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The government of Dubai says it has gifted land worth around $550 million to Emiratis last year. According to the official data released by the Dubai Land Department, the emirate donated 368 plots to UAE citizens in 2011 as part of its generous social welfare system. The distribution comes amid falling property prices which saw the value of plots plummet 71 per cent, down from nearly $1.9 billion in 2010 to just around $549.7 million. A year-on-year comparison recorded a 14 per cent drop as 426 parcels of land were distributed during 2010.

Meanwhile, Dubai’s real estate sector received a boost during last year as total real estate transactions in the emirate witnessed a rise of 20 per cent in 2011 compared to previous year. The Dubai Land Department said on Monday it registered 35,297 transactions worth AED143bn ($38.9bn) last year in Dubai that included sales, mortgages, ijarah, mortgage portfolios, deferred sales and other transactions. “This indicates the recovery of the property financing and the return of healthy activities,” the Land Department statement said adding it expected to see “strong recovery” in 2012, with investors increasing their investments in Dubai.

Sharjah-based Air Arabia, Middle East and North Africa’s first and largest low cost carrier, has won the international award for best low cost carrier. The award was presented by Travel Agents Association of India Diamond Jubilee Celebration and TAAI Travel Award 2011 during a ceremony held in Mumbai. The airline recently competed its six years of operations in India and has become the largest international airline to serve the country by operating flights from its hub in Sharjah to 13 Indian cities.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plans to invest $968 billion in 1,638 major projects in different sectors over the next ten years. The oil and gas rich kingdoms plan to fund $79 billion in train and metro systems. The Gulf states also sought to invest $15 billion in expansion of ports and maritime facilities.

Nakheel will open its first island to the public this week with the launch of the luxury World Island Beach Club. Owned by Indian entrepreneur Wakil Admed Azmi, the luxury resort will be the first attraction on The World to open to the public after the bust of Dubais property bubble. The exclusive resort will cost members up to AED40,000 a year to avail the state-of-the-art facilities including a 100-seat restaurant, cabanas, and entertainment facilities, alongside a pontoon that can accommodate up to 80ft yachts.

Government of Qatar has proposed a unified employment contract for domestic helpers that will cover the entire GCC region during a meeting of the undersecretaries from the ministries of labour of the GCC states. Doha also suggested that all GCC states must explore other markets to bring domestic helpers to reduce soaring recruitment charges.

Iran warned Kuwait it would launch full-scale unilateral development of the disputed offshore Arash gas field, located on Iran-Kuwait’s territorial waters in northern Gulf. The field’s gas reserve is estimated at one trillion cubic feet along with some 310 million barrels of oil. “Our emphasis presently is on joint partnership strategy rather than competition, and we are hopeful to reach a conclusion with Kuwait over the development of the shared Arash field,” Iran’s state news agency IRNA quoted Mahmoud Zirakchianzadeh, the head of state Offshore Oil Company, as saying.

A group of European banks which include BNP Paribas SA, Societe Generale SA, Dexia SA, KBC Groep NV, Intesa Sanpaolo SpA and UniCredit SpA, are seeking to sell Gulf loan books to Middle Eastern banks to help raise cash in their bid to counter sovereign debt crisis, sources close to banking giants told Bloomberg on condition of anonymity. A lot of these European banks are selling their premium assets to realise higher recoveries and generate some liquidity. We see a large offering of Middle East project finance portfolios as the cost of dollar funding has increased making these long-term assets less attractive, Ahmad Alanani, Dubai-based directorfor the Middle East at investment bank Exotix Ltd. said in an interview.

(By Moign Khawaja – Editor: Arabian Gazette)
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