The United Arab Emirates’ economy is likely to expand nearly 4 per cent this year, Minister for Economy Sultan Bin Saeed Al-Mansoori said on Tuesday. “The UAE economy is expected to grow by almost 4 per cent in 2012,” he told a conference in the UAE capital. “This is an estimate” by the end of the year it could be better.” A merger between the Abu Dhabi and Dubai stock exchanges is still on the table, the United Arab Emirates’ economy minister said on Tuesday, with a committee expected to present its recommendations by year-end. “It is still being discussed. A committee has been created to discuss ... they will report back to ESCA and then we will evaluate,” said Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansoori, who is also chairman of the UAE Securities and Commodities Authority (ESCA). “I do hope by the end of the year we will have some kind of indication, it has to be done in a very systemic way. It serves the interests of both markets.” The minister also said he expected to see more mergers take place among UAE firms in the wake of a proposed tie-up between Abu Dhabi’s two largest listed real estate firms, Aldar Properties and Sorouh Real Estate. Mansoori said that the government has reduced Dubai-based mortgage provider Amlak Finance’s debt by Dhs4 billion. “We are looking at the financial sector,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a business conference, adding the industrial, transportation and logistics sector were also candidates. “Any sector that’s facing challenges, one way out of the challenge is to create a merger. “It’s not necessarily two, it could be more than two or more (companies).” The UAE’s economy ministry website said the ministerial committee set up by the government to resolve the problem of Amlak Finance has succeeded, in coordination with the federal government and local authorities concerned, in reducing Dhs4 billion in debt owed by the firm. He stressed that the commission is keen to protect the rights of shareholders and the continuity of the company, while not exposing them to bankruptcy, pointing out that the government will not allow bankruptcies of companies, as has happened in many European countries and the US, and that the state is keen to give priority to the protection of the rights of shareholders and their interests and not expose them to any risk. He pointed out that the debt was reduced through rescheduling debt as well as through the sale of some land owned by the company, and the restoration and recovery of other land owned by the company, as well as finding financial solutions with a number of third-party creditors.