Middle East Business News Review – A look at today’s important financial news and business updates from the Gulf, Levant and North Africa regions of the Middle East:
Dubai posted a 6.6% growth during the first quarter of 2012 in its non-oil foreign trade, amounting to over AED 298.1 billion ($81.85bn), compared to AED 279.7 billion ($76.14bn) during the first quarter of last year, statistics released by Dubai Customs revealed.
Dubai Custom’s top official said the growth of emirate’s trade flow with countries around the world can be widely attributed to the implementation of several economic, tourism and construction projects, which also include the development of modern infrastructure like customs facilities at ports and airports and the provision of more advanced services.
New business registrations up 14% in Dubai
Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED) announced an increase of 14% in the number of licenses issued compared to the same period last year. A total of 1,542 licenses were issued by DED until May this year.
According to DED, highest number of licenses were issued for tourism sector (57%) followed by the professional (19%) and commercial (13%) sectors. The total number of business registration and licensing transactions also had increased 22% to reach 54,286, compared to 44,492 in May 2011.
To further enhance its business-friendly image, Dubai will be implementing a new license initiative – a 120 days hassle free license scheme – by the end of 2012. The licence will allow anyone to start a business in Dubai immediately and complete the rest of the licensing requirements, such as approvals from other government authorities concerned, within the next 120 days.
Despite an uncertain outlook, the world’s richest sovereign wealth fund believed the global economy offered opportunities, the government-run authority’s managing director said in a report released Monday. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the world’s biggest sovereign wealth funds, said its long-term returns in 2011 dropped as global equity markets fell.
“Despite facing undoubted short-term risks, the global economy offers many exciting and important opportunities. Economic growth each year is advancing millions of people out of poverty and into more active participation in the global economy,” Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Managing Director ADIA, said while adding that despite facing many twists and turns, the global economy continued its recovery last year.
Qatar General Secretariat for Development Planning (GSDP) said on Monday it expected the country’s economic growth to slow to 4.5% in 2013 from a projected 6.2% this year, due to looming risks in the global economy, particularly in the euro zone.
The commission also forecasted inflation rate to hover between 2-3% in 2012 and 2013.
Private economists believe the growth forecast is slightly lower than the general consensus due to changing dynamics of the global economy. Analysts polled by Reuters in March expected real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of the world’s top liquefied natural gas exporter to decelerate to 5% in 2013 from 6.6% this year and 14% in 2011.
Iraq’s media regulatory body has ordered the closure of 44 media outlets in the country, including the BBC and Voice of America. Sources with knowledge of the order said on Sunday the dispute escalated over broadcast licences.
US-funded Radio Sawa and privately-owned local TV channels like Sharqiya and Baghdadia are also on the suspension list.
A senior source at the Communications and Media Commission (CMC), the body responsible for the order, denied suggestions the move had anything to do with the way the outlets reported on sectarian conflict in the country.
Zawya, one of Middle East’s leading news and information service provider, has been bought out by Thomson Reuters Corporation, a global news wire service and information provider.
Zawya was privately held by the Dubai-based investment group Saffar holdings.
Financial terms of the transaction are yet to be disclosed. Zawya’s sale has been estimated at somewhere in the range of $40 million, down from $80 million when it was almost purchased in 2008, just before the global financial crisis.
Morocco’s minister of Mines, Energy, Water and Environment, Fouad Douri, announced the government has set the target of seeking 25% of the country’s energy needs from renewable resources like wind and sun by 2020, Brazil-Arab News Agency reported. The North African nation updated its ambitious target from 15% which was set around three years ago.
Rabat has kick started at least five new projects for wind farms which would produce 850 megawatts of energy.
Bahrain’s Gulf Air announced on Monday that it was insourcing the responsibility for managing its fleet of aircraft as part of its effort to cut costs.
The airline said the move was a major milestone in its history and underscored the airline’s engineering expertise and technical capabilities. It added in a statement that the decision to undertake base-maintenance of its entire fleet completely in-house, would bring cost-savings and operational benefits for the airline.
Saudi Arabia is to permit female athletes to take part in the London 2012 Olympics, the first time the conservative Gulf kingdom has allowed women to compete in the tournament.
In a statement posted on the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in London’s website, the Saudi Olympic Committee said it will “oversee participation of women athletes who can qualify”.
Kuwait’s cabinet submitted its resignation to the Gulf state’s ruler on Monday in a move some parliamentarians believe could be a first step out of the latest crisis that has stalled legislation and blocked reforms in the major oil producer.
The government’s resignation came days after a top court annulled a February parliamentary election that gave the Islamist-led opposition a majority, ruling that a previous more government-friendly assembly should replace it instead.