Middle East Business News Review – 1 November

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Today’s top business and economy news from the Middle East and North Africa:

Dubai’s bullish economic growth bears new risks: Citigroup report

Citigroup’s chief economist for the Middle East said in a study published on Wednesday Dubai’s exposure to world economy bears downwards risks despite outperforming Abu Dhabi and other major cities in the region.

“Dubai will remain the economic motor of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2013, while the UAE capital Abu Dhabi will lag behind,” Farouk Soussa wrote in the Middle East Macro Monthly report.

The chief economist forecasted that Abu Dhabi’s real GDP will shrink by 0.8% this year, whereas Dubai’s real GDP will increase by 5.1%, thanks to a comeback in the real estate sector, and a pick-up in trade and tourism.

Samsung clinches $2.48bn contract to build Abu Dhabi plants

South Korean engineering giant Samsung announced on Thursday it had secured rights to build plants worth $2.48 billion in Abu Dhabi.

A deal was signed on Wednesday between the state-owned Abu Dhabi Oil Refining Co., a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), and Samsung. The South Korean company will construct a carbon black unit and a delayed coker unit in Ruwais, west of Abu Dhabi.

Carbon black is used as a pigment and reinforcement material for auto tyres, while delayed coker is used in oil refineries.

Paris Gallery to open stores across Iraq

Paris Gallery, a Dubai-based perfume, cosmetics and jewelry chain announced on Thursday it has plans to open a shop in Iraq and intends to start its operations early next year. The firm also has plans to open five stores across major cities across Iraq over the next three years.

Mohamed A. R. Al Fahim, Paris Gallery CEO, said:  ”We’ve done extensive assessments and believe that now the country is really moving away from what it was to what it wants to be … there is great potential.” The firm has also teamed up with the Al Handle Group, an Iraqi firm established in 1975 which understands the local business environment and will run the stores on a franchise basis.

According to IMF estimates, the GDP of Iraq has doubled between 2009 and 2012. It also suggested that Iraqis now have more disposable income than before and welcome the prospect of purchasing branded cosmetics and perfumes.

RAK eyes 6,000 Russian tourists in next six months

Up to 6,000 Russian tourists are forecast to visit the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah over the next six months as a result of a new charter flight agreement with one of the Eastern European giant’s biggest travel operators, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAK TDA) said.

The first Russian charter flight landed in RAK this week as part of RAK TDA’s agreement with operator Pegas Touristik.

In cooperation with Orenair and Nordwind Airlines, a weekly charter flight will operate from the Russian cities of Syktyvkar and Kemerovo.

Pentagon awards Jordan air force control system contract to Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin announced it has been awarded a $26 million foreign military sales contract to modernise the Royal Jordanian Air Force’s national air command, control and communications infrastructure, by the US Air Force.

“Lockheed Martin will provide the Kingdom of Jordan with an integrated, real-time air picture across multiple command centers and many remote sites to better protect the country’s airspace, the company’s statement said. Analysts say American and British military experts have been helping Jordan to boost its military capacity amid concerns over a possible violent spillover from neighbouring Syria’s ongoing civil war.

The Maryland-based American defence giant said the system, known as Omnyx, will combine sensor, voice and data communications to provide interoperability throughout the Royal Jordanian Air Force and other elements of Jordan’s armed forces. The system will assist in detecting incoming air traffic and also provide the capabilities needed for airspace management, air sovereignty and air defense missions, the statement added.

Iraq opens biggest trade fair in 20 years

Iraq opened on Thursday its biggest trade fair in more than 20 years, the latest step in Baghdad’s efforts to rebuild an economy battered by decades of conflict and sanctions and combat unemployment.

More than 1,500 companies from Iraq and 21 other countries are taking part in the Baghdad International Fair, which was opened by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and is due to run until November 10.

“This is the new Iraq,” Maliki said in a speech at the fair, held in the Mansur neighbourhood of west Baghdad while adding: “I hope all the companies here take advantage of this opportunity.”

Hilton says no plans to close down Lebanon hotels

Hilton International denied Thursday reports it intends to close down one of its partner hotels in Lebanon, saying the two partner companies are fully operational.

“The tourism sector is the first to be affected by any crisis … but we have no intention whatsoever to close down any of the hotels,” George Karam, head of the Marketing and Sales at both partner hotels, told The Daily Star.

“Both hotels are fully operational,” he added.

The Daily Star and other media outlets reported this week that the Metropolitan Palace Hotel, one of the Hilton hotels in Beirut’s eastern suburb of Sin el-Fil, was closing down and 150 employees were to be laid off.

BP kickstarts Libya oil exploration activities

A senior British Petroleum official on Thursday announced the resumption of oil exploration activities in Libya and said the oil giant will drill 17 new exploration wells in the North African nation.

Exploration activities were suspended in Libya last year due to the uprising against former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Royal Dutch Shell had earlier announced its decision to halt oil exploration in the country due to ‘disappointing results’. BP signed a contract with former Gaddafi regime in 2007 to drill five offshore and 12 onshore wells in the country. However, they could not operate due to the civil war.

European consortium to tap solar energy from the heart of Moroccan desert

The German, French, Italian, Spanish and Moroccan governments are pushing forward their green solar energy “Desertec” project, exclusive information obtained by a German newspaper revealed on Thursday.

According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, the biggest selling national newspaper in Germany, electricity produced by a solar thermal plant in Morocco, which would cost €600 million to build, would serve as a vital renewable energy source for Europe.

The planned power plant site will be constructed in the desert outpost near the city of Ouarzazate, southeast of Marrakesh.

Somaliland hopes oil will replace goat dependence

Wanted: investors for small African nation with good oil and mineral potential – no seat at the United Nations but history of independence in rough neighbourhood.

The break-away nation of Somaliland is a tough sell but the announcement this week that serious hydrocarbon exploration is about to kick off there shows that oil talks, regardless of political status.

For Somaliland, an internationally unrecognised state of 3.5 million people that declared independence from Somalia in 1991, it promises to be a game changer.

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