Middle East Business News Review – 19 July

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

MasterCard Index survey reveals UAE consumer confidence highest since 2009

Consumers in the UAE are very optimistic in their attitudes towards the economy, a survey conducted by an international credit card firm said.

According to the latest MasterCard Worldwide IndexTM of Consumer Confidence released on Thursday, consumers in the UAE scored 86.0 points, the highest level since 2009. They expressed their optimism about economy (89.1), employment (88.9), regular income (86.2), stock market (77.0) and quality of Life (88.6).

UAE orders 750 M-ATVs

The United Arab Emirates armed forces announced on Thursday it has awarded a contract to Oshkosh Corporation to provide 750 MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles (M-ATVs).

The Oshkosh, Wisconsin-based company is scheduled to deliver M-ATVs to the UAE between January and August 2013, pending standard regulatory requirements.

Jordan receives Thai help for artificial rains

A top Thai diplomat in Amman said his country is in talks with Jordan to provide technology and assistance for making artificial rain, Jordanian daily said in its report.

Piriya Khempon, Thai Ambassador to Jordan, said both countries will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) soon, paving the way for enhanced cooperation and technology transfer.

The ambassador added that a study conducted by a team of Thai experts who recently visited the Hashemite Kingdom found that Jordan’s weather is feasible for creating artificial rain.

Egypt auto industry cautiously optimistic about future

Egypt’s auto retail sector, one of the largest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, has been hit hard by dwindling sales due to the recent political instability and economic slowdown, but pent-up demand is shoring up recovery, the Oxford Business Group said in its report on Thursday.

Quoting local press sources, the report said that overall vehicle sales were up 4.4% year-on-year in May. According to the Automotive Marketing Information Council (AMIC), two-thirds of the 15,465 units sold were passenger cars. The council also said that pick up of commercial vehicles’s sales, especially that of trucks and buses, was the key growth driver. Bus sales were up 30.7% to 1358 units and truck sales rose 29.6% to 3340 units. The report said it will have a multiplier effect on the manufacturing sector, which is also coming out of the shadows.

China-Africa trade ties strong despite Arab Spring impact

A Chinese think tank has said Arab uprisings that started in January last year across North African countries has had a limited impact on China-Africa trade.

The annual report on African development released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in early July said China-Africa trade volume in 2011 reached a historic high of $166.3 billion, a year-on-year increase of more than 30%.

Countries like Sudan, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia also registered a rapid growth in trade with China. Libya was the only exception in the region, the report noted.

Etihad Airways cleared to buy more of Virgin Australia

Etihad Airways has welcomed the decision by the Australian Government to allow the airline to increase its equity stake in Virgin Australia Holdings to a maximum of 10%.

Etihad Airways currently has a 4.99 per cent stake in Virgin Australia, acquired earlier this year, and had applied to the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) to raise the level of its investment.

UAE oil minister says market well supplied

The UAE will continue to meet its customers’ crude demand and believes current prices are in a good range, the country’s oil minister told reporters on Thursday.

Gulf OPEC producers have shown no sign of trimming their output following the cartel’s meeting in mid-June when ministers agreed to adhere to a 30m bpd target.

Saudi Arabia world’s third laziest nation – study

Saudi Arabia’s population is the third most slothful in the world, new research has found, with 68.8% of adults failing to do enough physical exercise to keep themselves healthy.

Only in Malta and Swaziland do adults exert themselves less than Saudi Arabia, and women in the Gulf state are the world’s least inactive females, according to data published in the Lancet medical journal.

Kuwait and the UAE also rank in the top ten with 64.5% and 62.5% of adults respectively not meeting the recommended level of activity.

Gulf airlines eye Saudi skies as Riyadh drops restrictions

Saudi Arabia’s push toward an open skies policy is attracting the interest of major airlines in the Gulf and raising hopes that poor service and overbooked flights that have characterized air travel across the country could soon be a thing of the past.

More than 54 million passengers passed through Saudi Arabia’s 27 airports last year, according to data from the General Authority for Civil Aviation, rising 13.6 percent from 2010.

But the kingdom, the biggest Arab economy and the largest country in the Gulf geographically, still has one of the smallest airline networks in the region relative to its size.

Oil hits seven-week highs on Middle East tensions

World oil prices hit seven-week peaks on Thursday as traders fretted over the impact of simmering geopolitical tensions in the crude-rich Middle East.

In early morning deals, Brent North Sea oil for delivery in September surged to $106.49 a barrel and New York’s light sweet crude for August struck $90.85 — the highest levels since May 30.

Brent later stood at $106.36, up $1.20 from Wednesday’s closing level, while New York crude was 90 cents higher at $90.77.

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