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GULF STATES – ECONOMICS & FINANCE
Gulf navigation holding records 19pc revenue growth

Gulf Navigation Holding, the Dubai Financial Market listed maritime and shipping company, has announced a 19 percent operating revenue growth by the end of Q3 of 2019, compared to the same period last year.

The company recorded an operating revenue of Dh130 million compared to Dh109 million in the same period of 2018. The company reported a net loss of Dh18 million in Q3 of 2019, bringing total losses in the first nine months of 2019 to Dh46 million. The decline in the company’s financial performance is due to the high operating costs of vessels coupled with lower asset utilisation in the quarter.

Gulf Navigation has adapted well to the economic challenges in the first nine months of 2019. The company has successfully completed the 10-year special survey and ballast water treatment installation program on its four vessels that are chartered to Sabic. After a period of underutilisation, the company has now managed to secure spot and long-term charters for all nine vessels. On cost structure front, the company has restructured its operations and reorganised its subsidiaries to ensure continuity of its operations and enhanced its productivity at the lowest possible costs for the near future. The Company is also looking to outsource its ship management function to optimize its cost structure and enhance governance.

UAE remains best middle east country for doing business

The UAE remains best country in the Mena region to do business for yet another year as it introduced four new reforms in the last 12 months, World Bank said in its latest report.

World Bank praised the UAE, saying business regulatory reforms introduced by the country serve as inspiration.

Though the Emirates slipped five rankings globally to 16th positions in World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, but UAE is still more business friendly than the countries like Finland, Germany, Canada, Ireland, Japan, France, Switzerland and a number of other developed and developing countries.

The UAE introduced four new reforms last year about starting a new business, deal with construction permits, protecting minority investors and cross-border trading to make it easier to do business in the country, joining 115 other countries who made it easier to do business there. In total, 190 economies were assessed in the report.

“Business regulatory reforms across the Gulf economies have been on a steady rise. These changes are motivated in part by the urgent need for economic diversification. Successful reforms in neighbouring states, such as the UAE, have also served as inspiration. Saudi Arabia is the most improved economy in Doing Business 2020, with a total of eight reforms,” World Bank said in its new report.

Among the four reforms introduced last year, the UAE made starting a business less expensive by reducing the fee for business incorporation; deal with construction permits was made easier by using a risk-based approach to reduce the number of inspections; increased minority investor protections by providing for qualification of directors in case of prejudicial conflicts of interest; and made trading across borders easier by reducing the time to export by fully digitising certificates of origin and the cost to import by issuing certificates of conformity that cover multiple shipments.

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UAE is an ideal hub for Fintech

So what is it that attracts global fintech players to the UAE? Why is everyone keen to have their share of pie of this growing robust sector? the answer to these and many more such questions is simple, ‘innovation and growth’ which has brought down the global players to the desert to explore opportunities that the sector offers.

The UAE’s fintech startups are going to benefit immensely as the sector has received strong support from the government as well as onset of Expo2020 Dubai will be a catalyst to propel further growth. The bullish factors are further affirmed as the 3-day event Fintech Abu Dhabi gets overwhelming response. The event is reported to be attended by 5,000 delegates, 2,000 plus startups, scale-ups and SMEs, 75 exhibitors from 50 countries and 100 speakers.

Retrofitting key in UAE sustainability drive

Retrofitting will continue to play an important role in helping the UAE achieve its targets for more sustainable buildings, experts at the 21st Water, Energy, Technology and Environment Exhibition (Wetex 2019) said.

Speaking to source at the event, Ali Al Jassim, CEO of Etihad Energy Services Company (Etihad ESCO), highlighted the importance of retrofitting projects across both the commercial and residential sectors. In May this year, Etihad ESCO announced that the installation of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels on the roofs of 5,000 homes in Dubai. The project has a target of installing 65,000 PV panels; 295,000 LED lights; and 50,000 water savers at the villas. The retrofitting is expected to save 31,102,500kWh of energy. Scheduled to be completed by November 2019, the initiative will lead to the reduction of CO2 emissions by 21,139 tonnes annually.

“Today, Dubai has 130MW of connected residential rooftop solar,” Ali Al Jassim said. “Our target is to double this figure within one year. Dubai is very unique when it comes to retrofitting projects, and the city has become a model for the industry in the region.”

More recently, Etihad ESCO also announced the successful completion of Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) Retrofit Project. The project achieved 32.6 percent energy savings upon completion of the measurement and verification year period. The project also recorded 17,000 tonnes of reductions in annual CO2 emissions, equivalent to removing 3,600 cars from the roads for a year. Etihad ESCO and Jafza have entered into an agreement for Phase 3 of the project, which aims to enhance energy efficiency, specifically in office buildings.

Minimum price of pack of 20 cigarettes set at Dh8: UAE tax authority

The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) has called on all businesses registered for Excise Tax to comply with the minimum price that has been fixed for tobacco products and update it in the authority’s system, as determined in Cabinet Decision No. (55) of 2019 on the Excise Price for Tobacco Products.

The decision stipulates that excise price cannot be set under Dh0.4 (40 fils) for one cigarette. Meanwhile, the minimum price for waterpipe tobacco (known in Arabic as ‘Mu’assel’) was set at Dh0.1 (10 fils) per gram.

The FTA stressed that enforcing a minimum excise price for cigarettes and other tobacco products serves to accomplish two strategic objectives: Protect consumers and the community from products that damage public health and the environment, and prevent price manipulation for the purpose of tax evasion.

 

New one free zone passport, rent rule to boost business in Dubai

Dubai Free Zones to implement one free zone passport for companies. The Dubai Free Zones Council (DFZ Council) held its 13th meeting, headed by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the DFZ Council, to review the progress in developing a comprehensive geo-economic map of Dubai that seeks to position the emirate as a leading destination for investment and business set-up.

The Council also discussed several other initiatives, including proposals related to long-term rental agreements for investors in Dubai’s free zones, the one free zone passport – a unified license that allows businesses to operate across the emirate’s free zones with the aim of boosting its attractiveness for international companies, the Free Zone 10X platform, and Seamless Middle East 2020.

Speaking on the agenda of the meeting, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said: “The initiatives of the DFZ Council, such as the geo-economic map, bring added value to the local economy.

Lack of low-cost cigarettes in UAE to help smokers kick the habit

Smokers are looking to reduce the number of cigarettes they light up or kick the butt altogether with new pricing requirements announced by the government on Tuesday.

From December 1, the minimum price of a cigarette will be 40 fils or Dh8 for a pack of 20, according to a directive issued by the Federal Tax Authority (FTA).

“This means that a pack of 20 cigarettes, previously sold at Dh4, must now be priced at a minimum of Dh8. The new Dh8 retail price includes VAT (value-added tax) and excise tax,” a tax expert explained.

A quick of survey of some convenience stores revealed that the cheapest pack of cigarette available is priced at Dh5. This will go up to Dh8 come December 1.

Thomas Vanhee, partner at Aurifer Middle East Tax Consultancy and an affiliate professor of tax law, said: “A pack of 20 cigarettes previously sold at Dh10 will be in excess of the minimum (Dh8) price. If the seller does not increase the price, the Dh10 retail price should remain as it is already inclusive of 48 fils VAT and Dh4.76 excise tax.”

The FTA stressed that the increase would “protect consumers and the community from products that damage public health and the environment”.

More than 12,000 jobs created in Dubai last month

In a sign of continuing investor confidence in Dubai and new opportunities arising across diverse economic sectors, the Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED) issued 4,057 new licenses for various professional, commercial, industrial and tourism activities in September 2019. According to the Business Registration and Licensing sector in DED, 65.2 percent of the new licences were professional, 33.2 percent commercial, 1.2 percent related to tourism and 0.4 percent industry, and together, they created 12,102 jobs in the labour market. (Check out the latest jobs in UAE)

The top nationalities who secured licences in September were: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Britain, China, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the USA, respectively.

The Business Map digital platform of DED, which seeks to reflect the economic realities in Dubai by providing vital data on each licence category including their numbers and distribution on a monthly basis, saw 30,523 business registration and licensing transactions being completed during the month of September.

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