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Dubai launched a AED12 billion ($3.26 billion), 1000 megawatt solar energy project that will be fully funded by the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, Saeed Al Tayer, vice chairman of the energy body said while speaking to newsmen. He hoped that the project will begin generating 100 megawatts electricity by the end of 2013. The Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 aims to produce 5 per cent of its electricity using solar energy whereas producing 12 per cent by harnessing nuclear power to meet?its energy needs by 2030. Dubai exclusively relies on gas power to produce and meet 99 per cent of its energy needs.

UAE Oil Minister Mohammad bin Dhaen Al Hamli said the Abu Dhabi-Fujairah crude oil pipeline would be ready by the next six months. “The pipeline is almost complete but hopefully it will be operational within six months, by May or June,” Al Hamli said while adding that between 1.5-1.8 million barrels a day could be transported via the land-based pipeline. The $3.29 billion, 400-km long pipeline will enable the oil rich emirate of Abu Dhabi to export around 70 per cent of its crude via Fujairah oil terminal, essentially bypassing the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a potential flashpoint in the wake of US-Iran tensions. Arabian Gazette on Sunday reported that the pipeline has hit technical snags which could lead to delays.

Abdullah Lootah, secretary general of the Emirates Competitiveness Council, said the UAE economy grew around four per cent in 2011. “The economy has witnessed four per cent growth in 2011, becoming the second biggest GCC economy, as its GDP grew from Dh6.5 billion ($1.7 billion) to Dh12.48 billion ($3.40 billion),” the senior economic official announced while launching the UNDP Human Development Report in Abu Dhabi. He added that the UAE spent 46 per cent of its 2011 budget on education, healthcare and community development, with main emphasis on offering free compulsory education and supporting country’s youth in the field of higher learning.

Irish transport minister said his government has no plans to discuss the sale of its stake in Aer Lingus, the flag carrier of Ireland, to UAE’s flag carrier. However, Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, admitted that his government has been in talks with the Middle Eastern airline. “We have had preliminary talks with Etihad on the possible sale of the Aer Lingus asset and those talks are stalled,? Leo Varadkar, Ireland?s Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, said, according to news sources. Etihad has already been chasing Germany’s second biggest airline, Air Berlin, to sell 29 per cent stake and help it become the biggest shareholder.

Meanwhile, stocks at the Abu Dhabi Exchange continued their dismal performance for a third week amid concerns over speculated disappointing Etisalat performance during Q4 2011. The national telecommunication providers’ shares hit the lowest during the last two weeks whereas Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), UAE’s third largest lender by assets, registered a slip of 2.1 per cent.

According to real estate experts in the UAE, average rentals in the emirates of Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman witnessed a steep decline of about 10 per cent in 2011. Sharjah was the biggest loser with residential rentals taking a hit of around 10-20 per cent, while neighbouring Dubai and Ajman’s decline ranged between 5 to 10 per cent. However, analysts predict the market will continue to recover from the late 2008 property bubble bust which saw real estate prices tumbling. “Last year was the year of the gradual stabilisation of the real estate market. We saw many positive initiatives, which have contributed to strengthen the pace of recovery of the sector, and renewed confidence in it,” Muhannad Al Wadia, General Manager of Dubai-based Harbour Properties said.

Qatar Nationals Hotels Company (QNH) announced it has acquired ownership of two iconic Raffles properties in Singapore and Paris. Terming it as QNH’s strategic expansion at the international level, CEO Hamad Abdullah Al Mullah praised the hotels and underlined that “through years of rich history, Raffles Hotel Singapore and Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris have become legendary legacies that enhance the hospitality values by building a bridge between tradition and a glorious future”. The historic Raffles Singapore is named after the founder of modern Singapore and was opened in 1887. The 103-room hotel was declared a National Monument on its 100th anniversary and is considered as Singapore’s one of the most important buildings.

Iran has imposed new curbs to tackle currency crisis and help boost value of riyal which has witnessed a dramatic drop during the last few weeks due to, what some economists believe, imposition of new US economic sanctions and growing fears of hyper inflation. Lawmakers in Tehran passed a bill that imposed legal penalties on unofficial money traders who sell foreign currencies outside official exchange offices and banks. ?The sharp fluctuation in the foreign exchange market prices stems from the central bank and the government?s weak management since, unfortunately, the government has relinquished the foreign exchange market,? Gholam-Reza Mesbahi-Moghaddam, head of parliament?s special economic reform committee, said while taking an apparent swipe at central bank governor Mahmoud Bahmani.

(By Moign Khawaja – Editor: Arabian Gazette)

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