Middle East Business News Review – 8 October

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

Etihad announces partnership with Air France-KLM

Rapidly expanding UAE flag carrier Etihad Airways says it has struck a deal with Air France-KLM to market some of each other’s flights as the first stage of a larger strategic alliance.

Alongside the deal announced Monday, Etihad says the Franco-Dutch airline operator is launching a similar codeshare deal for flights between France and Germany with Air Berlin. The United Arab Emirates-based Etihad bought nearly 30% of Air Berlin last year. Codeshare deals, in which passengers can buy a single ticket for multiple airlines, allow carriers to expand their reach without having to operate additional routes.

Etihad says the Air France-KLM codeshare deal is the first phase of a larger partnership that could see the companies team up on frequent flier programmes, procurement and maintenance.

Britain’s gas supply uncertain due to changing Qatari priorities

Analysts and British energy companies said on Monday that Britain is in danger of suffering a long-term loss of liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply as top exporter Qatar sends only left-over short-term deliveries to the country while sending most of its LNG to higher paying Asian customers.

Britain is a dependant on Qatar to plug a growing energy supply deficit. London’s efforts to woo Doha deliver a supply guarantee have not been productive so far. Qatari shipments provided a quarter of Britain’s gas needs last year.

Instead, Qatar is trying to lock the majority of its gas into the Asian market through signing long-term supply deals with customers in Japan, South Korea and emerging markets like China and India, where gas demand is rising fast and prices are higher.

Iran purchases 11 Airbus planes

Iran recently made a purchase of 11 Airbus A320 and A310 passenger planes which are on the verge of joining the country’s aviation fleet, the country’s semi-official news agency quoted a minister as saying on Sunday.

“The 11 passenger planes which are due to be added to the country’s airlines until the next month are Airbus 310 and 320 planes,” Nikzad told Fars News Agency while adding that the new planes will facilitate a safe and comfortable trip for passengers in Iran.

Civil Aviation Organisation president Reza Nakhjavani said in April he planned to increase the number of aircraft and replace older planes with new ones. “We also plan to raise the fleet’s lifespan by 25%,” he said.

Syria buys 100,000 tonnes Ukraine wheat

Syria’s state-run General Establishment for Cereal Processing and Trade (Hoboob) announced on Monday it purchased 100,000 tonnes of soft wheat from a Middle Eastern trading firm despite reluctance by foreign banks, shipowners and grain traders to sell and transport grain to the war-torn country.

A Hoboob source told Reuters by phone that wheat was bought from Ukraine at €287 ($370) a tonne, on a cost and freight basis.

Egypt foreign reserves down in September

Egypt’s foreign reserves recorded a fall of $84 million in September but held above the $15 billion seen as necessary to shore up the pound for a third straight month after foreign donors began fulfilling promises of aid.

With the reserves still close to danger level, economists cautioned against reading too much into the latest number until it was clear whether it included disbursements of foreign aid. But one said Egypt had adequate reserves till the year-end.

Government efforts to secure a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan to support the struggling economy have cut Egypt’s borrowing costs in recent weeks although a planned visit to Cairo by an IMF team has been delayed until late October.

Qatar to start first World Cup stadium in 2013

Construction of Qatar’s first stadium for the 2022 World Cup tournament will start next year, officials said on Monday.

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee said the stadium will be developed in conjunction with Qatar Foundation at Education City. It added that five other stadiums are currently in the process of planning or tender.

The overall “master schedule” for all stadium construction will be revealed “in due course after consultation with FIFA”, a statement added.

Al Jaber wins Lusail City highways contract

Lusail Real Estate Development Company (LREDC) on Monday said it has awarded a contract for highways and associated utility networks for Qatar’s Lusail City.

The deal has been awarded to Al Jaber & Partners (AJP), the company said in a statement without disclosing the value of the contract.

Lusail City aims to attract 80,000 visitors, 200,000 residents and 170,000 workers. With 37 sq km of waterfront land that will be divided into 19 mixed-use districts.

S Korean, Japanese firms win Saudi power deals

Saudi Electricity Co has awarded contracts for South Korea’s Hyundai and Japan’s Mitsubishi to build and supply equipment for a large power plant in Jeddah, SEC said on Monday.

Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) will build the 2,650-megawatt power plant known as Jeddah South, while Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) will supply equipment for the oil-fired plant.

The construction of the plant means Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, will continue to burn millions of barrels a week of oil for power generation for years to come. But SEC expects the more efficient plant, to burn much less fuel oil per unit of electricity produced.

Cisco cuts ties to China’s ZTE after Iran probe

Cisco Systems Inc. has ended a longstanding sales partnership with ZTE Corp after an internal investigation into allegations that the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker sold Cisco networking gear to Iran.

Cisco’s probe followed stories by Reuters in March and April that documented how Shenzhen, China-based ZTE had sold banned computer equipment from Cisco and other U.S. companies to Iran’s largest telecom firm. ZTE also agreed last year to ship millions of dollars worth of additional U.S. tech products, including Cisco switches, to a unit of the consortium that controls the telecom firm.

Gulf firms in talks to boost cyber defences – Dell

US technology giant Dell is in talks with a number of Gulf companies and governments in a bid to help them boost their defences against the rising threat from cyber terrorism, senior executives said in an interview with Arabian Business.

Several high-profile Arab government agencies and companies have been targeted by online hackers in recent months, including the Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite news network, Saudi Aramco, Bahrain state-backed Gulf Air’s official Facebook page and the UAE central bank website.


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