Middle East Business News Review – 12 July

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Middle East Business News Review – A look at today’s important financial news and business updates from the Gulf, Levant and North Africa:

Turkish hotel chain unveils Middle East, including UAE, expansion plans 

Turkish luxury hotel chain Rixos unveiled plans to open five new hotels in the Middle East and North Africa region as part of its global expansion strategy.

The new properties will be opening in Azerbaijan, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Turkey and the UAE, bringing the total number of Rixos hotels to 21.

The Turkish chain will be opening a large-scale, first all-inclusive hotel in the UAE, consisting of 627-rooms at Ras Al-Khaimah, she revealed.

Qatar purchases Italian fashion house Valentino

The Qatari royal family has bought iconic Italian fashion house Valentino for €700 million ($857.46 million), snapping one of the most prominent purchases it has made so far.

Valentino said Mayhoola for Investments SPC, which is backed by a leading Qatari investor, had acquired full ownership of Valentino Fashion Group SpA from London-based private equity fund Permira and Italian textile entrepreneurs Marzotto.

IEA report warns OPEC 2013 capacity growth 85% lower than estimated

The International Energy Agency said on Thursday OPEC’s net crude oil production capacity is expected to be 85% lower than the agency’s 2011 estimates, rising by 245,000 barrels a day next year to 35.03 million barrels a day.

The Paris-based IEA noted in its monthly Oil Market Report that growth will be lower due to downward revisions to output capacity in Iran, Qatar and Algeria. According to the agency’s December 2011 report, Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would be able to pump 36.39 million barrels a day in 2013.

Sudan opens Africa’s largest sugar plant, dismisses ‘Arab Spring

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday inaugurated ‘Africa’s largest sugar refinery’ in the White Nile state, the country’s biggest industrial development for many years.

The government insisted the project will help counter an economic crisis that is fuelling dissent in the country. ”Sudan will be one of the more significant sugar-exporting countries in the Arab and African region,” the official SUNA news agency quoted the Sudanese president as saying.

President Omar al-Bashir ridiculed the possibility of an Arab Spring taking place in Sudan, saying “there is only scorching heat to grill the country’s enemies.”

US drought could translate into global food crisis, impact MENA region

The worst US drought in a quarter of a century is rallying world commodity markets, causing key grain prices soar and create global food crisis witnessed around four years ago when vulnerable parts of the globe faced unprecedented inflation.

Foregoing past lapses, many countries this time around are seeking to protect their populations from hunger, ramping up imports, touting healthy stock levels and hoping other sources will come through and bring prices down, a Reuters report said, warning their hopes may be short-lived if they all return to market at once.

Corn prices have gone up around 40% due to dry US weather, followed by soybeans and wheat.

Saudi Arabia to send women to Olympics

Saudi Arabia is to send female athletes to the Olympics for the first time, with a judoka and an 800m runner representing the kingdom in London, the IOC confirmed.

Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, who will compete in the 78-kg category in judo, and teenager Sarah Attar will be the first Saudi women ever to take part after talks between the IOC and the country.

Qatar Airways not interested in IAG stake – CEO

Qatar Airways is not interested in acquiring a 12 percent stake in International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, its CEO has said.

Akbar Al Baker told Aviation Week the Doha-based airline is “too busy” with its own expansion to purchase a stake in the firm, but said it remained interested in acquiring a share in an Indian carrier.

Airbus says MEA signs preliminary plane order

Middle East Airlines-Air Liban, the flag carrier of Lebanon, has signed a memorandum of understanding for five A320neo and five A321neo aircraft plus eight options, Airbus said in a statement on Thursday.

MEA will announce its engine choice at a later date, Airbus added.

The 10 aircraft would be worth $1.05 billion at list prices.

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