Middle East Business News Review – A look at today’s important financial news and business updates from the Middle East and North Africa
The total value of Dubai’s diamond trade, including rough and polished diamonds, soared 12% to $39 billion in 2011, Dubai’s precious commodities authority said in a report.
The Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Authority (DMCC), which did not provide separate import and export data for the year, said approximately 225 million carats of diamonds were traded in the Dubai Diamond exchange during the year.
According to the Kimberley Process, rough diamond exports to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) grew 66% to $5.87 billion in 2011, while rough imports jumped 80% to $3.7 billion. Rough exports rose 1% by volume to 47.214 million carats while rough imports went up 20% to 52.083 million carats. Diamonds contributed to the overall strong commodities trading seen in Dubai in 2011.
A global survey revealed Beirut is the most expensive Middle Eastern city to live in, moving up eight notches to number 67.
The Middle East witnessed its ranking falling in Mercer’s 2012 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey as rental prices dropped in the region due to unrest and uncertainty.
Mercer’s survey compares compares the price of more than 200 factors in each of the 214 global cities, including housing, transport, food and clothing costs. Abu Dhabi, the most expensive city in the region in last year’s survey, is the 76th most expensive city in the world to live in this year, which is down from 67 last year. The cost of living in Dubai has also fallen, with the city ranking 94th overall this year compared with 81 last year.
The GCC countries are all, to varying degrees, ‘characterised by idiosyncrasies that set their labor markets apart from much of the rest of the world’, and have employment levels that are internationally low, a report published by Saudi newspaper said.
The UAE’s total employment is 53% while the corresponding figure in Saudi Arabia tends to be just below 50%, Arab News said in a report on Thursday. Qatar, by contrast, boasts a much high rate of 75%, partly reflecting the numerical dominance of expatriate residing in the country on work visas, the report added.
According to the findings, low labour force participation by women is partly ‘behind the state of affairs’. “Due to cultural reasons and the persistent norm of large families, female workforce participation tends to be significantly lower than that of male,” the report noted.
The United States and 16 other nations, including Gulf Arab states, on Wednesday reiterated their “strong opposition” to a controversial EU carbon tax on airlines and reaffirmed they want to keep working on a multilateral framework under the United Nation’s global aviation body.
The meeting, hosted by the US State Department and Department of Transportation in Washington, was called to explore ideas for a global solution to address greenhouse gases stemming from the aviation industry, among emissions blamed for climate change. The two-day moot of 16 countries opposed to the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) ended without a joint declaration. However, participants say they plan to address the greenhouse gas emissions issue within the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Russia’s Gazprom Neft announced on Thursday its Middle Eastern subsidiary has inked two oil deals with Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, becoming the fourth major oil company to enter into agreements with Kurdistan.
The St. Petersburg-based company said it has acquired a 40% share in the 1,780 sq. kilometre Garmian block. WesternZagros company, a Canadian firm, will also hold a 40% share.
The Russian oil giant sealed another deal in which it will hold an 80% share in the 474 sq. kilometre Shakal block. The Kurdish Regional Government will hold a 20% share in each contract. Both blocks are located in the southeastern part of the region and are expected to hold about 3.6 billion barrels of oil reserves. Gazprom’s up-front payment is said to be around $260 million.
Abu Dhabi has installed the first rapid charging station in the Middle East, reducing the time taken to recharge electric cars by over 90 percent, it was announced this week.
The CHAdeMO-certified Rapid Charger, the first of its kind in the region, has been installed at Masdar City, the low-carbon development backed by the Abu Dhabi government, and was in collaboration with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
The pilot project aims to assess how efficiently the rapid charger technology will function in the region’s harsh climatic conditions and will help to reduce the time taken to recharge electric vehicles (EVs).
Habtoor Leighton Group (HLG) has won a US$124m deal from the Qatar Foundation (QF) to help build a people mover system in Education City.
The network, which consists of a battery-powered tram linking various sections of the Doha complex, will be Qatar’s first fully operational rail transport system.
HLG’s scope of work includes design and construction of track-work, plus tram stops, and a depot facility. The firm bid for the project as part of a consortium led by Siemens.
Healthcare expenditures in Saudi Arabia are expected to increase by 16 percent to SR91.23 billion in 2012 from SR78.63 billion in 2011, driven by aggressive public sector investments in healthcare facilities.
The medical devices sector, on the other hand, will sustain a 17.9 percent growth, reaching SR6.53 billion in 2012 from SR5.54 billion in the previous year. The increase in healthcare spend has attracted the attention of global healthcare suppliers and manufacturers, while giving Saudi healthcare sector better access to the latest state-of-the-art medical technologies and value-added services.
US sanctions are costing Iran around US$133m a day in lost oil sales, Bloomberg reported just a day after the US Congress overwhelmingly passed a new package of sanctions aimed at punishing banks, insurance companies and shippers that help Tehran sell its oil.
Iran, OPEC’s third-largest producer, has seen oil shipments slump 52 percent, or by 1.2m bpd, since sanctions began and are costing around US$133m a day in losses, according to figures compiled by the Bloomberg news agency.
The opening of a small bakery in Tripoli early last month has marked the first time that a US brand has launched in Libya.
Seattle-based Cinnabon, which describes itself as “the market leader among cinnamon roll bakeries” and has more than 900 locations in 51 countries, had been planning the outlet for over two years.
The Cinnabon location, which is co-branded with Carvel – an ice-cream brand – is based on a busy street in Tripoli’s business district. The site was developed by franchise partners Arief and Ahmed Swaidek, who have plans to add “at least ten” more Cinnabon stores in the next five years.