Middle East Business Review

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Prince Waleed bin Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holding Company, has bought a strategic stake worth $300m in popular social networking site Twitter. The Saudi Prince’s company, whose investment portfolio includes stakes in General Motors Co., News Corp and Apple Inc., said in a statement that the deal has been the result of several months of negotiations. “Our investment in Twitter reaffirms our ability in identifying suitable opportunities to invest in promising, high-growth businesses with a global impact, Kingdom Holding Company said in an email statement.

Residents of UAE have emerged as the world’s largest consumers of water with an average per capita usage of 500 litres per day, a staggering 82 per cent above the global average individual demand. A report carried by UAE’s semi-official Daily Al Ittehad said the second largest Arab economy’s demand for water stood at 4.5 billion cubic metres last year and is projected to double by 2030. “The UAE average water consumption is higher than the average demand in advanced countries with similar climate and is far above the global average,” Mariam Hassan Al-Shanasi, the ministry’s undersecretary, said in response to the report.

Thomas Cook, UK’s debt stricken tour operator, has announced plans to expand in the Middle East with an aim to become the second largest tour operator in the region. Al Futtaim Travels, Thomas Cook’s exclusive distributors, confirmed 2012 would witness the launch of Thomas Cook Holiday Shops in Dubai as well as a Dubai-based 24/7 call centre, and B2B and B2C online booking channels. The arrangement we have with Thomas Cook is to launch the brand in the region,” Samantha Wilson, marketing and sales manager at Al Futtain Travels said in a statement. Troubled British holidays agent recently announced the closure of 200 travel agents across the country which will result in up to 1,000 job cuts.

AFP reported Etihad Airways has raised its stake in Air Berlin to the tune of $95 million to become the biggest shareholder in Germany’s second largest airline. The UAE’s national flag carrier is acquiring a 100% increase that will push its stake to 29 per cent from current 2.99 per cent. Etihad announced it is undertaking to arrange a debt financing of around $255 million for the troubled German airlines.

Meanwhile, Abu-Dhabi based airline announced it will be serving 269 destinations worldwide, either directly or with partner airlines, 80 destinations more than that offered by any other Gulf airline. The expansion will come as a result of codesharing agreement with the Air Berlin group which includes other airlines like NIKI, Austrian, and Belair. “The number of codeshare partners Etihad Airways has, and the number of destinations it is now able to serve, is a point of marked differentiation. We will continue to look to strike codeshare agreements with carriers around the world where we feel it is to the advantage of our guests,” James Hogan, CEO Etihad Airways, said in a statement.

A report published in Arab News says growth in the UAE continued at a steady pace throughout 2011 with positive outlook for next year. Quoting the latest survey conducted by the Gulf Recruitment Group, one of the UAE’s leading executive recruiters, the report said 93 per cent of employers look forward to hire more employees during the first quarter of 2012 albeit at a cautious rate. “Our market review suggests it will be a good start to the year when it comes to hiring in the UAE. Overall, employers anticipate a continued hiring pace compared to 2011, with the brightest job prospects reported by employers in the FMCG, construction and pharmaceutical sectors, Mark Timms, Director of Gulf Recruitment Group, told Arab Times.

Iraqi government announced it has signed a deal worth $72 million with Iranian power company Sunir to expand a power plant in northern Iraq by 320 megawatts. The expansion will see the installation of two gas turbines of 160 mW capacity each at Dibis power plant in northern Kirkuk, an electricity ministry spokesman told Reuters. Dibis power plant currently produces 150 mW. Sunir has already completed a gas power plant project in Baghdad worth $150 million this year.

Turkey said unrest in Syria is resulting in losses worth $100 million to its transport industry and is seeking alternative routes to connect with its trading partners in Arabian peninsula. Reports suggest Turkey is exploring the sea-based route to Egypt and then access nearby Jordanian and Saudi ports. Turkey is a major trading parter of Syria with a bilateral trade of $2.5 billion per annum. Damascus is set to lose millions of dollars per year in transportation revenues if Turkey implements its alternatives plans.

(By Moign Khawaja – Editor: Arabian Gazette)

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