Middle East Business News Review – 3 July

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

Abu Dhabi’s Sowwah Square on the way to emerge as business, shopping hub

A New York property developer and an Abu Dhabi government fund are joining hands to develop a new shopping complex, five-star hotels and fine dining on Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Island.

The development is taking place in Sowwah Square, a newly constructed business district which will also be home to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. The project is a joint consortium of Gulf Related, a partnership between Related Cos. and a UAE private-equity firm, and Mubadala Real Estate & Hospitality which also seek to develop the Galleria, a shopping complex of luxury brands.

The Abu Dhabi Municipality decided to rename Sowwah Island as Al Maryah Island earlier this year.

Saudi cabinet approves new mortgage law

The Saudi cabinet gave its nod to the country’s mortgage law on Monday for the infrastructure industry on which it is spending around $500 billion to build and develop.

The mortgage law stipulates the regulations to establish mortgage companies and their activities. The law also aims to establish necessary guarantees for trade or investment in the real estate sector and establish strict rules for protecting the creditor, debtor and the guarantor in the process.

Drafted by Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf, the Finance Minister, the new law includes a detailed statement about the nature of the mortgaged assets and the procedures followed in mortgage contracts. It also stresses the importance of flexibility related to real estate and movable assets. Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency will regulate the mortgage sector.

Harrods Hotels to open in top world cities – Qatar Holding

Two years after buying the British luxury retailer from the Mohamed Al-Fayed family trust, Qatar Holding LLC announced on Tuesday its plans of opening Harrods-branded hotels in top cities around the world.

An arm of the Qatar Investment Authority which has around $100bn worth assets under its belt, the Doha-based company signed an agreement with Malaysian partners for a proposed hotel in Kuala Lumpur’s Bukit Bintang shopping district. According to a joint statement by Harrods Ltd. and Qatar Holding, a hotel management company will be established to seek out similar projects around the world.

Oman’s logistics and supply chain sector experiencing boom

The logistics and supply chain sector in Oman continues to grow and benefit from significant investment in infrastructure, warehousing and transportation. The recent third TransOman conference provided valuable insights into a sector with great potential to help in diversifying the Oman economy and increasing GDP. The growth prospects and job opportunities in this positive sector are considerable as Oman seeks to take advantage of its strategic location outside the Straits of Hormuz and close proximity to major shipping routes.

Challenging Times for Muscat’s Hospitality Sector

Oman Airport Management Company figures indicate that Muscat’s hospitality sector should be in robust health with the number of passengers using Muscat International Airport increasing significantly from 4 million per year in 2008 to 6.5 million per year in 2011. Conversely, however, World Bank data indicates that the annual number of inbound tourists has actually fallen from a high of 1.4 million in 2008 to 1 million in 2010.

Egyptian research says desert poultry farming ‘may help reduce bird flu risks’

Egypt’s Desert Research Centre (DRC) has urged the government to help establish poultry farms in the desert regions after a successful pilot project showed encouraging signs of a reduction in avian flu transmission to humans.

The project, which ran from December 2011 to February this year, consisted of five small units in the Egyptian desert where researchers adopted procedures that helped avoid the transmission of infection. The scientists also introduced indigenous desert plants into poultry diets, and evaluated varieties of poultry capable of resisting hot temperatures and drought.

$32.7bn worth projects to boost Middle East ‘renewable energy hub’ status

The Middle East’s energy sector is witnessing a surge in its water and power investment with 97 projects, worth $32.7 billion, initiated this year, a market research report revealed on Tuesday. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, witnessing the biggest public spending rise in years, are set to benefit the most from new and upgrading of existing water and power projects.

Construction on ten power and water projects worth $1.5 billion began in the UAE this year, including the $740 million Noor 1 solar power plant, and Phase 2 of the Emal Power Plant, worth $580 million.

According to the World Energy Council, the Gulf region alone will require 100 gigawatts (GW) of additional power by 2020 to meet increased demand, surging at 7.7% annually.

MidEast airlines to add 2,370 planes by 2031

Airlines operating in the Middle East are forecast to add nearly 2,400 new aircraft to their fleets over the next 20 years, US plane maker Boeing said on Tuesday.

The region will see an additional 2,370 planes in service by 2031, compared to the biggest increase of over 12,000 planes which will join carriers in the fast growing Asia Pacific area.

Saudi keeps debt despite surge in assets

Saudi Arabia has slashed its public debt to its lowest level in nearly two decades but is keeping part of the debt although its foreign assets have swelled to a record high because of strong oil prices, analysts said.

After exceeding the Gulf Kingdom’s GDP in late 1990s, the debt stood at just 6.3 per cent of GDP at the end of 2011, recording a rapid slide in the previous six years due to massive fiscal surpluses, official data showed.

The debt stood at around SR167 billion at the end of 2010 before it was cut further to SR126 billion at the end of 2011.

Oil pipeline sabotage cost Yemen $4 bln

Repeated attacks on pipelines since the start of the uprising that ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh have cost Yemen more than $4 billion in lost revenues since February last year, the oil minister said in remarks published late Monday.

Yemen is incurring “economic losses estimated at more than $4 billion due to a halt in pumping from the Ras Issa pipeline,” Petroleum and Minerals Minister Hisham Abdullah told the state Saba news agency. He added that Yemen’s main oil export pipeline to the Ras Issa terminal on the Red Sea has been out of operation since February last year due to “repeated attacks.”

Some 125,000 barrels per day normally flow through the pipeline, accounting for the bulk of Yemen’s oil exports.

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