Middle East Business News Review – 11 October

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

Dubai Limitless agrees restructuring of $1.2 bln loan

Limitless, the indebted property arm of Dubai World, has reached an agreement with creditors to restructure a $1.2 billion Islamic loan, the company said on Thursday.

Limitless will also shortly commence a procees to transfer ownership of itself to the Dubai government from conglomerate Dubai World, it said in a statement.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation signs second UAE deal

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has signed a five-year deal with the Aman Foundation to improve family planning and healthcare in Pakistan, its second agreement during the Microsoft founder’s trip to the UAE.

The Aman Foundation, chaired by the Dubai businessman Arif Naqvi, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation both pledged to invest US$5m each to meet the gap in reproductive health and family planning services in Pakistan.

More than 200m women in the developing world who do not want to get pregnant cannot get reliable access to contraception, information and services, which lead to complications in pregnancy and childbirth, the charities said in a joint statement.

UAE may join Turkey nuclear power plant project: minister

The United Arab Emirates could join a project to build Turkey’s second nuclear power plant if South Korea is involved, Turkish energy minister said on Thursday.

“Officials from the United Arab Emirates said they could be a partner in the project if South Korea undertakes the building of the nuclear power plant,” in northern Turkey, Taner Yildiz was quoted as saying by Anatolia news agency.

The government plans to build three nuclear power plants within five years in hopes of preventing a possible energy shortage and reducing dependence on foreign energy supplies. Turkey struck a deal with Russia in 2010 to build the country’s first power plant at Akkuyu in the southern Mersin province.

Iraq looking to replace Exxon with Russian oil firms – report

Media reports citing energy industry sources said on Thursday Iraq is considering Russian companies as a replacement of ExxonMobil at the supergiant West Qurna-1 oilfield as a punishment for the oil giant’s venturing into Kurdistan.

Baghdad is unhappy about the fact that the autonomous Kurdish region has signed deals with foreign oil majors, such as Exxon, Total and Chevron, and has refused to accept their legality.

Iraq-Russia conclude $4.2 billion weapons deal – report

Iraq announced on Thursday it has signed $4.2 billion worth arms deals with Russia, during a meeting between Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Moscow.

The deal has given Russia a big boost at a time when the future of its arms sales to Libya and Syria is uncertain. Moscow has become the largest weapons supplier to the Middle East country after the United States.

President Vladimir Putin vocally opposed the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. Since then, Moscow has struggled to claw back a share of the markets in energy, arms sales and infrastructure projects in Iraq.

Turkey cuts off power supply to Syria; denies political motive

Turkish officials confirmed on Thursday electricity supply to Syria has been cut off, but denied it was a political decision taken by Ankara.

Prime Minister Recip Erdogan, an outspoken critic of the Syrian government’s 19-month crackdown of a popular uprising, has pledged not to cut power and water to its southern neighbour, which could worsen a humanitarian crisis that has created more than 300,000 refugees.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz claimed last week Damascus has informed it will not buy electricity from Turkey. He added that Syria could resume purchasing power when it can. Yasar Arslan, chief executive of Aksa Natural Gas, denied Syria has terminated his company’s contract and hoped power transmission to start again this month after extensive repairs have been made to the Syrian network.

Yemen exporting LNG again after gas pipe blast in September

Yemen’s only liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal began exporting LNG again this week, ship tracking data showed on Thursday, after being forced to shut when its feed pipeline was blown up in late September.

Korean LNG tanker the K. Mugungwha arrived at the Yemen LNG terminal near Balhaf on Wednesday, after the laden Provalys tanker set sail from the Gulf of Aden facility on Monday, bound for India, according to ship tracking data on Reuters.

Yemen LNG, run by France’s Total, was unavailable for immediate comment.

Egypt minister hints gas subsidy coupons by winter

Egypt Local Development Minister Ahmed Zaki Abdeen announced on Thursday the government is planning to cut the fuel subsidy bill towards the end of this year.

The government official said plans are in place to start printing the coupons for subsidised gas. Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi’s administration was eyeing mid-October for the introduction of the coupons, touted by many observers as the first stage in a broader reform of energy subsidies. The local development minister, without elaborating, said the coupons would be ready for the start of the winter season. Egypt’s winter generally begins in December.

Similar plans were under discussion before long-term dictator Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February 2011.

Morocco’s king plans Gulf tour – officials

Morocco’s King Mohammed plans to tour Gulf Arab countries in the next few weeks to discuss investment and bilateral relations, a senior Kuwaiti official said on Thursday.

King Mohammed will travel to countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which comprises Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, Jarallah said.

A Saudi official, who declined to be named under briefing rules, told Reuters that King Mohammed planned to visit Saudi Arabia after the haj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah which is expected to run from from October 24 to 29 this year.

Oil pushes over $115 on Syria tension

Brent crude oil reached its highest in a month on Thursday, lifted by escalating tension between Syria and Turkey, maintenance in the North Sea and a supply crunch in oil products.

November Brent crude rose $1.00 to $115.33 a barrel by 1346 GMT, after matching Wednesday’s high of $115.59. U.S. crude climbed 93 cents to $92.18.

Turkey scrambled fighters and briefly detained a Syrian passenger plane on Wednesday, suspecting it of carrying military equipment from Moscow, while Turkey’s military chief warned of a more forceful response if shelling continued to spill over the border.

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