Middle East Business News Review – 6 November

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

Britain, UAE enter defence partnership, discuss other deals

Britain and the United Arab Emirates announced on Tuesday they have agreed a defence deal which will see boosting of the British military presence in the Gulf state. The announcement came at the end of a two-day state visit by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The two allies said in a joint statement that they would “work together to deepen their defence ties” for the “security of the UAE and wider Gulf region”.

There was also an agreement to “establish an industrial defence partnership that involves close collaboration around Typhoon (fighter jets) and a number of new technologies,” it added. Both sides also agreed to increase joint military and training exercises and invest “in the British military presence in the UAE.” The statement did not give any further details.

BAE Systems eyes Middle East for business growth

BAE Systems is eyeing the Middle East for business growth after a merger with EADS was torpedoed by the German government, media reports suggested on Tuesday in the wake of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s trip to the Gulf.

Many analysts said investors are hoping they will receive proceeds from the BAE when it renegotiates a contract for 72 Typhoon aircraft and $600 million deal with Saudi Arabia.

The British company also hopes to seal a deal for 12 Typhoon jets with Oman as well as extending negotiations with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

GEMS plans $650m investment in emerging markets

Global Education Management Systems Limited (GEMS), which owns schools in ten countries, plans to invest up to US$650m in expanding its operations over the next three to five years, its group executive director told Arabian Business.

The Dubai-based schools operator said it plans to concentrate on emerging markets such as the Middle East, North Africa and India as it pushes ahead with expansion plans for up to 40 countries, said Dino Varkey.

Qatar, UAE request $7.6bn of missile defence shields

Qatar and the UAE want to buy US$7.6bn worth of Lockheed Martin missile-defence systems to reduce their dependence on US forces and strengthen their ability to counter perceived threats in the region, the Pentagon said.

The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the potential sale, which includes the possible acquisition of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) fire units, 12 launchers, 150 interceptors and other military equipment worth an estimated US$6.5bn to Qatar.

The UAE, which signed an order for US$1.96bn of THAAD weapons systems last year, requested an additional US$1.135bn worth of equipment including 48 THAAD missiles and nine launchers.

Kuwait’s KNPC says will invest $32bn by 2019

The Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC), the downstream and refining division of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), plans to invest KD10.7bn ($32bn) in major projects in the years to 2019.

KNPC acting corporate planning manager Khaled al-Khayyat said that the projects will include raising Kuwait’s refining capacity to more than 1.4 million bpd from 936,000 bpd at present.

This will involve delivering the long-planned clean fuel and new refinery projects, he told the MEED Kuwait Energy & Infrastructure Conference.

Saudi women must uncover faces for security checks, council says

Saudi Arabian authorities have rejected a conservative proposal to allow women to keep their faces covered during security checks, local media reported on Tuesday.

A draft law would have allowed women to continue wearing veils during the checks, and would have required their identity cards to be based on fingerprints instead of photographs, the Saudi Gazette said.

The Shura Council, a consultative body appointed by the king, rejected the plan on Sunday, although it agreed that female security staff should carry out checks on women, the newspaper reported. It did not say who had proposed the law.

Saudi Arabia to launch 2 satellites

Saudi Arabia will launch two satellites in 2013 and 2015 as part of a space science development strategy, Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed, KACST vice president for Research Institutes told the 2nd Saudi International Space and Aeronautics Technology Conference yesterday.

He said SAUDISAT4 and SAUDI GEO1 equipped with highly sensitive devices and cameras would conduct various scientific experiments. The Space Research Institute at King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology has already launched 12 satellites from Baikonur space station in Kazakhstan for communication and other purposes.

Oman Air and Royal Jordanian in codeshare talks

Oman Air, the sultanate’s flagship carrier, is in talks to finalise a codeshare agreement with Royal Jordanian, it was announced on Tuesday.

The Amman-based airline confirmed it will suspend its flights from Jordan to the Gulf state on November 17 “due to commercial reasons”.

“Royal Jordanian and Oman Air are working on concluding a codeshare agreement to enable the RJ customers to travel between the two cities under the RJ code,” RJ president and CEO Amer Hadidi was quoted as saying in a statement.

Protests at key Libya oil refinery costing millions

A senior Libyan official said protests held by former rebels demanding medical treatment and jobs has costed Libya around $30 million so far.

“The demonstration has cost the country at least $30 million until now,” outgoing deputy oil minister Omar al-Shakmak told AFP when asked about the demonstrations in the western city of Zawiyah. He attributed the losses to disruption of operations at the key refinery, which supplies both the domestic and international markets. Exports at the port are also halted as a result.

According to the residents of anti-Gaddafi stronghold, around 150 war veterans are taking part in the sit-in and demanding medical support for injuries suffered in the 2011 conflict that toppled dictator Muammer Gaddafi.

EU strikes off North African nations from 2014 Preferential Trade System

A revised EU import preference scheme – known as the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) – which will take effect from 1 January 2014, is expected to deprive exports from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia from enjoying preferential access to the markets of developed European countries.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht insists the revised GSP will make Europe’s preferential import scheme more effective. “It was an important recognition that key developing economies have become globally competitive”, he said while adding that the initiative is taken to prop up the EU’s “pro-development trade scheme” and lend support to countries that are still lagging behind.

The European Union says the primary objective of the GSP is to contribute to the reduction of poverty and the promotion of sustainable development and good governance. Developing economies, including that of North Africa, are granted preferential tariff rates when exporting to the EU market that enables them to participate freely in international trade and generate additional export revenue to support their economy, create jobs and reduce poverty.

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