Middle East Business Review – 19 February

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GLOBAL OIL PRICE HIKE RALLIES SHARES IN THE UAE

The Dubai Financial Market General Index gained 2% to 1547.54 points due to oil trading above $100 per barrel amid US-Iran tensions in the region. Reports said shares of Gulf Navigation, a publicly traded tanker owner in Dubai, soared 5.8% to AED0.27 a share. Dana Gas, traded on the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange, recorded an increase of 6.8% to AED0.47 a share. The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index rose 0.5% to 2487.59 points.

AGRICULTURE CONTRIBUTION TO UAE’S GDP STILL ‘NEGLIGIBLE’

According to a report published by Alpen Capital, agriculture’s contribution to the UAE’s GDP is a mere 0.9%. In the UK, 24 per cent of the land is available for agriculture while in the UAE it is only 1%. Even where land is available, the GCC countries face severe water shortages, Dr. Ashraf Mahate, head of export market intelligence at Dubai Exports, said in an interview. According to the 2010 Economist Intelligence Unit report, the UAEs imports totalled $3.6 billion and the figure is estimated to rise to $5.5 billion in 2015 and $8.4 billion in 2020.

ABU DHABI-BASED GROUP PLANS HEAVY INVESTMENT IN OMAN

Ghantoot Group has announced it will make an invest worth AED1.83 billion which will see the establishment of two power plants, three hotels and various water desalination and transmission, and distribution of oil and gas projects in the Sultanate of Oman. “Over the past few years, the Sultanate of Oman has taken huge strides in driving its economy forward and generating jobs for its nationals. We are keen to partner with the Oman government and play a constructive role in the country’s development. Our investment in Oman reaffirms our ability in identifying suitable opportunities to invest in promising, high-growth regions in the Middle East,” Rashid Al Balooshi, Managing Director of Ghantoot Group, said.

OMAN SEEKS TOURISM BOOST

Meanwhile, Oman’s Ministry of Tourism said it is looking to attract close to 2 million foreign tourists this year as part of its ‘Muscat – Arab capital for tourism’ campaign. “We are not looking at mass tourism. We are promoting Oman as a cultural and historical destination – a country which has mountains, desert and a long coastline. We are looking to attract high-end tourists,” Haitham Mohammad Gasani, Director of Tourism Promotion at Oman’s Ministry of Tourism, told newsmen, while adding that his country attracted 1.6 million tourists last year. “Revenue from tourism comprised 2.6% of Oman’s gross domestic product (GDP) last year. By 2020 we have targeted tourism to contribute 3% to our annual GDP.”

GCC POPULATION FORECASTED TO HIT 50 MILLION IN 2013

According to forecasts released by QNB Capital, booming economies of the Gulf states are leading to a substantial demand for expatriate workers and as a result leading to rapid growth in population. The GCC population reached an estimated 46.8m in 2011, up sharply from 33.2m in 2004, and is forecasted to rise to 49.8m in 2013. The population of GCC nationals is expected to grow at 2.4% between 2009-13, down only slightly from 2.5% during 2004-09. The high population growth rate in the GCC is a combination of natural growth amongst nationals and the net immigration of expatriate workers, the forecast suggested.

UAE SATELLITE LAUNCH DELAYED

Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat) said the launch of its Y1B satellite has been postponed until April due to unforeseen circumstances. The delay has been the direct result of previous two failed launch attempts of the SES-4 satellite, the statement added. “The delay is unfortunate but it is well-known that launch delays, and the domino effect they often have on the subsequent launches, is a risk that the satellite industry must face. We are also working with our partners to minimize the delay in our commercial roll-out and are looking at ways we can begin these as early as possible,” Tareq Abdul Raheem Al Hosani, Yahsat CEO, said in a statement.

OMANIS HELPING IRANIAN TRADERS TO BYPASS US-SANCTIONS; SHIP FOODSTUFFS

According to Reuters, Omani traders are helping their Iranian counterparts in Omanby lending loans which are being used to ship foodstuffs to Iran. Iranian traders are struggling to secure financing due to US-led economic embargo against Tehran which is having an adverse impact on civilians. “Local banks don’t give us letters of credit anymore to export food to Iran, but we are grateful for the private loans from our Omani friends. Without bank credit, it is very difficult to send anything to Iran. We don’t have the cash to do it, nor do our Iranian counterparts. The sanctions make it difficult for them to send money in advance,” Hassan Ghafour, an Iranian businessman based in the north Oman city of Sohar, told Reuters.

(By Moign Khawaja – Editor: Arabian Gazette) 

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