Middle East Business News Review – 26 August

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Photo – Vahid Salemi/AP

UAE non-oil foreign trade soars in 2011

The non-oil foreign trade sector in United Arab Emirates hit AED1.3 trillion ($350bn) in 2011 compared to AED1.1 trillion ($300bn) in previous year, registering an increase of AED200 billion ($54.54bn) with a growth rate of 18.2%, a report said on Sunday.

The total of UAE’s non-oil foreign trade increased to AED927.7 billion ($252.57bn) during the year, while the value of free zones’ trade increased to AED367.7 billion ($100.11bn), of which AED212.5 billion ($57.85bn) was value of the imports and AED145.2 billion ($38.80bn) was value of the exports and re-exports, according to the initial statistical reports released by the Federal Customs Authority (FCA).

Saudi hotels reap record Ramadan revenues

Hotels in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah posted record revenues in July during the month of Ramadan, latest industry figures show.

According to STR Global, hotels in Makkah reported the biggest increase in performance with revenue per available room (RevPAR) soaring more than 90% compared to July 2011.

“Ramadan, which took place 20 July to 19 August, impacted the results across the Middle East”, said Elizabeth Randall Winkle, managing director of STR Global. She added that Ramadan took place during August last year during which the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah reported RevPAR increases of 90.9% and 33%, respectively.”

Establishment of Oil Bank on the cards – Iran

A senior Iranian economic official announced on Sunday Tehran is seeking to establish an oil bank to increase investments in Iran’s energy sector.

“The bank’s initial funding capital stands at $300m but it will certainly increase to $800m very rapidly because the bank will be widely welcomed by private contractors and companies in the oil sector,” a member of the oil bank’s founding board told semi-official Fars News Agency.

“Our goal is investment in the energy sector but the priority of investments will be the oil sector since this sector needs investment and it will make activities in Rial and foreign currencies,” the Iranian official said while elaborating on the goals of the establishment of an Oil Bank in Iran.

Seek loans and reform – S&P to Egypt

Standard and Poor’s warned Egypt on Thursday that much-needed support from international lenders could weaken Egyptian institutions if authorities are unable to effectively address ongoing economic, fiscal and external challenges.

The international ratings agency also said it was keeping Egypt’s foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings at ‘B/B’ because of the “negative outlook” in light of social and political tensions.

The agency also removed the ratings from CreditWatch in an apparent approval for the working relationship between the newly elected Morsi, and the military. IMF director general Christine Lagarde, who received the $4.8 billion loan request during a visit to Cairo this week, said the lender “will accompany Egypt” as it undertakes its challenging journey of reform.

Dubai ruler wins World Endurance Championship

The ruler of Dubai won the Longines FEI World Endurance Championship, a 160km equestrian endurance race, at Britain’s Euston Park on Saturday.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, racing on Madji du Pont, beat 152 riders from 38 countries to cross the finish line in seven hours.

The UAE team, consisting of Sheikh Mohammed, Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum and Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, also won the team competition, completing two hours ahead of France.

UAE’s Dodsal said to seal $450m gas deals

The UAE’s Dodsal Group has won an estimated $450m contract to build two pipelines from a gas processing plant south west of Abu Dhabi to industrial users to the north east of the capital, two sources said on Sunday.

The 297km pipeline will supply gas to Emirates Aluminium (EMAL) and other industries in Taweelah, a new industrial hub between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Saudi Arabia plans metro system in Jeddah

Saudi Arabia is preparing plans to build a metro system in its second largest city Jeddah, a project that would cost around SAR35bn (US$9.3bn), a deputy mayor of the city said on Sunday.

The metro system, the third one planned in the kingdom, would be 108 km long. It would have three lines and 46 stations, according to initial studies, said Ibrahim Kutubkhana, deputy mayor for projects and construction.

Yemen’s Aden port to cancel DP World deal: official

The port authority in the Yemeni city of Aden has begun contacts with Dubai government-owned port operator DP World on cancelling a contract to manage Aden port, a senior Yemeni transport ministry official said on Sunday.

Yemen, which has been mired in political strife during the Arab uprisings over the past year, signed a contract with DP World in 2008 to develop and run the port, whose strategic location at the mouth of the Red Sea once made it a vital stop for ships bound for the Suez Canal. The agreement stipulates $220 million of investment to develop the port.

Qatar to invest $4bn in Vietnam projects

Qatar is planning to invest up to US$4bn in projects in Vietnam, including setting up of a labour centre to train workers before they travel to new jobs in the Gulf, a senior diplomat told reporters.

The agreements were signed as part of celebrations to mark the 67th Vietnamese National Day. Phan estimated the total cost of such projects would be around $4bn, the report added.

Qatar could up Xstrata stake to 25% – report

Qatar Holding may increase its stake in Xstrata to 25 percent if the miner’s planned merged with Glencore collapses, The Telegraph reported citing unnamed sources.

The Doha-based investment vehicle, which on Friday increased its holding in the takeover target to over 12 percent, is said to have given its full backing should shareholders block the tie-up with Glencore, which would send the miner’s share price plummeting, the newspaper said.

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