Middle East Business News Review – 27 August

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Photo – Vahid Salemi/AP

Fajr Capital buys Dubai International Capital’s $300m MENA infrastructure fund stake

Dubai International Capital (DIC), the private equity arm of Dubai Holding has sold its stake in a $300 million Middle East North Africa infrastructure fund to Islamic investment firm Fajr Capital, it was announced on Monday.

Fajr is backed by prominent investors such as Abu Dhabi Investment Council and Malaysia’s state investor Khazanah Nasional Berhad. In its statement, the company said it will manage the fund along with its two other partners HSBC Holdings and Waha Capital.

All the three partners will have equal ownership stake in the fund post the deal, one source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Qatar royals boost sales at premier French auction

A Qatar royal family member has buoyed this year’s premier French auction which was otherwise a very unexciting affair, an Australian newspaper reported on Monday.

Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani emerged as the leading buyer over four selling days at the 2012 Deauville, through the French-based bloodstock agency Mandore International, spending a whopping €3.5 million ($4,212,000) for 21 yearlings.

The Australian newspaper said the Qatari royal’s buys were highlighted by the €1.2 million sale topper, a colt by former European champion racehorse Sea The Stars. The paper added that Sheikh Joaan ended his visit with 10 of his 21 buys secured at less than €100,000.

US weapons sales triple to hit record high amid Middle East unrest

Weapons sales by the United States tripled in 2011 to a record high, driven by arms sales to its allied Gulf states, a new Congressional study said on Monday.

Overseas weapons sales by the US totalled $66.3 billion last year, or nearly 78% of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals.

The American weapons sales total was an ”extraordinary increase” over the $21.4 billion in deals for 2010, the study found, and was the largest single-year sales total in the history of US arms exports. The previous high was in fiscal year 2009, when American weapons sales overseas totalled nearly $31 billion.

$54m needed to help Syrian refugees in Jordan – UNHCR

The United Nations on Monday said it needed $54 million to help meet the growing needs of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan, particularly children who are suffering the most from the crisis.

The UN Children’s Fund UNICEF announced that funds are “urgently needed to meet the emergency health, protection, and water and sanitation needs of the growing numbers of Syrian refugee children and their families arriving in Jordan.”

Jordan is hosting around 200,000 Syrian refugees – 17,000 are sheltered at the UN-run Zaatari refugee camp in the north and half of them are children.

Just 17% Turks believe Ankara will join EU

The number of Turks who believe the country will acquire European Union membership has dropped sharply in comparison to last year, a recent poll suggested.

According to a poll conducted by the German-Turkish Foundation for Education and Scientific Research (TAVAK), the percentage of people of who believe that Turkey can become an EU member witnessed a decline from 34.8 % to 17 % during the last 12 months, the Daily Zaman reported.

The poll was conducted among 1,110 persons between 20-30 June 20 in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya, Kayseri, Gaziantep, Artvin and Trabzon. Merely 17% of Turks said ‘Yes’ when asked whether Turkey would become an EU member or not while 78% gave a negative answer. Again, on being questioned whether Turkey might finally become a member after a decade’s time, 15% gave a nod while 76% were against it.

Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade hits $163bn for H1

Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade climbed to a record AED602bn ($163.9bn) during the first half of 2012, a a 12 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

Dubai’s trade totalled AED537bn during H1 2011, according to the latest statistics from Dubai Customs.

Ahmed Butti Ahmed, executive chairman of Ports, Custom and Free Zone Corporation, and Dubai Customs director general, said Dubai’s imports grew by 11.5 percent, up to AED357bn. He added that the value of exports and re-exports hit AED245bn, up 13 percent over same period last year.

Bahrain’s Gulf Air sees 6% rise in revenues

Gulf Air, the national carrier of Bahrain, on Monday said revenues for the first half of 2012 rose six percent compared to the same period last year.

The airline, which has suffered losses in the wake of political unrest in the tiny Gulf kingdom, also said passenger numbers increased by 13% for January to June while seat load factors reached 77%, up 5% on H1 2011. The carrier has also achieved savings of BD6.8m between January and May as part of its plan to cut costs.

Irish gov’t says ‘no talks’ with Etihad on stake sale

A senior Irish Government official has said no talks have been held with Etihad Airways over the possible sale of the state’s 25 percent stake in Aer Lingus.

Leo Varadkar, Minister for Transport, said in comments published by the Irish Times: “We haven’t had any negotiations with Etihad on the disposal of the Government’s stake. “I have met with the CEO of Etihad but on a number of issues, not specifically that, and that was some months ago.”

Earlier this month Etihad announced it was interested in buying Ryanair’s almost 30 percent stake in Aer Lingus.

Gaza not “liveable” by 2020 barring urgent action – UN

Gaza will no longer be “liveable” by 2020 unless urgent action is taken to improve water supply, power, health, and schooling, the United Nations’ most comprehensive report on the Palestinian enclave said on Monday.

“Action needs to be taken now if Gaza is to be a liveable place in 2020 and it is already difficult now,” U.N. humanitarian coordinator Maxwell Gaylard told journalists when the report was released on Monday. Five years into an Israeli blockade supported by Egypt, and living under one-party rule, Gaza’s population of 1.6 million is set to rise by 500,000 over the next eight years, say the authors of the U.N.’s most wide-ranging report on the territory.

Gaza has one the youngest populations in the world, with 51% of people under the age of 18.

The gap between oil state GDP and the rest of the Arab world widens

The UAE’s real economy expanded by around 3.2 per cent in 2011 mainly because of higher oil prices and production and is projected to pick up by about 3.5% in 2012, according to a UN group.

The other members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are also expected to record strong GDP performance through 2012 in contrast with other Arab nations which have been hit by political unrest, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (Escwa) said in a report.

It showed real GDP growth in the GCC increased to 5.7% in 2011 from 4.4% in 2010 and is projected at 4.6% in 2012.

In the other Arab countries, mainly oil importers, real GDP slowed down from 5.7% in 2010 to 2.3% in 2011 and could rebound to 2.6% this year. Excluding Iraq, which is recording strong performance, the combined growth in the non-GCC countries stood at 0.7% in 2011 and is projected at around 0.8% in 2012, said Escwa which groups most Arab nations.

The report showed growth in the Escwa region is estimated to have increased from 4.7% in 2010 to 4.8% in 2011.

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