Middle East Business News Review – 5 September

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Photo – Vahid Salemi/AP

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

Dubai Airport July passenger traffic registers 6% increase

Dubai International Airport’s passenger traffic increased 6% from a year earlier in July, with monthly traffic surpassing 5 million passengers for the first time, Dubai Airports said on Wednesday.

The airport, one of the world’s busiest, handled 5.01 million passengers in July, up from 4.72 million in July 2011. Annual growth slowed from June’s 16.0%. Analysts believe it was because of the impact on traffic of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began in July this year and affected Gulf and Middle East routes.

Freight passing through Dubai International climbed 6.2% from a year earlier in July to 204,510 tonnes.

Etihad Airways and RAK Airways Sign Codeshare Deal

Etihad Airways and RAK Airways have signed an agreement to codeshare on five flight sectors including, for the first time, domestic flights in the UAE.

The agreement, the first ever between two UAE carriers, will see Etihad Airways place its ‘EY’ code on the RAK Airways flight between Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi. In return, RAK Airways will place its ‘RT’ code on Etihad Airways routes, which initially includes flights between Abu Dhabi and London Heathrow, Manchester, Dublin, Bangkok and Geneva.

RAK Airways operation between Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi will commence on 3 October.

UAE to emerge as world’s 3rd biggest aircraft market – Airbus

Airbus said on Wednesday it expects the UAE to emerge as the world’s third single biggest market for new aircraft deliveries with total orders worth $223.9 billion in next 20 years.

China will top the world’s aircraft markets with new orders worth $634bn, followed by the US at $544 billion, the Toulouse-based aircraft maker said. The European aviation giant said the UAE would take delivery of 882 aircraft till 2031 while globally there would be a demand for 28,198 passenger and freighter aircraft worth nearly $4 trillion.

Over 1,700 A380s, valued at $600 billion, will have been delivered by 2031, of which 23% will be ordered by Middle East operators.

Qatar National Bank benefitting from Arab uprisings, expanding Middle East operations

Qatar National Bank is taking advantage of European banks’ downsizing by extending its Middle East reach through acquisitions, a report said on Wednesday.

According to a stock market filing on 30 August, the state-backed lender of Qatar, which is 50% owned by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, is in early talks to buy French bank Société Générale’s majority stake in its Cairo-based unit. On the same day, the Qatari lender, now the biggest in the Middle East and north Africa with $91bn in assets, boosted its stake in Dubai-based Commercial International Bank, a report published in Financial Times said.

Analysts say the strategy of the lender is in line with the broader strategy of Qatar, an increasingly assertive political presence in a fast-changing Arab world. Doha has both an incentive to help build economic confidence in newly elected regimes and the financial firepower to do so.

‘Friends of Yemen’ pledge $6.4bn for reconstruction

Yemen said on Wednesday pledges worth $6.4 billion made by global donors is roughly half of what the country needs to weather a rough political transition triggered by Arab Spring protests.

World Bank announced it is increasing the aid from $4 billion pledged to the impoverished state at a meeting of the Friends of Yemen in May. Saudi Arabia had solely promised $3.25 billion of the $4 billion raised in May.

Turkey’s gold exports to Iran boosting economy, narrowing deficit

Record gold sales to Iran are more than making up for Turkey its slide in exports to Europe, steadying its current account deficit and boosting lira bonds, reports said on Wednesday.

Sales of precious metals to Iran jumped to $6.2 billion this year through July from $21.9 million in the same period last year, accounting for 70% of Turkey’s increase in exports this year, Bloomberg reported.

The transactions helped narrow the current account gap to 8.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) from 10% in 2011, despite sales to the European Union dropping by $3.4 billion. Yields on two-year lira bonds fell 12 basis points to 7.62% Tuesday, extending the biggest drop among major emerging markets this year to 339 basis points.

UAE colleges to ditch books for iPads

The UAE’s Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), the country’s largest higher education institution, has struck a deal with a local Apple supplier, worth nearly AED50m ($13.4m), which will see UAE campuses remove paper and pens from classrooms and become the first in the region to roll out iPad-only lessons.

The HCT is due to hold a press conference next week to announce the details of the scheme but Arabian Business has learned that iPads are already being distributed to the more than 21,500 students attending 17 colleges throughout the UAE.

Etisalat says will not bid in India airwaves auction

Etisalat, the United Arab Emirates’ biggest telecommunications company, said on Wednesday it has decided not to bid for airwaves in an Indian state auction scheduled in November.

Etisalat earlier this year shut down its Indian mobile operations, after a court ordered to revoke cellular permits including those granted to its local affiliate in a scandal-tainted 2008 sale.

The airwaves auction is the last chance for carriers affected by the court ruling to win back their permits.

Etihad deal gives airberlin $150m boost

Loss-making carrier airberlin, part-owned by Etihad Airways, is set to save US$150m as a result of its partnership with the Abu Dhabi carrier, senior executives at the airline have revealed.

Germany’s largest carrier after Lufthansa, airberlin earlier this month saw its losses for the first three months of 2012 widen to €66.2m (US$81.8m), compared with a year-earlier loss of €43.9m.

As part of Etihad Airway’s acquisition of 29 percent last year, the Abu Dhabi carrier is reported to have agreed to grant airberlin up to US$255m, of which €90m was allegedly drawn down in the first quarter.

Qatar named most competitive Middle East economy

Qatar has retained its position as the Middle East’s most competitive economy, according to new rankings published by the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.

Qatar ranked 11th globally out of 144 economies covered, up three places compared to last year’s list while Saudi Arabia (18th) also made the top 20 despite slipping one place on its 2011 ranking.

The UAE was rose three places in this year’s list to be placed 24th while Oman remained static at 32nd.

Saudi could be oil importer by 2030 – Citigroup

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, could become an oil importer by 2030 amid rising domestic demand for electricity, Citigroup said.

Oil and its derivatives are used for around half of the kingdom’s electricity production, which at peak rates is growing at about 8 percent annually, the bank said in a note.

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