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MOROCCO [IntelliNews - Weekly Reports]
[January 18, 2013]

MOROCCO [IntelliNews - Weekly Reports]

(IntelliNews - Weekly Reports Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) MOROCCOMorocco's FX reserves drop 16% y/y to USD 17.2bn at end-2012 Morocco's external position worsened in 2012 as net FX reserves shrank 16% y/y to MAD 144.9bn (USD 17.2bn), the central bank said. Bank of Maghreb was driven to tap into its reserves to help bridge the current account (CA) deficit due to rising imports and retreating tourism and remittances income. Total energy imports increased 17% y/y in January-November and food purchases, mainly cereals, rose 10%, according to the Office de Changes. FX reserves might drop further in H1 as the central bank seeks to curb a widening CA deficit. Morocco is a net oil and gas importers. Together with tourism, phosphate sales and remittances are Morocco's main FX earners.

Morocco's wheat reserves total 2.43mn tons at end-2012 Morocco's wheat reserves totalled 2.43mn at end-2011, lifted by stronger local harvest season, according to official data published by the daily Aujourd'hui le Maroc. Locally-cultivated grains reportedly climbed 24% y/y to 3.23mn tons in 2012. Soft grains accounted for 81% of the bulk. Better local harvest will likely help ease food prices in Q1 and consequently keep CPI inflation anchored.

UAE's Etisalat eyes 53% stake in Maroc Telecom UAE telecom firm Etisalat submitted an initial letter of interest to buy France's Vivendi's 53% stake in Morocco's Maroc telecom, Etisalat said in a statement. Etisalat, which is 60% owned by the state and pays 50% of its earnings as royalties to the UAE, said that other telecom firms have also expressed interest in the stake. Further transaction proceedings imply a satisfactory due diligence on the potential deal, Etisalate said. Vivendi's 53% stake in Maroc Telecom is said to be worth USD 5.5bn-USD 6.0bn, according to industry estimates. Qatar Telecom and South Korea's KT Corp are also said to be vying for Maroc Telecom's stake. The latter offers fixed-line, mobile and internet services in Morocco. Maroc Telecom also operates in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali and Mauritania.

Etisalat operates in seventeen MENA and Asian countries. The firm has recently offloaded a 9.1% stake in Indonesia's third-biggest phone operator PT XL Axiata to expand next generation networks in core markets. But Etisalat retained a 4.2% holding in PT XL Axiata. Etisalat owns 66% of Egypt's Etisalat Misr, 40% of Etisalat Nigeria and 65% of Tanzania's Zantel.

Morocco's trade deficit widens 8% to USD 24bn in 2012 Morocco's trade gap expanded 8% y/y to MAD 197.2bn (USD 23.6bn) in 2012, preliminary data released by the Office de Change showed. Imports rose 6% y/y to MAD 380.4bn on the back of higher food and energy prices and rising industrial demand for semi-finished goods. Exports increased 5% y/y to MAD 183.2bn underpinned by strong phosphate sales and sustained EU demand for leather and outsourced goods. Strong private consumption, higher commodity prices and strengthening manufacturing demand will likely continue to boost imports in the near term translating into further trade gap expansion. The trend will weigh further on the CA deficit given still weak services income. Phosphates and derivatives exports remained strong in 2012 despite the Eurozone debt woes, edging down just 0.3% y/y to MAR 35.76bn. Energy imports topped the list of purchases in 2012, rising 15% y/y to MAD 103.7bn due to higher commodity prices and strong local demand for fuel derivatives. Food imports also increased 7.1% to MAD 41.57bn given a weak harvest season and strong private consumption.

Morocco's tourism income drops 2% to USD 7bn in 2012, remittances fall 4% Morocco generated MAD 58.145bn (USD 7bn) in tourism receipts in 2012, marking a slight 1.6% y/y decline despite the regional turmoil that dented arrivals, preliminary data released by the Office de Change showed. The EU economic woes also weighed on EU arrivals over the period. Net transfers from Moroccans working and residing abroad shrank 4% y/y in 2012 to MAD 56.303bn. The reading could be seen as positive considering the Eurozone debt woes. A large Moroccan diaspora lives and works in the EU, mainly in Spain. Falling services income, however, will likely weigh further on Morocco's CA deficit in the near term given the widening trade deficit.

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