Middle East Business News Review

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Dubai’s real estate market plummeted around 70 per cent seeing less than 1,700 deals in the first ten months this year compared to the housing market boom in mid-2008. Dubai Department of Land figures showed only 1,603 deals were signed off from Jan-Oct this year down from 5,363 during the same period in 2008. Once open to locals only, Dubai liberalised its real estate market to foreign investors in 2002 by granting them freehold ownership rights at many property developments. Property prices have witnessed an astronomical growth ever since.

Abu Dhabi has released data that suggests the emirate is all set to have a six-fold increase investment in oil production sector. “The sharp rise in investments in the oil sector was due to an increase in spending on oilfield development plans as well as a large rise in investment in fixed assets in oil equipment, Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development said in its latest report. The report mentions the development of Upper Zakum offshore oilfield on which around AED5.5 billion would be spent. Money will also be pumped into other offshore and inland oil and gas fields.

Corporations in Gulf Cooperation Council saw an increase of 17 per cent in their earnings during the third quarter of 2011 boosted by strong performance by companies dealing in commodity and banking sector. Saudi companies’ earnings posted a total of $6.9bn, 2 per cent less from the previous quarter this year but an increase of 22 per cent compared to that of last year. Neighbouring Kuwait also posted a similar performance. Bahrain’s corporate gains soared 45 per cent compared to that of last year with an increase of $234m in Q3 of 2011. Qatar posted a staggering 31 per cent growth in corporate profits with a total of $2.8bn during this year’s Q3. Emirati companies, in the meanwhile, posted earnings of $2.15bn during Q3 of this year compared to $2.21bn of last year. Oman was the only GCC economy that saw a decline of 8 per cent in corporate earnings to the tune of $359m.

A new report published by human resources experts Regus said more than one in 10 workers in GCC work more than 11 hours a day. The group surveyed around 12,000 business people in 85 countries which revealed 30 per cent workers in the region worked around 11 hours compared to global average of 38 per cent. It also added that 40 per cent of workers in GCC work well over eight hours a day with 30 per cent of them taking work home after office hours. “This study finds a clear blurring of the line between work and home. The long-term effects of this over-work could be damaging both to workers’ health and to overall productivity as workers drive themselves too hard and become disaffected, depressed or even physically ill,” a Regus spokesperson commented.

Etihad Airlines, UAE’s national flag carrier, is rumoured to be buying up a stake in Aer Lingus. Shares of Ireland’s flag carrier closed 15 per cent higher at 73 cents in Dublin as speculations gathered momentum.

Meanwhile, crude oil prices continued to show a downward trend amid weak Asian demand and European sovereign debt crisis. Futures dropped as much as 2.1 per cent, their lowest since 10 Nov. while European stocks witnessed a drop of 18 per cent this year due to surging borrowing costs governments are incurring to avoid recession. Fear that something really bad could happen in Europe, hence demand could fall, has been the main reason prices have been so subdued, Amrita Sen, an analyst with Barclays Capital in London, said in an interview with Bloomberg.

According to an Ericsson report, Middle East boast 96 per cent mobile penetration rate compared to global average of 82 per cent. The Swedish telecommunications giant revealed number of new connections in the region grew three per cent in Q3 of 2011 with 244 million new connections. North American and Western Europe had just over 3.6m and 3.1m new connections respectively. “The Middle East region is seeing a tremendous amount of growth in mobile telephony and this is being driven a combination of new technologies and a culture of connectivity,” Anders Lindblad, President Ericsson Middle East and North Africa region, said in the report.

Gulf region’s stock markets continued to slide amid poor economic activity in Asia and eurozone crisis. Indexes of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar registered new lows as some investors staved off their exposure to regional equities. Qatar’s index dipped 0.5 per cent while Kuwait also witnessed a drop of 0.6 per cent. Saudi Arabia’s index managed to keep the damage to as low as 0.2 per cent. Oman also witnessed a downward trend in index.

By Moign Khawaja – Editor: Arabian Gazette

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