MasterCard's leading mart
The UAE is Mastercard International's biggest market in the Middle
East/North Africa region with total spending in 1998 amounting to $362.02 million.
Despite better penetration in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom last year
yielded gross spending of $331.78 million.
The UAE is expected to remain the company's top Mena market this year
as well, with a projected total spend of $425 million against second-placed Saudi Arabia's
Egyptians recorded an average spend last year of $4,723, although the
figure is expected to come down this year to $4,000. The Qataris came next, shelling out
$4,716 on average, and were followed by the Lebanese with $3,703.
But the biggest market in terms of card penetration continued to be
Saudi Arabia, with 172,060 cardholders last year, accounting for a dominant 33.09 per cent
of total Mastercard holders in the Mena region.
UAE vehicle imports
Vehicle imports by UAE during 1999 is expected to close at the 84,000
mark, a sharp drop from the record 96,204 during 1998 according to a local automobile
While overall market conditions are one factor, the decline has also
been engineered by the sharp rise in the value of the yen in recent weeks. Japanese auto
manufacturers have a dominant position in the local and regional markets.
UAE, S. Korea agree to boost trade
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid A Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE
Minister of Finance and Industry, and Chung Duck-koo, South Korean Trade, Industry and
Energy Minister, signed a joint statement on trade and industrial co-operation in Dubai.
The UAE and South Korea agreed to step up cooperation in oil and
mineral resources, the official news agency WAM reported.
It said Obeid bin Saif Al Nasiri, UAE Minister of Petroleum and Mineral
Resources, and Chung Duck-koo, South Korea's Minister of Industry and Energy decided at
talks in Abu Dhabi to form a committee tasked with boosting cooperation in the two fields.
They also agreed to "encourage joint oil projects," in
reference to the ongoing negotiations between the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum
Investment Co (Ipic) and South Korea's Hyundai Oil Refinery Co.
In April, Ipic agreed in principle to buy a $500 million stake in
Hyundai Oil Refinery Co.
"Negotiations are still going on, but we expect the deal to be
signed this year," for Ipic to acquire the 50 per cent stake said, I.S. Chung,
general manager of Hyundai Oil Refinery Co's Dubai branch.
The South Korean oil company is mainly involved in importing crude from
Iran, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Oman for refining in South Korea. It is a
subsidiary of the giant Hyundai group.
Ipic, owned by the Abu Dhabi government, is an investment company
focusing on oil and oil-related activities and acquisitions.
Morocco airline selloff
Morocco plans to privatise up to 40 per cent of state-run airline Royal
Air Maroc (RAM), including the sale of a stake to a foreign partner, a transport ministry
Talk about a partial privatisation of the national carrier began in
1995, but the plans were shelved as the company underwent a restructuring programme that
included upgrading its fleet and raising its capital.
Iran to open up mining industry to foreigners
The Iranian government has decided to open up its mining and metal
industries, the most important in the country after oil, to foreign investors, including
from the United States, an official said.
"We want to replace oil little by little because Iran is extremely
rich in minerals," the deputy minister for mines and metals Mohammad Javad
Assemi-Pur, told a press conference.
He stressed that U.S. firms were among those invited to take part in an
international conference aimed at attracting investment in the mining industry, to be held
in Tehran on October 19 and 20.
Assemi-Pur said four contracts would be signed at the end of the
conference, including two for gold-mining with South African interests.
"Some 100 projects worth approximately $10 billion will be offered
to the foreign and Iranian investors at the conference, which is the first of its type to
be organised in Iran," he said.
Of the projects, ten concerned steel production, nine aluminium, 11
copper and four zinc.
Representatives of 67 foreign companies, mainly from European countries
like Britain, France and Germany, are expected to attend.
"We want to reassure our foreign partners that there is security
for investment in Iran," Assemi-Pur said, stressing the desire of the government to
attract capital from outside.
Assemi-Pur said, stressing the desire of the government to attract
capital from outside.
"Foreigners can invest in Iran up to 100 per cent, but we prefer
them to establish joint ventures with Iranian firms," he added.
For several years Iran has been seeking foreign cash to help it exploit
its mineral wealth, with the aim of boosting exports and countering a fall in revenue from
Last year administrative formalities governing mineral exports were
abolished, including the prior authorisation required from the mines and metals ministry.
Iran earns 85 per cent of its foreign currency from oil.
UAE software piracy rate at all-time low
Boosted by strict policing against software piracy, the local
information technology (IT) sector has grown ten-fold in the last 42 months, and other
Middle East countries could attempt to follow this growth model, said a senior industry
The size of packaged software sector in the UAE is estimated at Dh440
million, and if clubbed with the market for customised packages, it could be as high as
Piracy rate in the UAE is also the lowest in the region at 47 per cent,
and could fall to levels in major West European markets by end-2000.
In 1998, UAE piracy level was registered at 54 per cent.
But despite attempts by Middle East governments to enforce strict
copyright regime, software piracy continues to average a high 90 per cent, and is
hindering IT sector growth the official said.
Oman may drop $900m project
Oman may cancel a proposed $900 million petrochemical plant in the Gulf
state after feasibility studies showed the project would not be profitable, the official
Omani news agency ONA reported.
ONA quoted a commerce and Industry Ministry official as saying that BP
Amoco had asked Omani government to reconsider the project after studies showed it would
not be profitable at the proposed size, due to fluctuating petrochemicals prices on the
Qatar set to raise $400m in bonds
Qatar is to raise $400 million through corporate bonds to help finance
a natural gas liquids (NGL) project, which has already raised a similar amount with a
loan, a Qatari gas official said.
"It was always intended to raise $800 million for the NGL-4
complex through a syndicated loan and bonds. The first part has been closed with the
signing of a $400 million loan with 14 banks and preparations for another tranche to raise
another $400 million through bonds is under way,'' the official said.
Iran, Greece sign economic accords
Iran and Greece signed a series of agricultural and industrial
cooperation agreements on Thursday before visiting Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulous
left Tehran for the central city of Isfahan.
Deals on the production of olive oil as well as Persian Gulf and
Caspian Sea fisheries were among those inked by Stephanopoulos and his Iranian counterpart
Mahammad Khatami, who also signed cultural cooperation agreements.
US trade mission in Egypt
A group of US corporate executives headed by Commerce Secretary William
Daley arrived here Wednesday hoping to exploit fresh trade opportunities with Egypt after
a change of government.
The delegation is looking forward "to exploring commercial
opportunities resulting from Egypt's economic reforms and ongoing privatization
reforms," Daley said on his arrival here at the head of a delegation of 12 business
Among the US companies represented were Nortel Networks, Enron
Corporation, ProNetLink.com and New York Life International.
Qatar launches $700 mln Chemical Plant
Qatar opened a $700 mln petrochemical project aimed at converting the
Gulf Arab state's mammoth hydrocarbon deposits into valued added products, the Oman Daily
Observer reported Wednesday.
Energy and Industry Minister Abdallah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah said the
country's third petrochemical plant, Qatar Fuel Additives Company (QAFAC), was designed to
produce 825,000 tons of methanol and 610,000 tons of MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ethane) a
year, the paper said.
They will be sold to foreign partners during the project's loan period
spanning 12 years under an offtake agreement put in place, according to the paper.
The project is 50 per cent owned by the state's Qatar General Petroleum
Corp (QGPC), 20 per cent by Taiwan's Chinese Petroleum Corp and 15 per cent by Canada's
International Octane Ltd (IOL) and Taiwan's Lee Chang Yung Chemical Industry Cor (LCYCIC),
the paper reported.
US: Jordan nearer to WTO membership
US Commerce Secretary William Daley said Jordan's pace of IMF-directed
economic reforms so far this year was bringing it closer to membership of the World Trade
"I think the reforms that have occurred have moved Jordan very far
down the road towards entry into the WTO," he told reporters before ending a two-day
ABC Bank to arrange 'Islamic' loan for Iran
Bahrain-based ABC Islamic Bank said on Sunday it would arrange
financing for an oil and petrochemical project in Iran worth millions of dollars.
ABC Islamic Bank, owned by Arab Banking Corp (ABC), also said it would
soon introduce an Islamic credit card in a joint project with Bahrain-based Arab Financial
"We will be the lead manager for the financing facility for an oil
and petrochemical project in Iran," Executive Director of ABC Islamic Bank Mahamed
BuQais told Reuters in an interview.