Middle East Business News Review – 17 October

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

UAE tops Arab capital outflow; Saudi leads regional FDI

The UAE remained in the top position as the largest Arab capital exporter, investing nearly $57.8 billion in global markets, while receiving a total of $85.5 billion in shape of foreign direct investment (FDI) at the end of last year, the Kuwait-based Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation (IAIGC) report showed on Wednesday.

It also accounted for 32% of the total outflow into the world markets. According to UN figures, only developed countries were ahead of the UAE.

According to the statistics, Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy and world’s largest oil supplier, remained the FDI biggest recipient attracting around $185.8 billion with an FDI outflow of $29.9 billion.

Etihad plans codeshare with Garuda – source

Abu Dhabi flag carrier Etihad Airways will announce a codeshare agreement with Indonesian airline Garuda, under which the two airlines will share flights, a source familiar with deal said on Wednesday.

The source declined to be named before the announcement and an Etihad spokesman said he could not comment.

Etihad had said in a brief emailed statement that it would sign a partnership agreement with Garuda on Thursday, but it gave no details of the deal.

Gulf airlines’ joining alliances to benefit aviation industry, consumers

Fast-growing Gulf airlines have begun taking a more cooperative approach, seeking alliances rather than direct confrontation with big carriers in the rest of the world, a report said on Wednesday.

Many airline observers believe the shift appears to be in response to tough market conditions and a realisation that the Gulf airlines cannot sustain their breakneck expansion indefinitely. It is expected that many consumers will benefit from the Gulf airlines’ drive by receiving more integrated flight schedules and lower fares in some cases.

Qatar Airways last week became the first major Gulf airline to announce plans to join the oneworld alliance. Members of the alliance, which include American Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific, cooperate in areas such as route networks, frequent flyer schemes and parts procurement.

Iran gas output to exceed Qatari production by 2016 – report

Iran announced on Tuesday it has plans in place to increase gas production from the giant offshore South Pars field to 800 million cubic meters a day by 2016, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The development will be higher than Qatar’s output of 550 million-560 million cu m/d from the shared field, the report added. Iran has the second biggest natural gas reserves after Russia. Development on the Iranian side of the shared gas field is far behind Qatari side due to US-led sanctions.

Qatar is the world’s largest LNG exporter with current capacity to produce 77 million mt/year after rapid development of the North Field, which contains 900 Tcf of natural gas reserves.

Qatar to rebuild besieged Gaza Strip

Qatar announced on Wednesday it will spend $254m on rebuilding the besieged Palestinian enclave after seeking cooperation from Israel and Egypt. It will be the biggest reconstruction drive for the Palestinian enclave since it was bombed by the Israeli military in early 2009.

The Qatari ambassador Mohammed al-Amadi Israel and Egypt will allow the transportation of building materials and heavy machinery to Gaza, and assured that work would begin within three months. The first project will be construction of a highway that will run the length of the Mediterranean coastal strip.

Gaza is under a crippling siege imposed by Israel which is hurting the lives of its 1.6 million people, two-thirds of whom are unemployed.

Saudi Non-Oil Exports Fall 22.7% on Yr to SAR10.8 Billion in August

Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports fell to the lowest level in 12 months reaching 10.8 billion Saudi riyals ($2.9 billion) in August, down 22.7% from SAR13.9 billion ($3.7 billion) in the year earlier, data from the Central Department of Statistics and Information, or CDSI, showed.

Exports of plastic products ranked first, accounting for 40.31% of total non-oil exports, while petrochemical products were the second largest constituent accounting for 28.78%, followed by foodstuffs which accounted for 8.39%, the data showed.

The United Arab Emirates was the top importer of the kingdom’s non-oil goods in August, accounting for 11.62% of the total, followed by China accounting for 8.63% and Singapore accounting for 8.33%.

IDB, World Bank join hands to promote Islamic finance

Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has entered into a three-year agreement with the World Bank to share their expertise in Islamic banking and finance and study their impact on global economy.

Under the agreement, both the banks will extend cooperation and critically study issues such as financial stability and best practices in the industry.

Karim Allaoui, senior officer at the IDB, said that people are looking for alternatives with an ethical angle, however, Islamic finance is yet to gain popularity. There has not been much documentation or research about different aspects and challenges that one would otherwise confront in conventional finance. With the new agreement, Islamic finance will be introduced in more countries.

Report recognises Arab women as ‘drivers of growth’

The social status of women in the UAE is improving with percentage of women in workforce hitting 12%, while Egypt has around 34%, a report released on Tuesday said. These figures indicate the role of women in economic development.

Booz & Company, a management consultancy firm, developed the Third Billion Index, which ranks 128 countries based on how they empower women as economic agents. The Index is a complex database of indicators women’s economic and social status and their potential for economic participation. Data is compiled by the World Economic Forum or the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Three countries from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are also featured in the Third Billion Index – Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In terms of the categories of this report, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are all “at the starting gate”.

Saudi theme park firm to expand into Egypt – report

Al Hokair Group, a Saudi entertainment company that operates more than 70 amusement parks in the kingdom, is seeking funds to expand into Egypt, it was reported.

The Riyadh-based firm, which also operates over 30 restaurants and hotels, is looking for investment to develop commercial projects in Cairo and Alexandria, the al-Madina newspaper reported. The report also said Al Hokair was looking to raise a total investment of around US$570m to fund the projects.

Al Hokair Group employs more than 6,000 employees across the kingdom and operates 680 rides, over 2,370 video games and around 700 bumper cars within its 70 parks.

Tunisian journalists go on strike to protest Islamist control

Tunisian journalists went on strike on Wednesday, piling pressure on the Islamist government they accuse of restricting freedom of speech after a revolt toppled the country’s autocratic leader last year.

Tunisia’s once-staid media has enjoyed a new lease of life since the removal of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, but activists say the government, led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, is now seeking to impose new controls.

The strike, which also involved staff at state-run televisions and news agency TAP, was called by the 1,200-member journalists’ union and is the first ever staged in Tunisia.

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