Middle East Business News Review – 8 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:

Ras Al Khaimah retail economy growing despite tough competition

Retailers in Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) are hoping for a period of sustained growth, thanks to an increase in the number of tourists, more foreign direct investment and a growing economy, a report published by a British publication said.

The UAE’s emirate witnessed a massive boom in retail sector, with the opening of new malls and high-street outlets over the past few years. The government forecasts the economy to expand by around 8% this year.

Ras Al Khaimah has managed to increase its share of tourists income despite a tough competition from neighbouring emirates.

GCC global oil reserves share to hit 70% in next few years

A report issued by Kuwait-based think tank said the Gulf countries’ global oil reserves share is expected to grow to 70% from current 45% during the next couple of years.

Diplomatic Center for Strategic Studies (DCSS) findings showed the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries captured 25% of total world crude oil exports whereas retain 17% of world’s proven gas reserves. Based on earlier data compiled by Crescent Petroleum, the entire Gulf region, which comprises of the six countries of the GCC plus Iran and Iraq, hold 56% and 40% of the world’s conventional oil and gas proven reserves respectively.

Qatari royal family close to buying Valentino fashion label

Members of the Qatari royal family are in advanced talks to buy Valentino, one of the top Italian dressmakers, a British news website reported.

Permira, a London-based private equity firm which owns the Italian label, and the Emir of Qatar are finalising a deal thought to be worth $851.92 million, people close to the deal told Sky News adding it could be announced as soon as this week.

The takeover seems unusual as it is spearheaded by the Qatari royal family instead of Qatar Holding or the Qatar Investment Authority which holds assets worth $100bn under its belt. There are also reports about the acquisition of the M Missoni brand.

Iraqi Kurdistan exporting oil to Turkey, defying Baghdad

An Iraqi Kurdistan official admitted on Sunday the Kurdistan Regional Government has started pumping oil to Turkey without an explicit permission from Baghdad.

The Iraqi central government insists it reserves the sole right to export oil, which accounts for the lion’s share of the country’s income and is locked in a dispute with autonomous Kurdistan region.

KRG administration insists Baghdad has barred the dispatch of petroleum products to the northern region in response to the autonomous government’s decision to go ahead with oil exploration deals with foreign companies. The Iraqi oil ministry persistently denies the allegations.

Jordan expecting bumper summer tourist season

Jordan is welcoming tourists from abroad with its vibrant music, fascinating art festivals, stunning landscapes, ancient ruins and a mouthwatering cuisine amid soaring political tension in the country and simmering unrest in neighbouring Syria and Lebanon.

According to Jordanian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nayef Al-Fayes, tourism was down last year by 16.5% and the country’s tourism sector lost $1 billion dollars when most bookings by European tour operators were cancelled in the wake of uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Syria.

However, come this summer and wealthy tourists from the Gulf and Europe are planning their vacations in Jordan again.

Bahrain’s Gulf Air targets further 15% cuts

Gulf Air said on Sunday it has made significant savings across its business operations worth BD32.3m and is targeting a further 15% in cuts.

The airline’s aggressive cost-saving plans and measures, started in 2010 following its new business strategy, has yielded positive results in terms of cost-control, cost-efficiency, expenditure reduction and staffing, it said in a statement.

GCC healthcare spend seen tripling by 2018

The GCC’s total healthcare expenditure is forecast to triple by 2018, according to a new report by Frost & Sullivan.

Healthcare spend in the region in 2011 was estimated to be $46.12bn and this is expected to reach $133.19bn in 2018, the report said.

Frost & Sullivan said healthcare spending in the GCC is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.3% from 2010 to 2018 due to its expanding population, higher incidence of lifestyle diseases, and deeper insurance penetration.

KSA to build four women-only industrial zones for SAR280m

Saudi Arabia will build four industrial clusters around Riyadh dedicated to women entrepreneurs with the aim of reducing the unemployment rate among Saudi women, a senior official said.

The ministry of commerce and industry (MOCI) is studying the proposal that was submitted by the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) and approved by Prince Dr. Mansour bin Miteb bin Abdul Aziz, minister of municipal and rural affairs, according to a statement to Zawya by RCCIdeputy chairman Saad bin Ibrahim Al-Meijel.

Iran plans to sell oil via private group, evade ban

Iran has reached agreements with European refiners to sell some of its oil through a private consortium, an official said on Saturday, a move designed to circumvent sanctions intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt its disputed nuclear programme.

The head of the oil products exporters’ union said the agreement between the exporters’ union, Iran’s central bank, and the oil ministry would get round a European Union ban on shipping insurance for tankers carrying Iranian oil, though he gave few details and did not name the refiners involved.

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