Today’s top business news from the Middle East and North Africa:
Abraaj Capital, a leading Middle East private equity firm, announced it is going to set up a $400m fund to boost small and medium-scale business in the Middle East and North Africa region and has signed a $150m deal with the US government to partially finance the project.
The Dubai-based Abraaj Capital was last year ranked as the largest private equity firm worldwide by Private Equity International magazine. It is also the biggest private equity firm in the Middle East while having a strong presence in Turkey, Singapore, India, Britain, and Pakistan.
Abraaj said in a statement that Egypt is one of the core target countries of the Riyada Enterprise Development Growth Capital Fund (RED) to be set up under Sunday’s agreement between Abraaj and the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a government agency for private enterprise development abroad. The firm has helped accelerate and facilitate the growth of more than 50 companies in 15 countries in its core region.
A leading Indian IT firm announced on Monday it is exploring Oman as its next largest strategic market in the Gulf region and hopes to invest in the country’s technology infrastructure.
Azim Premji, Indian IT tycoon and chairman of Wipro, during his first visit to Oman said his company’s presence in Oman since the last two and half years has proven to be very fruitful.
An Iranian energy official said the country successfully delivered its first shipment of crude oil to foreign buyers from the private sector despite Western sanctions.
The semiofficial Mehr News Agency quoted Hassan Khosrojerdi, chairman of a union of Iranian oil exports, as saying that private companies delivered oil to the foreign market for the first time on Sunday. He disclosed that an agreement with unspecified entities allows private companies to export about 20% of the country’s total oil deliveries designated for the international market.
Turkey will emerge as the next big logistics hub, a survey of European supply chain managers revealed on Monday adding that the Anatolian nation will top the European supply chain managers list over the next five years.
The survey, carried out by surveyors Jones Lang LaSalle, said more than one quarter of all respondents have ranked Turkey in their top three emerging locations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Poland and Romania follow in second and third spots, it added.
Algerian Agriculture Minister Rachid Benaissa on Sunday said he expects grain harvest for this year to be between 5.2 and 5.4 million tonnes, cutting a previous forecast of 5.8 million tonnes.
He explained that these anticipated import operations were aimed at ensuring the security of supply in the country.
Algeria, a big importer of cereals, recorded a harvest of 45 million quintals in 2010-2011.
Trade between the UAE and China grew 10 percent to US$15.6bn during 2011, according to figures released by the Gulf country’s Ministry of Foreign Trade.
The government department said that China maintained its status as the UAE’s second largest trade partner, with main imports being electronic appliances and devices, as well as iron and steel.
Key exports to China included plastics and their products, copper and its products and iron and iron-based products.
The UAE’s central bank aims to develop its monetary policy framework by launching a discount window to enable banks to borrow intra-day and overnight funds, it said on Monday, adding the country’s economic outlook was encouraging.
The central bank did not say when it planned to launch the window, which will be called “the marginal lending facility” (MLF) officials were not immediately available for comment.
Brazil’s Gol Linhas Aereas denied on Monday a report of takeover talks with Qatar Airways, after hopes of a deep-pocketed investor in the Brazilian airline sent shares soaring.
Brazilian news magazine Veja reported over the weekend that Gol’s management met last week with executives from fast-growing Qatar Airways. Veja did not say how it obtained the information.
A spokeswoman for Gol denied the contents of the Veja report, which said discussions of an investment in the struggling Brazilian airline were still in early phases.
Hundreds of Qatar Telecom customers are set to take part in one of the region’s largest tests of a 4G Long-Term-Evolution (LTE) network.
The largest telco in the country is planning to launch the superfast broadband services commercially at the end of 2012, it said in a statement on Monday.
Qtel’s 4G LTE network will on average offer speeds that are three-to-six times faster than 3G.
Saudi Arabia will continue to meet any additional oil demand and help moderate prices, but the recent surge in crude prices is not due to any supply shortfall, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Monday.
“Saudi Arabia is concerned about rising oil prices in the international oil market. The current high price of oil is simply not supported by market fundamentals,” Naimi in a statement sent to the media.
“Saudi Arabia will, as always, take all necessary steps to ensure the market is well supplied and to help moderate prices – and we will meet any additional demand from our customers,” Naimi said four days after Obama administration officials met to consider another release of emergency oil stocks.