Middle East Business News Review – 20 September

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

Dubai hotel occupancies drop during Ramadan; Jeddah, Manama, Amman benefit

Occupancies at hotels across Dubai dropped to 69.4% in July, plummeting by 11.1% from the same period in 2011, a new survey revealed on Thursday.

The Middle East Hotels Benchmark Survey, carried out by Ernst & Young, looked at the performance of leading hotels in the Middle East, including international brands across the 5 star and 4 star markets.

UAE’s Tawazun joins hands with SA’s Denel to manufacture weapons

The UAE’s state-owned investment firm Tawazun Holding said on Thursday it will develop, manufacture and integrate guided systems for conventional air munitions in a joint venture with Denel, South Africa’s biggest maker of defence equipment.

Analysts are seeing the move as a latest push to diversify its economy away from oil.

The UAE’s Air Force will be the first customer of Tawazun Dynamics, whose facility will be set up in an industrial park on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. Tawazun will own 51% of the project with Denel owning the remainder. No financial details of the weapons project were given but the announcement said that details of the specific product systems will be announced at the start of 2013.

Qatar railway tops GCC with projects worth $41.8bn

Qatar’s railway projects of an estimated $41.8 billion top all GCC countries and are set to create significant country growth, investment and thousands of job opportunities, a report said on Wednesday.

According to a report commissioned by The Big 5 2012, as much as $149 billion worth of rail projects are in the planning or construction stages over the next decade across the GCC with Qatar standing out as the most buoyant in this section, particularly with ongoing projects at various stages of development, many of which are scheduled to be ready in time to host the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The rail projects include national and inner-city railway systems, some of which will ultimately converge to form part of the ambitious GCC Rail project, which aims to unify the region and enhance connectivity and freight movement, the report said.

Iraq-Kurdistan seal oil deal

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced on Thursday it has struck a deal with Iraqi federal government that will ensure it receives 147,000 barrels of oil products per day, putting an end to a longstanding dispute over oil payments.

However, reports suggest the latest agreement will solve only few points of a broader feud between Baghdad and Erbil over oil exports, energy policy and territory which have become increasingly contentious topics.

Algeria telecom market size to hit $7 billion mark in 2018

The telecom market size of Algeria will be $7.36 billion in 2018 with the highest growth potential in broadband segment, a report revealed on Thursday.

According to the study conducted by Frost & Sullivan, mobile subscriber growth rates are projected to slow down even as mobile penetration rate was expected to reach 100% by the first quarter of 2012.

3G services are likely to be the next major trend in the Algerian market and are set to boost broadband penetration. However, an inefficient regulatory environment threatens the development of the telecom industry. Algeria has a 2.5% broadband penetration rate as of 2011. However, the demand for high speed data services is evident and is expected to increase, thus driving its growth.

Etisalat plans network boost after Axiata sale

Etisalat will use the proceeds from a $510m stake sale in Indonesia to boost networks in core markets, the Gulf’s number two telecoms operator said on Thursday.

The company, which has interests spanning Africa, Asia and the Middle East, sold a 9.1% stake in Indonesian mobile firm PT XL Axiata last week, retaining a 4.2% holding.

Etihad Lauds India Potential; Report Says Airline in Talks to Buy Jet Airways Stake

India’s aviation industry offers tremendous potential, with significant passenger movement on both domestic and international sectors, a spokesperson for Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways said Thursday.

The person added that the airline has “identified equity investments in other airlines,” but didn’t mention any Indian carriers in this context.

The comments come in response to a recent decision by the Indian government to allow foreign airlines to buy up to 49% of Indian carriers.

Dubai’s DSI Says Share of Iraq Oil & Gas Contract Worth About $180m

Dubai-based Drake & Scull International (DSI.DFM), or DSI, said its share of a pipeline installation contract at the Zubair oil field in southeastern Iraq is worth about $180 million.

DSI said it was awarded the $358 million contract along with SICIM SpA, an Italian company that builds and installs oil pipelines.

The project scope is engineering, procurement and construction, or EPC, services for oil and water flow lines, water trunklines, oil transfer pipelines, and connections to wellheads and degassing stations, DSI said in a statement posted on the Dubai Financial Market website.

Russia overtakes Saudi Arabia as top crude producer

Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest crude producer in July, just one month after the kingdom took the top spot for the first time in six years.

Production in Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s largest producer, fell to 9.8 million barrels a day (bpd) in July, down from 10.1 million bpd the previous month, according to data from the Joint Organization Data Initiative.

Russia pumped 9.92 million bpd in July, up by 20,000 barrels from June, said the website. Saudi Arabia production reached a 31-year high in March as the Gulf state moved to compensate for declining Iranian exports.

Tourism festivals bag SR 10.8 billion in revenue

Tourism festivals and events held in the summer of 2012 across the Kingdom earned revenues exceeding SR 10.8 billion. The events were attended by more than 10.6 million visitors including 4.2 million tourists.

The Tourist Information and Research Center (MAS), the statistical arm of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, released the new figures yesterday.

The MAS report was based on field surveys conducted by the center on over 20 festivals and events held in Riyadh, Abha, Jeddah, Taif, Dammam, Baha, Al-Ahsa, Hail, Madinah, Buraidah, Unaizah, Namas, Sakaka, Najran and Umlaj.

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