at 64th, Kuwait at 65th and Egypt 80th, globally. "The UAE is the best performer, thanks to an impressive trade infrastructure coupled with a supportive business environment," said Mahamoud Islam, senior economist for Asia, Euler Hermes. Among sub-indexes, the UAE scored 88 points on infrastructure, 86 on regulations, 69.5 on knowledge, 63.7 for connectivity. Overall score totalled 61.8, surpassing countries like Spain, Italy, Malaysia, India and Russia, among others. A recent McKinsey's analysis indicates that a unified digital market across the Middle East will have 160 million potential digital users by 2025 which could contribute up to 3.8 per cent annually in GDP, amounting to approximately Dh348.65 billion. Jyoti Lalchandani, group vice-president and regional managing director, Middle East, Turkey, Africa at IDC, said there are several reasons why the UAE is undoubtedly the best country in the region for digital companies to thrive because it provides a compelling value proposition, given it's strategic location, political security and stability, social and cultural openness, and world-class infrastructure. "Digital transformation is not just about making government paperless, but also about leveraging the power of digital technology to innovate processes so they are more integrated with the front end, more efficient, and more agile in their response to change," he said. Likewise, simply putting services online is no longer sufficient, he said, adding that the government must leverage data to optimise service value streams across government programs. "In line with this, improvements in cross-departmental collaboration will enable governments to offer a personalised experience to citizens. All these investments will further encourage foreign companies to invest in the UAE," said Lalchandani. By 2020, the number of companies who have deployed a digital platform will have more than doubled to 60 per cent of organisations, he predicted. Saurabh Verma, associate director, digital transformation practice at Frost & Sullivan, noted that the UAE government's vision to drive other industries and reduce dependency on oil revenues in parallel, the overall ecosystem for the development of industries is highly conducive, the policies are very supportive, the speed of execution to complete legalities, paperwork, processes, licence issue is very fast, dozens of dedicated free zones offering attractive benefits for companies to set up is another good reason are some of the reasons that make UAE the best country for the digital companies to thrive here. He said digital companies typically start small, and run lean operations; and free zones are a perfect fit for them. "The demographic mix of the UAE has also contributed to the growth of digital companies significantly. UAE is a highly cosmopolitan place with expats from more than 50 countries, all with varied demands and consumption patterns. The market is ripe and quickly evolving from a digital services consumption perspective," he said. He advised that a lot has already been done in the form of creating a conducive ecosystem for the development of digital companies in the UAE, but, the country needs a better start-up ecosystem, with government policies and incentives being only one pillar for that. "The other pillars such as strong accelerator and incubator circle, availability of angel investors, seed funds, VC's, are extremely critical, which are relatively weaker and need to be further worked upon," he concluded. IDC's Lalchandani said the UAE must continue to recognise the value of information technology as a useful tool for enabling social and economic development. "Technology has now caught up, and the transition to the third platform - mobile computing, social media, cloud computing, and Big Data - is digitally transforming nearly every aspect of individuals' and enterprises' lives. This is all leading to a new wave of technology breakthroughs - robotics, natural interfaces, 3D printing, internet of Things (IoT), cognitive systems, and next-generation security -poised to bring further disruption.

The 30-year-old woman who designed a $1bn business

When a 22-year-old Melanie Perkins nervously pitched her start-up idea to a Silicon Valley multi-millionaire she followed a novel if somewhat risky tactic.

The university drop-out had flown all the way from her home in Perth, Australia, to Palo Alto, California, for the meeting with well-known technology investor Bill Tai.

Melanie had read that if you wanted to impress someone you should mimic their body language. So seeking backing for her graphic design website she decided to put the theory to the test.

"It was pretty funny," says Melanie, who is now 30. "He was sitting there with his arm behind his chair, eating his lunch.

"So I'm there with my arm behind my chair, trying to eat my lunch, while flipping the pages of my pitch... to sell him on the future of publishing."

Employment outlook in UAE to improve this year, say recruitment specialists

Dubai: If you're looking for better employment opportunities this year, you may have a better shot at landing a job in 2018 compared to a year ago.

This is because, with the introduction of value-added tax (VAT), improving business conditions, and as companies who have previously downscaled are looking to get back on track and Expo 2020 drawing closer, job openings are gradually moving back into the picture.

According to hiring specialists Hays, recruitment activity in the UAE and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region is set to increase this year compared to 2017, with 71 per cent of companies looking to hire additional staff in the next 12 months.

Within the UAE alone, 70 per cent of employers plan to hire, while 63 per cent forecast market activity to increase year-on-year for their business.

Walmart clouds pay rise by closing Sam Club's stores

Walmart has revealed plans to close 10% of its Sam's Club wholesale stores and lay-off thousands of workers.

The closures were revealed on the same day the world's biggest retailer said it would start paying its US staff at least $11 an hour and hand some of them a one-off cash bonus.

Walmart said the pay rise was due to the US tax overhaul which has cut the corporate rate from 35% to a flat 21%.

Hourly-paid employees will receive the higher wage from next month.

Walmart is closing 63 of its 660 Sam's Club stores.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin claimed that Walmart's pay deal was further proof that the new US tax bill is returning money to workers as the administration promised.

However, at a press conference on Thursday, Mr Mnuchin dismissed questions about the layoffs.

Prices to be rounded up to 25 fils in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi: Prices of goods and service in Abu Dhabi can be rounded-up to the smallest available coin or 25 fils, the Department of Economic Development (DED) announced on Saturday.

The announcement cancels the DED's previous decision, which allowed shops in Abu Dhabi to round up the cost of products by up to 25 fils.

This the second ruling from the DED on how shops should handle the matter of small change when applying the 5 per cent Value Added Tax  (VAT) on a low-cost item.

The difference in the ruling means that Abu Dhabi consumers should be seeing more 25 fil coins being returned to them. For example, if a customers owed Dh1.70, a shopkeeper could increase the price up to Dh1.95, which, due to the lack of 5 fil coins, would mean the customer would have had to pay Dh2.

Preparing in advance for a bear market:

The US stock market has been going gangbusters for a number of years, so it can be easy to forget that bear markets are still possible. These don't come around on a set schedule but over the past 70 years or so, they've occurred every four to five years, on average.

Although investors can't predict when the next bear will strike, they should work through potential scenarios to be prepared when the inevitable downturn begins. Here are six questions to think about before the next bear market:

How bad will things get?

We've witnessed two of the largest market crashes in history in this century alone so you should forgive investors for assuming stocks will get cut in half every time they go into bear market territory. History tells us enormous market crashes are rare.