Middle East Business News Review – 9 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:

Booming LNG income triples Qatar budget surplus

Qatar’s booming revenues from liquefied natural gas more than tripled budget surplus to 44.5 billion riyals ($12.2 billion) in the fiscal year ended in March, an Islamic bond issue prospectus showed on Monday.

According to a Reuters calculation, the tiny Gulf nation is the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas and its fiscal surplus for 2011/12 was equivalent to 7% of 2011 gross domestic product (GDP), up from the original 22.5 billion riyal ($6.15bn) plan.

The huge surge in revenues will help the government to spend more than 10% of GDP on average on infrastructure in the run-up to hosting the soccer World Cup tournament in 2022. Doha posted a surplus of 12.8 billion riyals ($3.51bn), or 2.8% of GDP, in the previous fiscal year.

Airbus budges to Qatar Airways demand, to deliver upgraded version of A380s

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said his airline will receive an upgraded version of Airbus SAS’s A380 superjumbo after refusing to take jets with wing faults.

“Qatar Air insisted that Airbus provide us with the new, certified wing for the A380 and Airbus has kindly obliged,” Al Baker told Bloomberg on Monday at the Farnborough air show. “We will receive the A380 with the new wing which will not require modification.”

The CEO added that the Qatari flag carrier will receive its first A380 delivery in January 2014. The France-based airplane maker had previously announced that all examples delivered through the beginning of 2014 would suffer from the wing-rib defect and require both short-term fixes should cracks develop and a permanent repair later that can take eight weeks per plane.

Saudi Aramco to acquire, invest in green energy ventures

Saudi Aramco announced on Monday the launch of an investment arm to acquire tech companies that are of strategic importance to Saudi Arabia and facilitate their deployment in the kingdom.

The company said Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures plans to invest in start-up and high-growth ventures offering new technologies to the upstream and downstream oil and gas sectors, renewables, energy efficiency and water supply.

Oman witnesses GDP rise, cautiously optimistic about 2012 economic outlook

Oman has reported a healthy first quarter but remains cautiously optimistic about its 2012 outlook.

“The overall outlook for Oman remains positive in 2012 despite heightened downside risks to global recovery”, said Central Bank of Oman in its annual report. Despite the global economic turmoil, the bank said Oman was able to sustain the continued growth experienced in 2011, in this year’s first quarter also.

“The growth momentum witnessed in 2011 appears to have sustained in the first quarter of 2012 notwithstanding deteriorating global macroeconomic conditions, arising mainly due to the sovereign debt crisis in Europe,” it said.

Turkey notches 23rd position on global FDI ranking

Turkey jumped 6 spots to claim 23rd position, up from last year’s 29th, on the global foreign direct investment (FDI) destination rankings, thanks to a surge of foreign investments into the country, a UN trade body report revealed.

The report titled ‘World Investment Report 2012: Towards a New Generation of Investment Policies’ said Turkey emerged as a clear exception to regional trends – in stark contrast with its instability hit neighbours like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East – and witnessed an enviable increase in FDI inflow. The report was compiled by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) which surveyed 211 countries worldwide.

UAE-French JV wins $817m Abu Dhabi oil deal

Abu Dhabi-based oil and gas services contractor National Petroleum Construction Co (NPCC) and French group Technip have been jointly awarded a nearly 3 billion dirham ($817 million) contract to build offshore facilities at an oil field in Abu Dhabi, two sources said.

The contract is for the first phase of Zakum Development Co’s (Zadco) expansion at its offshore oil field whose production will rise 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) when completed, one of the sources told Reuters on Monday.

Wild Wadi is world’s fastest growing water park

Jumeirah’s Wild Wadi in Dubai was the world’s fastest-growing water park in 2011, according to the new Global Attractions Attendance Report from Themed Entertainment Association.

Overall, the water park was named as the 13th most attended water park in the world with 890,000 visitors, behind Aquaventure at Atlantis The Palm Dubai at number eight with 1.2 million visitors.

Wild Wadi was also ranked as third fastest growing of all of the water parks and theme parks listed, which included separate top 20 lists for Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas.

SR4bn drive to upgrade water and sewage services

The National Water Company has announced plans to carry out a number of infrastructure projects valued at SR 4 billion in Riyadh to expand water and sewage services in the province.

“The new projects are aimed at improving water and sewage services,” a NWC statement said, adding that the projects would be implemented following international standards. “We are now preparing a strategic plan for Riyadh, especially to distribute new quantities of water coming from the Eastern Province city of Ras Al-Khair,” the company said.

The desalination plant in Ras Al-Khair will pump 800,000 cubic meters of water daily to Riyadh, NWC said, adding that the new pipeline projects would cost SR 3 billion.

James Bond style movie to be filmed in Bahrain

Bahrain has been chosen as the location for part of the filming of a British spy movie, the Manama-based Gulf Daily News reported on Sunday.

The movie, ‘Bulldog Drummond: Hero for hire’, is based on a series of British novels published between 1920 and 1954. It will be produced by the London-based Twickenham Film Group.

Earlier in the year, TFG reveled plans to launch a film academy and studio in Bahrain and Black confirmed that his firm is looking for land in the Gulf state for the proposed project.

West Bank high life masks deepening economic crisis

Growth in the West Bank is concentrated in Ramallah and in real estate and services, even as many sectors like agriculture and construction languish. Government spending and living on credit is rampant at all levels of Palestinian society and, as the eurozone crisis has shown, may well prove to be the economy’s undoing.

Bank lending for personal consumption in the Palestinian territories has risen five-fold in the last two years to $417 million. Total credit for cars alone accounts for a further $119 million, according to the Palestinian Monetary Authority.

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