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12th Sep, 1999

  1. International
  2. Finance
  3. Industry
  4. Policy
  5. Trade
  6. Gulf

Oil & gas exhibition in Baghdad

An Iraqi newspaper said on Monday that a large exhibition on oil and gas technologies would be held in Baghdad on September 25 to 27.

Nabdh Al-Shabab newspaper, owned by President Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday, said that more than 50 international companies would participate in the show.

Bahrain GDP drops on lower oil revenues

Bahrain's gross domestic product (GDP) fell 2.6 percent in 1998 mainly due to the drop in crude oil prices and subsequent slump in government revenues, newspapers said on Monday.

GDP dropped to 2.33 bln dinars ($6.13 bln), partly due to "a decline in the value added of crude petroleum and natural gas sector," the Gulf Daily News said, quoting a central bank report.

Government revenue fell 21.5 percent in 1998 to 554 mln dinars ($1.46 bln) while spending remained almost unchanged at 704.5 mln dinars ($1.85 bin), the Bahrain Monetary Agency report said.

This slump was again due to falling crude oil prices, resulting in a 38.6 per cent decline in Bahrain's oil and gas revenues to 259.4 mln dinars ($682 mln), the report said.

The overall budget deficit rose to 150.5 mln dinars ($396 mln) compared with a surplus of 2.2 mln dinars ($5.79 mln) in 1997.

Iran's oil stockpiles

Iran does not expect the level of excess oil industry stockpiles in the next few months to fall enough to push OPEC to reconsider output cuts before they expire at the end of March, the country's OPEC governor said on Monday.

"The level of commercial stocks, if we make a comparison with the end of 1996, could not be drawn down by the end of October," Hussein Kazempour Ardebili, who is also senior adviser to Iran's oil minister, told Reuters by telephone.

"The production cuts will go on no matter what as far as OPEC's decision is concerned. The average year to date prices have not reached the level we expected compared to the end of 1996," he said.

Analysts have said excess oil industry stockpiles are likely to disappear in October or November as winter demand overwhelms supply constrained by OPEC export curbs.

Ardebili dismissed that assessment, saying OPEC was considering several market conditions which do not indicate that the supply curbs agreed in a March deal should be eased.

Iran to create first non-governmental bank

Iran plans to set up its first non-governmental bank since the 1979 Islamic revolution as part of moves to reduce the state's domination of the economy, a cabinet minister said on Saturday.

The Cooperatives Bank would be financed by major guilds in the cooperatives sector, made up of small entrepreneurs coming together for shared business interests, and seeks to break the state monopoly on banking, Cooperatives Minister Morteza Haji told a news conference.

The idea for the new bank was proposed by Iran's Central Bank and the Cooperatives Ministry, which seeks to promote cooperative business interests.

Bahrain, US to sign economic treaty

Bahrain and the US are to sign a new economic treaty later this month in a bid to increase bilateral investment, the Gulf Daily News said on Saturday.

The treaty, to be signed on September 29 in Washington, "will make it easier for business people of each country to invest in the other," US ambassador to Bahrain, Johnny Young, told the newspaper.

US oil giant Texaco signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday with the Bahrain government to evaluate potential oil and gas sites, both onshore and offshore.

Saudi firms want $2.5 bln loans rescheduled

Three affiliates of Saudi industrial giant Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) are seeking to reschedule $2.5 billion in credits due to a commodity price slump and project delays, the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) reported on Friday.

MEED quoted bankers as naming the firms as Saudi Iron and Steel Co (Hadeed), Arabian Industrial Fibres Co (Ibn Rushd) and Saudi European Petrochemical Co (Ibn Zahr). "The companies were not able to comment," it said.

It quoted bankers as saying Hadeed had mandated Barclays Bank to coordinate the restructuring of a 4.725 billion riyal ($1.26 billion) loan agreement signed in 1997 with a consortium of local, Gulf and international financial institutions to finance the company's expansion.

"The leading banks involved in the original loan were due to meet in Bahrain in early September to discuss changes to the loan repayment schedule, " said a MEED statement, based on a report in the London-based weekly's latest edition.

OPEC happy with current oil prices

OPEC Secretary-General Rilwanu Lukman said on Tuesday the group was happy with current oil prices and unlikely to review production cuts, initiated in March, at a meeting in Vienna in two weeks.

"Why should we. I don't see any reason for changing what we are doing, it's working for us," he told Reuters at the sidelines of an oil conference in Bali.

Speaking at a news conference, Lukman said OPEC was happy with current prices around $20 per barrel, which he said was reasonable and fair for both producers and consumers.

"At the moment we are happy with 20. Perhaps it could go a bit higher if this regime of cuts is maintained. What counts is the long run, not a temporary hike in prices," he said.

Oil prices as measured by the Benchmark Brent crude plunged to below $10 in late 1998 before soaring to hit a 22-month lugh of $21.48 last Wednesday.

Saudi extends deadline GSM lines bid

Saudi Arabia has extended by one month the deadline for international companies to bid for a new telephone projec that would add one million GSM lines to the kingdom's network, an industry official said on Tuesday.

"The deadline has been extended for one month ending on October 30," an official at one of the international firms vying for the deal told Reuters by telephone from the Saudi capital Riyadh. "We were informed of the deadline extension last week."

Oman expands new port operations

Oman's Salalah port plans to open a new container freight station and a bunkering yard in a bid to attract more international shipping, the Oman Observer daily said Tuesday.

The freight station will cover an area of 37,220 square meters (400,500 square feet) at the port, which was opened in November last year, the daily said, quoting Salalah Port Services, which runs the port.

The bunkering operation will be opened in direct competition to Rotterdam and Singapore, as an alternative refueling point for international ships, the company said.

Salalah will also come up against Fujairah in the UAE, which is currently the largest refueling point in the southern Arabian peninsula.

Iran on way to three million unemployed

Iran will have nearly three million people out of work by the end of the Iranian year in March, the deputy employment minister said in Tuesday's press.

Habibollah Ajayebi said the figure would roughly double the number of those out of work just three years ago, adding that the estimated 1.4 million illegal foreign workers in Iran were "part" of the problem.

Poverty is also driving more than 260,000 children under 15 and another 700,000 people over 70 to work "in different sectors," Ajayebi said, quoted in the Tehran Times.

President Mahammad Khatami's cabinet on Sunday approved his new five-year economic plan, due to be presented to parliament in the coming weeks, aimed at dealing with Iran's chronic unemployment problem and the nation's spiraling inflation.

Iran determined on OPEC top post

Iran is determined to take over Opec's top job of secretary-general and will not lend support to any other country competing for it, a senior Iranian oil official said, the Bahraini Gulf Daily News paper reported Wednesday.

"Iran is determined about this job. We are not going to extend our support to any given country," the of ficial said, accordint to paper.

Saudi tight on spending despite oil rise

The sharp rise in oil prices since March this year spells sunnier prospects for the Saudi economy, but the government will not abandon spending curbs and throw caution to the wind, Saudi-based economists say.

"Higher revenues are likely to be used for deficit reduction rather than spending increases," Saudi American Bank (SAMBA) chief economist Brad Bourland said in a recent report.

He forecast a sharp drop in the 1999 deficit to around 15 billion Saudi riyals ($4 billion), from the 44 billion projected at the beginning of the year. A report by Saudi British Bank gave a slightly more conservative estimate of 20 billion riyals.

Bahrain gets UN approval for Iraq links

A UN committee has given Bahrain the green light to resume cargo movement and travel by private citizens to Iraq by sea, the Gulf Daily News newspaper reported on Thursday.

Trade and travel between the two Arab states stopped after the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990.

"We welcome the approval of direct sea travel between Bahrain and Iraq. The sea link will be established as soon as we can get a passenger-cum-cargo vessel...to include Bahrain as a stop," it quoted Shura council member Ali Musalem as saying.

The UN has already given approval to Dubai Ports Authority in the UAE to ferry passengers from Jabal Ali to Umm Qasr. The ferry began operating in November last year.

Musalem said the UN had also approved a resumption of sea trade between Iraq and Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

"This will greatly facilitate trade between the two countries and allow Bahraini businessmen to benefit from the trade opportunities opening in Iraq," Musalem said.

Iraq raises prices of refined oil products

Iraq has increased prices of refined oil products in a bid to rationalize domestic consumption, a weekly newspaper said on Thursday.

Al-Zawra newspaper, said the price of one litre of petrol was raised to 20 dinars from 15 and one litre of super petrol was increased to 50 dinars from 40 dinars. Five litres of lubricants were doubled to 2250 dinars from 1100.

The Iraqi dinar this week traded at 2,000 to the US dollar.

Gulf trade with Japan suffers setback

Japan's trade with the GCC states declined 23.2 percent in 1998 to $31.7billionfrom $41.3bnayear earlier mainly due to lower world oil prices, the Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro) said.

But Jetro, in a newsletter received Wednesday, said Japanese exports to GCC members rose 23.7pc to $9.8bn in 1998.

"This fall in value was mainly attributed to the decline in the prices of oil, the major item of trade between Japan and the GCC," the report said.

It said the UAE emerged in 1998 as Japan's biggest GCC trade partner with nearly $11.2bn, slightly ahead of Saudi Arabia with around $11.1bn.

Trade with Oman showed the sharpest decline, falling 27pc to $1.9bn from $2.6bn a year earlier.

Oil prices in 1998 fell to their lowest levels in many years due to oversupply.

Jetro said Japanese automobile exports to the UAE reached a new high in 1998 with some 70,300 cars valued at $722 million, a 31. lpc increase over 1997.

Bahrainis find jobs in private sector

About 5,500 Bahrainis have found jobs in the private sector over the past eight months, the Bahraini Gulf Daily News reported Thursday.

The Employment Services Bureau (ESB), which disclosed the figures, also said there was a scarcity of jobs for females in the labor market, the paper said.

"The number of female job-seekers registered with us, is much more than the jobs available for them in the country," said ESB head Mohammed Dito, according to the paper.

Out of 2,397 people, who were assisted by the bureau during January-August this year, only 500 were women, the paper said.

A total of 3,071 people have also found jobs directly in companies, which are pursuing a recruitment policy under the government's Bahrainisation program, the paper reported.

Oman unveils $276 mln investment projects

Fourteen projects involving a combined investment value of $276.6 mln were unveiled at an investor forum hosted by the Omani Centre for Investment Promotion and Export Development (Ociped), the Oman Daily Observer reported Wednesday.

An audience comprising prospective investors, bankers, consultants, business executives and government officials, heard presentations on an assortment of industrial and tourism projects deemed viable for early implementation in the Sultanate, the paper said.

The projects involve the manufacture of diverse products such as PVC resin, molecular sieves, porcelain electrical insulators, aluminum ladders, recycled tyre materials etc. according to the paper.

Opening the forum, Ali bin Masoud At Sunaidi, Under-Secretary for Commerce and Industry, underlined the importance of industry to the country's economic development, the paper reported.

He said the government had done its part in fostering industrial development by offering generous incentives, loan schemes, tax benefits and other measures, the paper said.