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Nov 08, 1999

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

Iran aims to raise oil output in Ahwaz fields

Iran is seeking to more than double oil production in the Ahwaz area to 650,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the current level of 300,000 bpd, a senior Iranian oil official said in remarks published on Tuesday.

The London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat newspaper quoted Iran's Deputy Minister of Petroleum for International Affairs Mehdi Husseini as saying that target could be achieved within 10 years.

Development of the Ahwaz area, comprised of Ahwaz, Mansuri and Ab-Teymour fields, falls under Iran's biggest opening to foreign firms since the 1979 revolution.

BP Amoco, Shell and Total are among international oil firms competing to win deals to develop those fields, known as Ahwaz Area Bangestan.

Some surveys have put reserves at the complex at a combined five billion barrels.

Egypt official wheat buyer says no plans for tender

Egypt's main official wheat buyer on Thursday said he had not tendered for wheat and would only do so when prices dropped to attractive levels, relying in the meantime on large stocks.

Grain traders in Chicago had said late on Wednesday that Egypt was expected to tender for for 200,000-300,000 tons of wheat after the close of trading on Wednesday (1915 GMT). Samir Shakankiri, vice chairman of the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) told Reuters Egypt had enough wheat supply for the time being.

US-Saudi trade reaches $60 bln in 1998

Saudi Commerce Minister Osama bin Jaafar bin Ibrahim Faqih was quoted on Thursday as saying that US-Saudi trade reached $60 billion in 1998. The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) also quoted Faqih as saying that Saudi exports to the US accounted for $35 billion of the total value of trade.

Faqih was speaking after holding talks with US Commerce Secretary William Daley in Washington on Wednesday. The agency gave no comparative figures or details.

Faqih is accompanying Saudi Defence Minister Prince Sultan on a visit to the US. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest producer and exporter of oil, is a major supplier of crude to the US.

Algeria plans fresh oil investment schemes

Riding a wave of exploration successes and a spate of peace after years of violence, Algeria is pushing hard to get foreign investors interested in vast underexplored and virgin petroleum basins.

Algeria's ambition is to sign agreements for 11 oil and gas blocks within six months, including the award to US Amerada Hess of the development of El Gassi field before the end of the year, said Sonatrachv vice-president for exploration Ahmed Mecheraoui at an industry conference.

China-Arab trade reaches $7.1bn

Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Tuesday said that trade between his country and the Arab world reached $7.1 bn last year.

He said Saudi Arabia had become China's largest trading partner in the Middle East and North Africa, with a total of $1.7 bn in 1998.

China mainly exports textiles and electronics while Saudi Arabia exports oil and oil-related products.

The figures came during Jiang's lecture on Sino-Arab and Chinese-Saudi relations in the King Abdel Aziz library in Riyadh, which was attended by Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz.

The lecture touched on the major stages of China's relationship with the Arab world, starting with the arrival of the first Arab traders in China in 651.

The president also outlined China's economic growth, with a pledge that 'we will continue our policy of opening up to the outside world and work towards greater cooperation with all the countries in the world.'

Jiang Zemin began his four-day visit Sunday. His meetings have also included King Fahd, the governor of Riyadh, Prince Salman, and the secretary general of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, Jamil al-Hujailan.

Accords signed during the visit include building an oil refinery in China, increasing Saudi oil exports and cooperation in the media and education.

Riyadh and Beijing exchanged ambassadors in 1990, two years after Saudi Arabia bought about 10 Chinese-made medium-range surface-to-surface missiles.

Baghdad trade fair

Iraq's leading newspaper- Babel, on Tuesday said the huge foreign participation in the Baghdad trade fair was a success.

Organisers say the 1999 fair has attracted participants from almost 950 companies from 36 coumtries, a record in the more than 30-year history of the exhibition.

France has among the biggest delegations at the fair, with 130 companies taking part. Jordan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates have also sent large teams.

Kuwait backs pan-Islamic bank plan

Kuwait's finance minister told a meeting of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in Saudi Arabia that he backed a plan to establish a partly private pan-lslamic bank.

"The proposal presented to IDB's governors to create an independent financial body with a capital of a billion dollars, the Islamic Institute for the Development of the Private Sector, is very important," Sheikh Ahmad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah said.

GCC requests quick deal on aluminium

A request to quickly negotiate the signing a temporary agreement on lifting the six per cent tax on Gulf aluminium imports into Europe was officially forwarded to the EU by the Riyadh-based General Secretariat for GCC states. EU offcials said they had no time to study the proposal.

No decision on aluminium was taken at 9th GCC-EU joint ministerial meeting. EU representatives seemed to have differences over the issue with some standing firm, others defending the tax to 'protect' their industry and products in the era of removing protective policies. One indicated that 'no declaration on what the Gulf wants is to be made now'.

The meeting was characterised by weak EU representation with three ministers present out of 15 and mixed EU views on petrochemicals as well—though not on agenda.

Gulf states are convinced that such a temporary agreement— which is linked to the final signing of a GCC-EU free trade zone — is within the EU's power, foreign trade policies and article No.24/1994 of Gatt.

A detailed report with Gulf arguments has been prepared for the EU commission, their experts and concerned authorities.

"Your positive reply is treated by us with high importance taking into consideration Gulf-European trade imbalance which is in EU's favour and the unjust situation that resulted from imposing the tax," added the letter.

"The EU now, and will continue in the near future, to be an importer of raw aluminium. Gulf aluminium industry structure shows that our imports of the product will increase," it added.

High oil income reduces Kuwaiti budget deficit

Kuwait's gross budget deficit in the fiscal year to end-June was 1.522 billion dinars ($5.02 billion), some 640 million dinars below projections, mainly due to higher than projected oil income.

Official figures put actual net spending at 4.041 billion dinars while total income came in at 2.798 billion dinars — a net deficit of 1.243 billion dinars compared with a projected 1.919 billion dinars.

The actual figures, which still require parliamentary review and approval, were in line with earlier estimates by economists.

The gross deficit is calculated after 10 per cent of total revenues are deposited by law into a foreign investment fund which Kuwait created as a nest egg for future generations when the country's vast oil wealth runs out.

Hyundai Oil and Ipic ink $510m deal

Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Company (Ipic) and South Korea's Hyundai Oil Refinery Co signed a deal by which Ipic would acquire a 50 per cent stake in the oil refiner for $510 million.

The UAE's official Wam news agency said the deal, first announced in October, was signed in Abu Dhabi.

Call for early release of Arabic software

Gulf and Arab countries should join forces to urge international computer software programme manufacturers to Neat Arabic at par with other languages and release Arabic versions along with other versions.

"We should not accept big computer companies to launch programmes in several languages and forget the release or allow the slow release of Arabic versions of these programmes," said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Information and Culture.

The minister inaugurated the third meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council on copyright and related rights which began in the capital.

Saudis to open market

Saudi Arabia announced it would allow foreigners to invest in the Saudi stock market through mutual funds, the latest reform by the kingdom which is gradually opening up its economy.

A finance ministry statement quoted Finance and National Economy Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf as saying the decision was approved by King Fahd.

The statement quoted Assaf as saying the king "has decided to allow non-Saudis to invest in investment funds in local shares managed by Saudi banks within the framework of (King Fahd's) desire to deepen and develop the Saudi stock market".

He said the move was also part of the kingdom's efforts to "improve the local investment climate in general".

The statement said there were 12 mutual funds worth 2.2 billion riyals ($587 million) run by Saudi banks which invest in local shares.

Foreigners are barred from investing directly in shares on the Saudi stock market, the Arab world's biggest by market capitalisation, although selected stocks are open to investment by citizens in neighbouring Gulf states.

Indo-UAE trade at $3.59b in 1998-99

Bilateral trade between India and the UAE for the fiscal year 1998-99 has touched $3.59 billion of which India's exports amounted to $1.86 billion, a senior official of the Indian embassy said.

The UAE is an important trading partner of India and is the sixth largest market for Indian products in the Middle East, he said, adding that principal export items included textiles, chemical products handicrafts and gems and jeweilery.

Amrit Singh, deputy general manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation (Itpo) currently on a visit to the UAE said exports of Indian gems and jewellery registered a 15 per cent increase this fiscal compared to the previous fiscal year.

Montblanc claims big market share

Montblanc International, the German manufacturer of the world's finest writing instruments, claims a 40 per cent share in the UAE's branded writing instrument market.

"The UAE market is between Dh34-38 million and we control 40 per cent. In the luxury segment it is in excess of 70 per cent," said Ramesh Prabhakar, chief executive of the Rivoli Group, UAE representative and distributor of Montblanc.

Tridex 2000 to retain its specialist expo status

The Triple International Defence Exhibition & Conference (Tridex) 2000, the latest showcase for military equipment to be held in March next year in the capital will continue to be a specialist exhibition focusing on security, communications, electronic warfare training and simulation, logistics and medical equipment.

And in keeping with the nature of Tridex, the sister event of the UAE's Idex, some 95 per cent of the products and equipment on display will be new.

Jordan gets new Planet Hollywood

Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Al Waleed bin Talal said he was opening an Amman restaurant for the troubled Planet Hollywood group and planned more in the Middle East and Europe.

"Our studies indicate that the increase in tourism in Jordan will provide ample demand that we promise to meet with the quality and service of the Planet Hollywood brand," said a statement from his Kingdom Holdings.

Iran's NPC embarks on five-phase expansion plan

Having chosen to develop its petrochemical industry as its main national objective, Iran's National Petrochemical Co (NPC) has embarked on an ambitious five-phase expansion programme and is seeking international partners to invest to develop the third phase, a top official of the company said.

Total investments required for the third phase projects are estimated to be around $7.2 billion of which 50 per cent is projected to be offshore provision of equipment and engineering services, said Peyvandi Sani, NPC director for planning and development.

Phase I and II with 10 projects and $3.5 billion investment is under implementation and phase III is expected to kick off next year.

Oman budget deficit more than trebles

Oman's budget deficit passed 386.5 million rials ($1 billion) in the first eight months of 1999, more than treble its level for the same period a year ago, figures released by the Ministry of National Economy showed.

The deficit for the first eight months of 1998 was 108.5 million riyals when revenue was 1.2 billion rials compared to 978.8 million recorded in the same period in 1999.

Lower average prices for crude oil, which provides the tiny Gulf Arab state with the bulk of its revenue, continued to take their toll, the statistics showed.