Middle East Business News Review – 29 July

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Middle East Business News Review – A look at today’s important financial news and business updates from the Middle East and North Africa

Etihad Rail gears up Stage 2 of UAE national railway network

Etihad Rail, the master developer and operator of the UAE’s national railway network, has issued tender invitations for the first three contracts in the development of Stage Two of the rail network, the company said in a statement on Sunday.

The three tender invitations, issued to pre-qualified companies, are for contracts covering the design and build of new lines between Ruwais and Ghweifat (137km), Liwa Junction and Al Ain (190km), as well as for the railway integration and systems contract (covering signalling, communications and commissioning) for the Stage Two network.

The company statement said that Stage Two represents a significant component of the national rail network, in both scale and scope, as it will further connect industrial and urban areas, and connect with the planned GCC network – linking with Saudi Arabia at Ghweifat and Oman at Al Ain. Construction of Stage Two is scheduled to begin early next year, following the award of tendered contracts.

Qatar in talks with Germany to buy 200 Leopard tanks

A German media report said on Sunday Qatar is considering buying up to 200 tanks at a cost of around two billion euros ($2.46 billion).

According to a report due to be published in Monday’s Der Spiegel magazine, Chancellor Angela Merkel is supporting the deal which will see the tiny gas-rich Gulf nation purchasing German Leopard-2 tanks. It added that a delegation from defence firm Krauss-Maffei Wegmann had already travelled to Qatar to discuss the possible deal.

Beirut – Where buying is the root of problems and solutions

Beirut, also known as the Paris of the Middle East, is home to brands such as Chanel, Dior, Brioni, Valentino, Cartier, Bulgari, Longines, Rolex, Panerai, Louis Vuitton, Armani, Tom Ford, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana, Louboutin, and many others. Despite having a host of top labels, the Lebanese capital is suffering from a dearth of buyers who seem to be not wanting to buy, or simply cannot afford to buy.

The staff at the stores of these posh brands stand suited-up and made-up all day long but hours go by and there is hardly a customer to serve.

In normal summers, many of the super-rich from the Gulf states visit Lebanon on Summer holidays and enjoy a lively, cosmopolitan, Arabic-speaking city that thrives on the culture of conspicuous consumption. However, this year is a break from the past as Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Gulf states have urged their citizens not to venture in the Mediterranean country, citing security concerns as civil war rages in next door Syria.

Muslim tourism giving boost to global travel industry

The global tourism industry is gearing up for a projected boom in travellers from the Muslim world over the next decade, experts say.

Number of Muslim tourists – especially from the oil-rich Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – are setting travelling trends that have never been witnessed before. Halal spas, prayer rooms at airport terminals and non-alcoholic five-star hotels are a few signs of the growing number and affluence of Muslim tourists worldwide.

According to a study by two companies specialising the Muslim tourism market, tourist spending is growing faster than the global rate and is expected to reach $192 billion a year by 2020, up from $126 billion in 2011.

Women feel much less safe than men in Lebanon

A survey conducted by an international group said on Saturday women in Lebanon feel significantly less safe walking at night in their own neighbourhoods than men.

According to the recent findings of a Gallup poll, 62% of women felt safe walking around at night in their neighbourhoods compared to 75% of men. The findings said women reported feeling less safe than men across the globe though by varying percentage points. For instance, in Jordan, the percentage difference was greater than that of Lebanon’s, with 72% of women compared to 90% of men reporting to feel safe.

Lebanon’s findings are in line with the global average where 62% of women and 72% of men say they feel safe walking alone in their communities at night.

Emaar’s profit more than doubled in Q2

Emaar, Dubai’s largest real estate developer, said its profit more than doubled in the second quarter of 2012.

In a statement released Sunday, the firm behind the world’s tallest tower Burj Khalifa posted a net profit of AED614m (US$167m) for the three-month period ending June 30, up from AED250m in the year-ago quarter.

Revenues at the company increased 3 percent to AED2.1bn.

Dubai hotel profits rise, Abu Dhabi rates fall

Hotels in Dubai saw a boost in profits in June while Abu Dhabi continued to see rates and profits fall, according to the latest HotStats survey of hotels by TRI Hospitality Consulting.

Average room rates (ARR) in Abu Dhabi fell 8.5% to $115.68 in June resulting in a reduction in gross operating profit per available room (GOPPAR) by 12.6 percent to $53.76.

According to TRI Hospitality, the reduction in ARR was a direct consequence of the increased competition in the UAE capital.

UAE Etisalat to soon allow foreigners to own its shares – report

Emirates Telecommunications Corp., or Etisalat, will soon allow foreigners to own its shares, Al-Khaleej newspaper reports Sunday, citing the telecom operator’s chief executive.

“Etisalat to allow foreigners to own its shares soon,” Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar, Etisalat’s CEO, told the newspaper. Emirates Investment Council is currently working on amending the law to allow foreign ownership of its shares, he added.

SR 30bn consumer spending forecast this Ramadan

The volume of Saudis’ consumption of consumer goods is expected to reach SR 30 billion during Ramadan, according to economic experts.

Expressing alarm over a steep price hike of some products in the local market, they attributed the greed of some traders to this phenomenon. Speaking to Alsharq newspaper, they urged consumers to boycott such products and choose instead alternative brands of consumer goods.

Salem Baajaja, professor of accountancy at Taif University, said that Saudis normally spend about SR 15 billion during Ramadan, but this year it was expected to double to SR 30 billion by the end of the holy month.

GCC construction deals set to rise 71% in 2012

The value of construction project contracts awarded this year in the GCC is forecast to increase by 71%, according to new research.

In 2011, construction projects to the value of $46.52bn were completed in the GCC, a figure expected to increase dramatically to $79.75bn in 2012, data released by Ventures ME said.

The research revealed that the UAE continues to garner the largest share of the total GCC construction market – accounting for almost half (48%).

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