Saudi Aramco's IPO

Saudi Arabia is attempting to diversify its economy so that it becomes less reliant on oil. Part of the plan includes an initial public offering (IPO) of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, valued at between about USD 8 billion and USD 10 billion.  It’s hoping to get more than that when the oil company goes public, reportedly about USD 2 trillion. But will this be achieved?

It appears that Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Aramco in particular, is scaling back its plans for diversification. It seems that it may not happen to the extent originally intended by 2020.

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How you can detect a fake from the real thing?

The world is full of terrible natural disasters, especially earthquakes and hurricanes. (Being based in New Zealand, we know all about earthquakes). So it’s a change to be discussing something frivolous such as handbags and shoes, even if they are fake.

 Living, and shopping in Dubai, it’s assumed that nearly everything you buy is fake. Handbags, though, were more readily available before, than now. Maybe that’s because of two reasons: the authorities have cracked down on fake items, imposing some hefty fines if sellers are caught; and more goods are put on social media. (Movements are afoot to impose fines on buyers too).

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Making the Middle East worse, Trump style

The problems across the Middle East just seem to get worse. How is it possible? When you're living in the region it's pretty clear that US foreign policy in particular, as well as the foreign policy of many of the European countries, including the UK and Germany, are much to blame, whether good or bad-- although foreign policy is generally bad.

This article that was published in Foreign Policy magazine back in June is enlightening. It explains why the problems are so intractable. One reason is expediency and stupidity; the other is the lack of force. Only force will bring about a solution, sort of, especially when it comes to the Israeli - Palestinian peace process. As I was told about five years ago when visiting both countries (I was attending a conference in Bethlehem) Israel will always be better off (territory wise) with the status quo than taking part in a negotiated settlement. This article appears to bear this out.

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Are anti-Muslim comments acceptable?

Anti-Muslim comments are becoming increasingly common all over the world. We have a great deal of anti-Muslim rhetoric from the US President, Donald Trump, who portrays all Muslims as terrorists; there is similar rhetoric emanating from the UK.

In New Zealand, we have a professor from Waikato University who, on Facebook, suggested that hiring Muslims was a poor move because of their prayer schedule. They pray five times a day, three of which are generally early in the morning and late at night.

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How to know if news is fake or not?

AI can do many things and one of them is the writing of fake news. How do you know what is fake news and what is not? The answer simply is that you don’t which is what this article that appeared in Business Insider Australia  explains

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How important is shorthand?

Learning shorthand is almost a rite of passage at journalism school. Everyone learns it. Not everyone is good at it. And most people don’t continue to use it. Or if one does, often one develops a new shorthand, which I did.

So when I read this story that was published in The Guardian I was shocked. I’m sure that this student has developed other ways of taking notes.  

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How hoax news looks like real news

Fake news is becoming more common; and fake it is. What is fake news? How is it produced? What makes it look so real? With technology improving all the time its’s becoming easier to produce fake news and make it look like the real thing. Here’s how.

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Gulf Businesses Face Declining Working Capital Perfomance

I'm working on some projects that require financing from the Middle East. It's undoubtedly more challenging than before to raise finance in that part of the world, as this article that was published on August 16, 2017 in Arabia Inc confirms.

Working capital metrics for firms have been weakening each quarter beginning from the fourth quarter of 2014.

The crash in oil prices and subsequent economic pressures have impacted the working capital performance for companies big and large, according to accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

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Will the US President be impeached?

If, like me, you’re wondering what is going to happen to US President Donald Trump, I was more convinced than ever that Trump could be impeached, sooner rather than later.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a talk by a former Professor of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware and he anticipated that Trump will hang on until the second half of his term in office. This is because it takes a long time to get the legal issues in place if impeachment is to happen. And enough Republicans votes would have been gathered to make impeachment possible.

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Top US journalists give advice

I read this article about advice from top journalists that was published in the Columbia Journalism Review with interest. All had worked in America and were giving an American perspective. That’s fair enough. What is not, is for all readers to feel that they are failing if they do not obtain the source material to start with.

While it’s relatively straightforward to get information from Europe, or even Australia or New Zealand, as well as the US, it is not always easy in the Middle East, which does not have a culture of transparency or corporate governance. Most important, is that there is no Companies House. Moreover, few people in any of the Arab Gulf countries, Iraq or Egypt, or the rest of North Africa, will talk to the press, meaning that it is necessary to go through a press office. This all makes the job of being a journalist so much tougher.

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Talking Heads: an exhibition exploring culture and gender

For any body in Christchurch who wants to go to an art exhibition please go on 25 August.

17 August 2017: Two Christchurch artists are exhibiting their work from Friday 25 August until August 31, at Next Gallery in Christchurch. It will be an exhibition of portraiture, but with a difference.

Self-portraits by at least 80 participants will be on display, many by Fine Art students from Banaras Hindu University.  Consequently, it will be a kind of dialogue between New Zealand and Asia and will highlight the differences in gender and culture between the two regions and communities. Over time, the exhibition will include other countries, with the intention of encouraging further dialogue between communities.

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Damac and CEO, Hussein Sajwani

I was amused to read this article in the the UK’s Daily Mail today. Billionaire? When I interviewed Hussein Sajwani a few years ago, he was still CEO of Damac, the Middle East’s largest private developer, but certainly not a billionaire. I also understand that at that time, the property developer had had some financial problems, and the Dubai Government helped out. Damac has always been a property developer that was too big to fail. Imagine what damage could be done to Dubai’s reputation.

When I was back in Dubai recently, Damac was advertising Trump villas, as well as his golf course. Clearly, local investors are not investing as Damac would have hoped so it is now looking further afield for investors.

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NZ Super Fund reduces risk in carbon assets

This press release came across my desk today. It shows that the NZ Super Fund is reducing its investment in firms emitting greenhouse gases. Perhaps other funds around the world will follow.

NZ Super Fund shifts passive equities to low-carbon

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Self-publishing- does it work?

Like many people. I've thought of self publishing. Somehow, it didn't appeal. Maybe it was because Penguin, which was part of Pearson, was in the same building in London. I think I'm now converted; I'm sure self-publishing is the way to go. Here are the reasons why.

Not so long ago, there weren’t many resources available that would enable an author to self-publish their writing. As the technology emerged, so did a stigma. It was thought that you only self-published if your book wasn’t good enough to be picked up by a publishing house.

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Fires in Dubai

There’s been a great deal of talk about fires recently- the Grenfell Tower in Kensington Borough, London and now the appropriately named Torch Tower in Dubai.

I know the building well, since I passed it most days and it was down the road from our office. Not an outstanding building, just a tall one.  And one where the rental price was high- fully furnished, good facilities (but that’s the norm in Dubai)- which was about 20,000 dirhams a month (USD 5,400 a month) for rent. Some of the people have moved back in, according to reports.

It was the second time it had caught alight within two years. It’s the external cladding that is to blame evidently. I interviewed the CEO

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Documentary making: what to do


I came to documentary making from a journalistic background. This is a little unusual because most people come to it from a cinema-graphic background. I learned about videoing, sort up, about what cameras work, and what cameras don’t, mic-ing up, and editing- at least from a voyeuristic perspective.

 Briefly, I returned from the Middle East in February 2014, where I was head of a news service in Middle East and Africa. I knew that part of the world far better than I knew any other, so I wanted to produce something that used my knowledge of that area. That was difficult, not only because of the censorship laws operating in the region, which would have meant not filming there, but, as I found it later, any documentary had to be based in New Zealand and have a NZ perspective.

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Competition to host the Taliban

 I continue to argue that the feud between Qatar and the other Gulf Arab States- mainly the UAE and Saudi- is economic rather than political. The fact that Qatar is wealthier than either Saudi or the UAE, because of gas, and that it has worked hard to carve out a foreign policy that is distinct from the other Gulf countries- it has been accused of punching above its weight- has not gone down well with Saudi or the UAE.

All of these countries can be accused of either encouraging or supporting terrorist groups at some point, to some extent. It’s a well known secret that a number of the world leaders have ended up in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

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UNWRA: healthcare and education

This article has been written as part of a research project that I'm undertaking on behalf of and in conjunction with the Canterbury Refugee Resettlement and Resource Centre (CRRRC). The research will come out in September. 

A case study of UNWRA working with Palestinian refugees

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It's all about real life relationships

I’m always curious about how journalism, communication and PR come together. The point at which they merge is all about relationships. You need to foster good relationships to become a good journalist, a good communicator or a PR professional. This is especially true of personal branding: authenticity and spontaneity matter.

 Hence, this article by public relations professional, Stephen Waddington, made me nod in agreement. Yes, it’s always better to have a meeting face-to-face and in person. Social media can never be a replacement for a face-to-face meeting.

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NZ Super Fund receives A+ rating from UNPRI

I’ve spent a lot of time following, and writing, about private equity. It was especially important to do this when I was focused on mergers and acquisitions in the Middle East. Now that I’m back in New Zealand I follow what is going on here, although the market is necessarily much smaller. Below is an update on New Zealand’s Super Fund, NZ’s sovereign wealth fund, and how it has performed on the world stage.

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