Middle East Business News Review – 11 September

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Photo – Vahid Salemi/AP

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

Economy to grow faster than IMF forecast: UAE Central Bank

The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates said the federation’s economy has shown “sustained resilience” and is likely to grow faster than the International Monetary Fund forecast for this year.

The apex bank said in its first “financial stability review” that the UAE’s economy, apart from oil receipts, may grow by up to 4%. The IMF had expected non-oil economic growth of 3.5% this year. The growth is attributed to improved growth in the commercial hub Dubai and the capital Abu Dhabi, and increased public spending in the less well-off northern emirates.

The United Arab Emirates central bank also said that banks operating in the country are well-equipped to deal with major stress scenarios and contingencies. It also added that inflation would remain moderate in line with the IMF’s estimate of 1.5% for the year.

Iran, Turkey reach agreement to transfer Turkmen gas to Europe

Iran and Turkey have agreed to transfer natural gas from Turkmenistan to Europe, a top Iranian Gas Company’s official said on Tuesday.

The semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Javad Owji, the National Iranian Gas Company’s managing director, as saying that Turkmenistan will transit its gas via Iran to Turkey which will be exported to Europe.

Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi held talks with Turkish Development Minister Cevdet Y?lmaz in Tehran last week in which they discussed increasing exports of Iranian gas to Turkey.

Iran drops oil prices to match Saudi levels

Iran has brought down its oil prices for Asian customers to match Saudi Arabian grades level for next month, the lowest level its light grade have seen in more than five years.

National Iranian Oil Company set Iran Light for October at a premium of 10 cents a barrel down from 19 cents in September and the smallest spread since June 2007. Iran Heavy will be priced at a 15 cent discount to Saudi’s Arab Medium, down from a 9 cent discount. Forozan will be a 10 cent premium to the medium grade, falling from 12 cents, a Bloomberg report said.

Palestinian PM withdraws fuel price, VAT hike after heavy protests

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Tuesday announced the withdrawal of hike in fuel prices and VAT after more than a week of protests across the West Bank over the spiralling cost of living.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad also announced the reduction of the value added tax to 15%, and the reduction of the prices of fuel such as; Diesel, gas, cooking gas starting, in the wake of the economic protests that have swept the West Bank.

The subsidies will be funded with the money that Fayyad will cut from the salaries of government ministers and other top officials.

Solar energy to fulfil 12% of Morocco needs by 2020

Morocco on Tuesday expressed its confidence of becoming a world-class solar energy producer by finding the investment needed to build vast solar power plants in its southern desert regions.

“Our target is that in 2020, 42% of our power supply will come from renewable energy, including 14% from solar,” Deputy Energy Minister Mohammed Zniber told AFP on the sidelines of a conference in Marrakesh. “At the moment we have only one solar installation, in the east of Morocco, at Ain Beni Mathar, with an installed capacity of 20 megawatts.”

But Zniber said the country expects to build five new solar plants over the next eight years, with a combined production capacity of 2,000 megawatts and at an estimated cost of less than $9 billion.

UAE’s Masdar eyes Saudi investments

Abu Dhabi government-owned green energy firm Masdar is looking into investing in Saudi Arabia, chief executive Sultan Al Jaber said on Tuesday.

“We are proactively seeking partnerships in Saudi,” Jaber told reporters, declining to give any details about the kind of project, or the investment capital under consideration.

“I can’t tell how much now because it depends on the market and the regulatory framework but we are seriously and closely looking at the Saudi market,” he said.

Dubai firm plans $461m Indian health investment

DM Healthcare, a Dubai-based company, on Tuesday announced an investment of over Rs2,150 crore ($461m) to provide 3,100 hospital beds in Kerala through eight different projects.

The projects are in various stages of completion in Ernakulam, Kozhikode, Palakkad and Kannur districts, the company said in a statement.

Most of the projects are expected to be operational in the next five years, it added.

Jordan’s Arab Bank eyes Libya return – chairman

Arab Bank, Jordan’s largest lender, is aiming to regain control of a banking unit it owns in Libya, months after it was forced to exit the country during violence which led to the overthrowing of former Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

“As a result of the events which took place in Libya, we have not been involved in the management of Al Wahda bank since early 2011,” Arab Bank chairman Sabih Al Masri told the Bloomberg news agency. “We hope to be in a position to discuss with the new authorities in Libya how we might reengage our presence in the country.”

Amman-based Arab Bank has a 19% stake in Al Wahda, which has around 70 branches across Libya.

Egypt’s GASC buys 235,000 T Ukrainian, Russian, French wheat

Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, has bought 235,000 tonnes of Ukrainian, Russian and French wheat for Nov 11-20 shipment on a free on board bases, the main government wheat buyer said on Tuesday.

It was GASC’s sixth international wheat purchase since the July 1 start of the 2012/2013 fiscal year in what traders say are moves to secure supplies in case drought-hit Russia imposes any export restrictions.

GASC made an unusually large purchase – 475,000 tonnes – at a single tender last week, mostly from Russia, whose government has said it would not restrict exports, even if its exportable surplus is exhausted. Many traders believe some sort of export curbs are likely beginning as early as October or November.

Algeria H1 energy exports down 2.29%: Central Bank

OPEC member Algeria’s oil and gas exports fell by 2.29 percent in the first six months of 2012, the country’s central bank said in a report on its website.

The report provided no figures and did not give reasons for the decline. The government had projected a 2.5 percent increase in energy exports for the full year. Algeria usually produces about 1.2 million barrels per day of crude oil.

However, the value of hydrocarbon exports rose by 4.05 percent to $37.5 billion in the first half of 2012 due to higher world oil prices in the second quarter, according to the report. Oil and gas account for about 97% of Algeria’s total exports.

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