Middle East Business Review – 20 February

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UAE VOWS TO PROTECT CONSUMERS FROM COKE, PEPSI PRICE VIOLATIONS

Hashem Nuaimi, head of Consumer Protection Department the Ministry of Economy, vowed to pull Coca-Cola and Pepsi cans off the shelves as both beverage companies violated consumer protection rules. “Pepsi and Coca Cola violated rules when they reduced the size of the AED1.50 can from 355ml to 300ml and removed the price tag. The two companies requested that they would market their 355 ml size cans with a price printed on them. We were surprised by their move when they reduced the size [of the cans] and took the price tag off the cans. What the Pepsi and Coca Cola did was unacceptable … because the two companies illegally reduced the size [of the cans] but maintained the price. In other words, they simply increased the price in violation of consumer protection laws,” Al Nuaimi said.

DUBAI, ABU DHABI AIRPORTS NAMED TOP TWO MIDDLE EAST AIRPORTS

According to an Airport Service Quality survey carried out by the Airports Council International, Dubai International Airport won the top spot in the Middle East region while Abu Dhabi was named the second best. “Dubai International managed to achieve a high level of growth in 2010, surpassing the originally projected traffic for the year by over one million passengers, while making major improvements in customer service quality. The ASQ award is a great milestone in our greater journey to become the world’s busiest and best airport,” Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports said in a statement. Meanwhile, Ahmad Al Haddabi, the chief operating officer at Abu Dhabi Airports Company, said: “The ASQ Awards have a real importance to us since the passengers actually decide on the winners, ranking Abu Dhabi International Airport once again as the second-best airport in the Middle East.”

ROTANA ANNOUNCES ALCOHOL-FREE HOTEL IN UAE CITY

Leading hotel group Rotana announced its plans to open an alcohol-free five-star hotel named ‘The Hili Rayhaan’ in the first quarter of 2013. “Wahat Hili Mall will be the one stop destination for visitors to Al Ain; drawing in people from all over the region to witness the splendour that is characteristic of the city. With 250 rooms to cater to tourists, we are proud to partner with the modern-day retail complex that is set to become a ‘must see’ for guests of the city,” Selim El Zyr, president and CEO of Rotana, said in a statement while adding that alcohol-free concept is an entirely new proposition in the region and the market. “This category has a huge potential due to its inherent appeal in the Middle East.”

SHARJAH ANNOUNCES TOURISM BOOM

Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer, chief operations officer at Al Qasba Development Authority said Al Qasba, Sharjah’s leading tourist, cultural and entertainment destination, achieved a 14% increase in visitor numbers and also registered a 12.6% rise in its total income. He also added that the number of visitors totalled 1,881,670 in 2011 compared to 1,650,110 in 2010. “It became a point of attraction due to the growing number of activities and events it organizes throughout the year as well as due to its high-class tourist, leisure, cultural and artistic facilities, in addition to Al Qasba Business Centre and Multaqa Al Qasba, among others,” he said in a press statement. Al Qasba, is spread over 10,000 hectares and boasts a range of restaurants, cafes and leisure facilities, including the 60-metre high Etisalat-Eye of the Emirates; Al Qasba Theatre, which hosts various Arabic and international films and plays; the Kids Fun Zone, the Musical Fountain; water canal; Maraya Art Centre, Al Qasba Business Centre and Multaqa Al Qasba, among other facilities and tourism attractions.

UAE BANK ANNOUNCES GOLD INVESTMENT ACCOUNT

Emirates NBD announced it is launching a new Gold Investment Account, first of its kind in the region, which will enable customers to buy gold in electronic form and invest in gold savings without the additional risk and costs associated with storing and moving gold in physical form. “The Gold Investment Account is a pioneering initiative from Emirates NBD and is specially designed to enable retail customers to buy gold in electronic form. We have received some very positive initial responses from our customers to this innovative product, and look forward to growing this significantly as people turn to gold as a traditional store of value in the low-interest yielding economic environment,” said Shekhar Krishnamurthy, Head of Retail Assets and Liabilities, Emirates NBD.

Al HILAL BANK LAUNCHES MIDDLE EAST’S FIRST DRIVE-THROUGH BANK

Al Hilal Bank announced the launch of its ‘Money Station’ branch in Dubai, first ever drive-thru auto teller machine (ATM) that allows customers to carry out their transactions without leaving their cars. “This is a full comprehensive banking solution through drive-thru. There are tellers outside that serve these customers that come through the money station. They do their complete banking transactions while in the car. There is an actual customer service that finalizes their requirements,” Mohammed J. Berro, group chief executive officer of the Islamic bank said while praising Dubai for staying at the forefront of innovation. “I think this is another addition that fits very well within the DNA of Dubai.”

KUWAIT SET TO POST RECORD BUDGET INCOME, SURPLUS

According to a report issued by the National Bank of Kuwait, the country is set to post its largest revenue and budget surplus ever this current fiscal year thanks to high oil prices and increase in production. The NBK forecast said revenues in the 2011/2012 fiscal year, which ends 31 March, are expected to top $100 billion for the first time, ending between $101 billion and $104 billion. The report added that oil income contributed to the state’s 95% of the total revenues. Kuwait’s previous record revenues reached last fiscal year $79 billion, while its largest budget surplus was $33.5 billion in the 2007/2008 fiscal year.

EGYPT SEEKS $3.2BN IMF LOAN

Egyptian Finance Minister Momtaz El Saeed indicated Cairo is willing to seek a $3.2 billion financing deal from the IMF after failing to garner support on a $2bn worth of sukuk bonds and other certificated of deposits aimed at wealthy Egyptian businessmen and expatriates. The official Al-Ahram newspaper quoted El Saeed as saying that an IMF delegation would visit Cairo next month to sign the agreement for the three-phase, $3.2bn loan, which the embattled nation needs to cover its soaring budget deficit and decreasing foreign exchange reserves. “The interest rate on the loan is 1.2 per cent, and it will be used to support the budget for 2012-2013,” the interim finance minister said while adding that the loan will be paid in three instalments.

(By Moign Khawaja – Editor: Arabian Gazette)

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