Middle East Business News Review – 17 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:

FIFA names investigators to probe Qatar World Cup

FIFA named independent ethics investigators to look into allegations of wrongdoing including the selection of World Cup hosts, the association chief announced on Tuesday.

former US attorney Michael J. Garcia has been named as head investigator for its ethics committee and German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert to lead the adjudicatory branch by the football governing body. FIFA insisted moves are part of a reform programme that started with corruption claims linked to the selection of Russia and Qatar as hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and President Sepp Blatter’s re-election last year.

US Senate report implicates HSBC involvement in financial crimes

A scathing US Senate report revealed on Tuesday that a ’pervasively polluted’ culture at HSBC Holdings Plc allowed ‘dodgy clients’ from the world’s most dangerous and secretive corners including Iran, Mexico, the Cayman Islands, Saudi Arabia and Syria, to route shadowy funds.

The British bank, which also calls itself the world’s local bank, has been in the spotlight for nearly a decade due to some of its banking activities. The US Senate probe revealed deep seated problems that engulf both the bank and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a top US bank regulator, accused by the report of failing to properly monitor HSBC.

Ben Ali permits Swiss authorities to return ‘alleged’ hidden assets to Tunisia

The Tunisian government is welcome to any of its deposed dictator’s assets it can find hidden in Swiss bank, Ben Ali’s Beirut-based lawyer said as he announced his client’s permission to Swiss authorities to transfer alleged assets to his home country.

In response to accusations that his client Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, ruler of Tunisia for 23 years, had hidden money away in Swiss accounts, Akram Azoury said he had authorised the Swiss government on Ben Ali’s behalf to turn over all such funds to the Tunisians.

Egypt expects big rise in 2012 tourist numbers

Egyptian tourism minister said on Tuesday he expected more than 12 million tourists to arrive in the country by the end of 2012, a 23% rise over the previous year, denying suggestions that the election of a new Islamist president would stifle the industry.

Egypt has been hit by a decline in tourist numbers and many investors are deserting the country in the wake of the popular uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak 17 months ago.

Many tourism observers fear imposing of Islamic strictures on the sector would make the recovery slow if President Mohamed Mursi imposes a ban on skimpy swim wear and alcohol that are part of a beach holiday for many foreign tourists.

China’s economic growth slows; Oil price dips

Oil prices tumbled as Chinese demand hit new lows due to weak economic conditions.

“At present, our country’s economic growth rate remains within the target range set earlier this year and we are seeing the effectiveness of stabilisation policies,” Premier Wen Jiabao said in his speech. He also added that difficulties may persist for a while.

Futures dipped as much as 0.6% in New York for the first time in four days. Abu Dhabi started exporting its first crude order through a pipeline that bypasses the Strait of Hormuz amid threats made by Iran to close the strategic passageway from where about one fifth of the world’s oil cargo passes.

Over 45m Arabs ‘like’ Facebook; users soar by 50%

The number of Facebook users in the Arab world rose 50 percent year-on-year to 45.2m at the end of June 2012, while the number of Twitter users has risen to 2m, according to the findings of a study released on Tuesday.

Since June 2010, the number of Facebook users has tripled in the Arab World, according to the ‘Fourth Arab Social Media Report’, produced by the Dubai School of Government’s Governance and Innovation Programme.

While the Twitter community rose to 2m, the number of Arabs using LinkedIn has now hit more than 4m, the report added.

Kuwait’s URC inks deal to build Oman cinema

Kuwait’s United Real Estate Company (URC) has announced that it has signed an agreement to build a cinema in a shopping mall in Oman.

The deal with City Cinema will see the fit out and management of a cinema complex within Salalah Gardens Mall in Salalah, URC’s latest flagship project in Oman.

Qatar Airways world’s best airline

Qatar Airways once again participated in the Annual Skytrax World Airline Awards, receiving three awards, including Best Airline in the World for the second consecutive year. The Doha-based airline also won Best Airline in the Middle East for the seventh consecutive year and Best Airline Staff Service in the Middle East.

The awards were announced at a ceremony attended by key people from the aviation industry at the Farnborough Air Show, which takes place this week in the UK outside of London. The Skytrax awards are conferred based on research of passengers worldwide, over 18 million travelers on business or leisure in over 100 countries.

Sharjah sees 50% more international cruise passengers

As international interest in Sharjah grows, the emirate’s East Coast is set to see nearly a 50 per cent increase in the arrivals of international luxury cruise passengers in the coming 2012-13 season.

This year, the Khor Fakkan Port will host more than 40 international luxury cruiseliners with approximately 130,000 passengers, said Mohamed Ali Al Noman, chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, or SCTDA .

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