Middle East Business News Review – 27 September

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

Dubai state firm to take over troubled Zabeel – report

A report published by Reuters said on Thursday state-owned property firm Dubai Real Estate Corp (DREC) has taken over management of troubled Zabeel Investments, which is owned by the crown prince of Dubai.

Zabeel, which has hospitality, property and private equity assets, owes approximately 6 billion dirhams ($1.6 billion) to mostly local banks.

In January, several sources involved in the process told Reuters that talks with banks to restructure Zabeel’s debt had ground to a halt, with multiple loans in limbo and few assets available for sale, leaving banks facing the possibility of steep losses on their loans.

Jordan modernising agricultural sector to boost earnings

Jordan is in a strong position to leverage its competitive advantages as an agricultural producer, and the agricultural sector is becoming more modernised and export-oriented, a report published said on Thursday.

According to findings released by Oxford Business Group, the country is placing an emphasis on increasing output and quality, as well as nurturing niche areas. Jordan is facing unprecedented challenges, especially unrest in neighbouring Syria, Iraq and Egypt.

Oman budget spending to go up by 10% in 2013

An Omani government financial planning officer said on Thursday the government intends to increase its 2013 budget spending by 10% compared to this year’s plan to fund new infrastructure projects.

“A 10% hike in spending will take care of our growth to fund development projects such as airports, ports, roads, hospitals and in the energy sector,” said the source, told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Basing the 2013 budget plan on an oil price of $85, the government official said the deficit would be assumed about the same size as the shortfall originally projected for this year.

One-third of Arab women shop online – survey

A survey conducted by Yahoo! Maktoob Research has revealed that one third of Arab women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region shop online with single women most active online shoppers.

The survey quizzed 1,000 women of all ages across MENA to find out how they behave digitally, Yahoo! Maktoob said in its report.

According to the findings, women are happy with online purchases due to time effectiveness, money, comfort and availability.

World Bank extends Morocco $300m loan to tackle high youth unemployment

World Bank extended a $300 million loan to Morroco to help it tackle youth unemployment and boost gender equality in a series of assistance programmes aimed at lessening the fallout from the euro zone crisis.

The finance ministry in Rabat said on Wednesday the funds would feed into a social development plan that aims to fight uneven access to basic amenities and the marginalisation of women and the country’s youth.

According to state planning authority HCP, youth unemployment stands at over 30% while illiteracy among women is above the national average and rises to as high as 80% in rural areas. Close to a quarter of the 33 million population live in poverty.

Saudi domestic air licence extended

The awarding of Saudi Arabia’s newest domestic airline licence has been delayed until next month, it was reported.

Earlier this summer, it was confirmed that Qatar Airways, Bahrain Air and Gulf Air are among the firms in pre-qualified consortia bidding for the new airline licence in Saudi Arabia.

This month GACA said 14 companies had applied for licenses to operate domestic and international flights in the country, seven of which have been short-listed.

Schneider, Binladin tie up on Haram power supply

Schneider Electric Saudi Arabia has signed the largest contract ever with the Saudi Binladin Group to provide power for the Haram expansion project in Makkah, said Abed Al Jawad Qasem, vice president of Saudi Schneider.

The value of the contract is confidential but will be announced officially at a later stage.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Qasem, along with Soeren Juul Schroeder, the software sales director, explained that the IT business unit of Schneider Electric Saudi Arabia was established four years ago. It started with three female employees.

Contract for $400m Oman water project soon

A licence for the development of a major Independent Water Project (IWP) at Ghubra in Muscat Governorate is expected to be awarded next month.

Five consortiums led by prominent international utilities are in the fray for the licence to design, construct, own, finance, operate and maintain a 42 million imperial gallons per day (MIGD) capacity desalination plant based on seawater reverse osmosis (RO) technology.

On Monday, the Tender Board evaluated offers submitted by the bidding consortiums, as well as deliberated on the recommendations of Oman Power and Water Procurement Company ( OPWP ), the state-owned electricity and desalinated water offtaker which is overseeing the implementation of the IWP.

Jordanian Ministry of Transport to float Shidiyeh-Aqaba railway tender

The Ministry of Transport is preparing to float a tender for building a railway that links the phosphate mines in Shidiyeh with Aqaba.

Transport Minister Hashem Masaeed said the 18-month project would be the first step in establishing the national railway network.

South Sudan says oil production to resume by end of year

South Sudan said on Thursday oil production would resume by the end of the year, after Juba and Khartoum signed a deal to secure their shared border which allowed for the resumption of the South’s oil exports through its northern neighbour.

“We have already started the preparations … I believe by the end of the year, the oil will flow,” chief negotiator Pagan Amum said in Addis Ababa where the countries’ two leaders had just signed the deal.

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