Middle East Business News Review – 5 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:

Shard opened by Qatari PM, Duke of York

Europe’s tallest building has been officially unveiled in central London by the prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Qatar, Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani, and The Duke of York, Prince Andrew.

The Shard’s has emerged as the capital’s most noticeable landmarks thanks to its tapered design and glass panelling. Hardly a few hundred metres from the banks of the River Thames in Southwark, the tower seems to pierce the sky as it shoots more than 1,016ft (309.6m) into the air.

The tower, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, contains offices, exclusive residences, a luxury hotel, restaurants and a viewing gallery across 72 floors. There are a further 15 levels which make up the “spire” – six of which have the potential to be used, with another nine exposed to the elements.

Qatar to issue Islamic bonds amid high demand

Reports coming from Qatar suggest the sheikhdom is planning to issue sukuk (Islamic bonds) for the first time in nearly a decade amid growing global demand for safe havens and sharia-compliant assets.

Doha has mandated banks for investor meetings in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore starting on 9 July, Reuters quoted arranging banks as saying on Thursday. The report added that a dollar-denominated sukuk issue may follow subject to market conditions.

The world’s top liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter has not issued a sukuk since 2003.

Swiss rejects EU oil sanctions on Iran, India circumvents ban through Tehran tankers

Switzerland announced on Thursday it will not follow European Union sanctions on Tehran and carry on trading Iranian oil for “foreign policy reasons”.

Reports said Switzerland is one of the top hubs for physical oil trading and hosts a branch of the National Iranian Oil Company NICO. However, it does not import oil from Iran.

Meanwhile, India is loading Iranian crude in tankers owned by the Islamic Republic, industry sources said. The move is a break from a decades-old New Delhi policy that required state-run refiners to transport oil in vessels owned by local shipping companies.

Egypt postponing oil, gas rights bids until August

Egyptian General Petroleum Corp. said it is postponing the announcement of results from a bidding round for oil and natural-gas rights until August.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer for Agreements Adel Kamel told Bloomberg in an interview that the one-month delay will give the state-owned company more time to evaluate the offers, especially because some bidders are new to Egypt. He added that EGPC is assessing 25 offers after it invited bids in September last year, the first such auction since July 2009.

Libya gears up for ‘historic’ elections

Libyan cities are flooded with thousands of campaign posters put up by people campaigning to elect a 200-member assembly which will lead the oil-rich nation over a short transition period – roughly 12 months if all milestones are met – with the main aim of delivering a constitution to govern future elections.

The ruling National Transitional Council (NTC), which took power after a popular uprising toppled Gaddafi last year, will be replaced by the legislative body and will appoint a new interim government as well as a constituent authority.

Sheikh Mohammed orders AED-l20-mln ‘Al Berwaz Tower project’

Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has ordered the implementation of Al Berwaz Tower project “Dubai Landmark” at Zabeel Park in Dubai. Eng. Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality briefed Sheikh Mohammed on the map about the cultural tourism project. Dubai Municipality is supervising the design, implementation and management of the project, which will be a new addition to the distinctive Dubai landmarks, Emirate News Agency (WAM) said.

Kuwait picks new PM to form new cabinet

Kuwait’s head of state on Thursday reappointed outgoing Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al Mubarak Al Sabah in a move that may help ease renewed political deadlock in the OPEC member, state news agency KUNA said.

Sheikh Jaber must now select a 15-member Cabinet, after which analysts expect Kuwait’s ruler to dissolve parliament in order to allow fresh elections, that will probably be held after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which starts around July 19.

The previous government, including Sheikh Jaber, resigned last month after Kuwait’s constitutional court effectively dissolved a parliament dominated by opposition Islamists, reinstating its more government-friendly predecessor instead.

Kuwait, Arab Gulf nations keep oil output levels unchanged

Despite a sharp decline in prices, Kuwait and other Gulf Cooperation Council’s oil producers have retained production levels unchanged, a specialized economic report revealed Thursday.

The report, by the UK-based Petroleum Policy Intelligence, said that the Organisation of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) has kept its production levels at 31.6 million barrels per day despite the huge cuts in Iranian oil exports due to European sanctions.

It underlined that major Arab Gulf oil producers, like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, are keen on forging ahead with a policy that strike a balance between oil demand and supplies on world markets.

GCC urged to allocate more funds to setting up customs union

A GCC committee has recommended finance ministers allocate more funds to the development of clearing house operations in the six member states, in a bid to speed up the process towards setting up a GCC-wide customs union, it was announced on Wednesday.

Up until the end of 2011, around $2bn was spent on developing clearing house operations in the Gulf, but a special clearing house committee of the recently established GCC Customs Union has recommended more funds be allocated to improve and streamline procedures.

Iran and Syria swap diesel for gasoline

Iran and Syria have resumed working together to fight Western sanctions on their oil as shipping records showed two Iranian vessels have delivered diesel to Syrian ports over the past week, the first fuel shipments from Iran in about three months.

The first tanker reached Syria with a 35,000 tonne delivery of diesel, which it discharged last week, and then loaded a similarly sized cargo of Syrian gasoline, a shipper said.

Although Syria is an oil producer, its refineries produce light-end products such as gasoline and naphtha, making the country reliant on imports to meet its needs for heavier fuels such as diesel.

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