Arafat, Blair, to sign
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is expected to arrive Tuesday in
London for a two-day visit including talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair and the signing
of a gas exploration deal.
UAE approves law setting up bourse regulatory body
The United Arab Emirates has approved a draft law to form a stock
market regulatory body that would pave the way for an official bourse in the Gulf Arab
state, UAE newspapers reported on Tuesday.
They said the long-awaited law, approved during the weekly cabinet
meeting on Monday, covers the structure for setting up the UAE securities and commodities
authority, a regulatory body which would license trading floors and lay out rules
governing brokerage houses and trading activities.
UAE stocks have been traded through a handful of brokerage houses and
banks licnesed by the Central Bank with no centralised exchange. The market is tracked by
several different banks and brokerage indices.
The UAE struggles with money-laundering
The United Arab Emirates has positioned itself as the Gulf's
free-wheeling trade hub, but is also attracting some unwanted entrepreneurs: money
A large and fluid expatriate population, a thriving banking community
and proximity to international drug smuggling routes make the oil-rich country an inviting
target for those with dirty money to clean, according to law enforcement officials.
They say investigations in the US, Europe and Asia tracing millions of
dollars in laundered cash have often turned up a link to activities in the
Iran seen lagging on oil foreign investments
Iran risks losing out in a regional race for billions of dollars in
foreign capital unless it eases stifling restrictions on investment in its vast energy
industry, Western executives said on Monday.
After launching more oil projects to foreign companies last year, Iran
now is lobbying potential partners for investment in the country's largely untapped
natural gas industry.
"The biggest danger for Iran is that others will leapfrog Iran's
offers. Iran must look around," said Iranian expert Mehdi Varzi of Dresdner Kleinwort
Benson on the sidelines of a gas conference in Tehran.
With the world's second largest gas reserves of more than 24 trillion
cubic meters that are largely untapped, Iran is a tantalizing prospect for international
Iran does not export any gas at present but has lofty ambitions to sell
to Turkey, Pakistan and other countries and become a regional player in the industry.
Companies say they are frustrated with Iran's buy-back investment
program, under which they receive crude or gas as compensation and profit for their
Companies prefer production sharing agreements, a politically sensitive
issue in Iran, a country which has a history of struggle against Western control of its
oil reserves before the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Experts say changing the buy-back schemes would be difficult because it
could require lifting a constitutional ban on foreign ownership of Iran's oil and gas
Saudi plans to merge regional electricity firms
Saudi Arabia will merge its four regional electricity companies
"very soon" in preparation for privatisation, the kingdom's electricity and
industry minister said early Thursday.
"The Saudi Electricity Company will be established very soon,
since the government has approved the merger of the electricity companies," Hashem
Abdallah Yamani said.
The kingdom's electricity network is divided into four companies:
SCECO-East, SCECO-West, SCECO-South and SCECO-Central.
Egypt receives bids for two banks
Egypt has received three bids for controlling stakes in two banks
partly owned by the government and expects to agree deals within a few months, Minister of
Economy and Foreign Trade Youssef Boutros-Ghali said on Monday.
He told in an interview that the government would complete the sale of
stakes in two cement firms within weeks and was still waiting for market conditions to
improve before proceeding with plans for its first Eurobond sale.
The government has bids from a British, an Arab and a US bank for
controlling stakes in two banks partly owned by the state, he said during a trade mission
to the UK.
Syria, EU to negotiate on customs
Syria and the European Union start two days of talks Tuesday on human
rights, lowering customs duties and other financial questions, a senior EU official said.
The aim is eventually to conclude an agreement of association which
will result in duty-free trade by 2010, the head of the EU mission in Syria, Marc
This fourth round of discussions which began in May last year will
cover duties on industrial and agricultural products, as well as certificates proving
their origin, he said.
He described the subject of human rights as "an important part of
the agreement," saying it figured in every accord of association between the EU and
other Mediterranean countries.
Saudi seals new foreign stock investment scheme
Saudi Arabia's central bank has formally notified the kingdom's banks
that foreign investors can now buy local stocks through unit trusts, Al-Riyadh newspaper
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency's move seals a decision first
announced earlier this month by Finance Minister Ibrahim bin Abdel Aziz Al-Assaf to open
up the Arab world's largest bourse to foreign investors.
He said the Saudi stock market had a capitalisation of 190 billion
riyals (50.6 billion dollars) and estimated the 12 unit trusts of the kingdom's banks were
worth some 2.2 billion riyals (587 million dollars).
Kuwait central bank at odds with state on stock market
Kuwait's Central Bank on Sunday warned against state intervention to
boost a sagging local stock market and stressed that the speedy implementation of a
long-promised government economic reforms was the only way to bolster shares, the Oman
Daily Observer said Sunday.
Central Bank Governor Shaikh Salem Abdel-Aziz Al-Sabah, one of Kuwait's
key decision makers on economic affairs said government intervention could lead to a
'collapse' on the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE), the paper reported.
Kuwait to forge ahead with privatisation
Kuwait's Trade Minister Abdel Wahab Al-Wazzan on Monday said the
oil-rich emirate would forge ahead with its plans for privatisation and reduce the role of
the public sector.
"We can improve capacity through privatisation, and ensure the
better distribution of wealth and use of resources," Wazzan told a conference here on
the expertise of a dozen French companies in managing public utilities.
"Kuwait can benefit from the experience of developed countries
such as France, and cooperation is good for both countries in the light of increased
globalisation," he said.
Lebanon economy forecasts dark clouds ahead
Prospects for Lebanonís future depend on where you focus the
relentlessly mounting national debt or the government's assertion that its five-year
economic plan will soon start to solve the problem, reported the Oman Observer daily
So far markets have given President Emile Lahoud the benefit of the
doubt, according to the paper.
The Lebanese pound has been stable, interest rates have declined more
than a full percentage point this year and the government was able to tap the eurobond
market for more than $700 million in September, the paper said.
Foreign visitors, from investment analysts to World Bank officials,
have publicly praised the government's targets, according to the paper.
Dubai set to start work on Textile village
The Dubai government will shortly start work to set up a 'Textile
Village' in the emirate which will offer bonded custom warehousing and showroom facilities
to textile traders.
The project comes under instructions from General Sheikh Mohammed bin
Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defence, a senior Dubai
government official announced.
The Dubai Textile Village project is being piloted by the Dubai
Japan plans to set up free trade zone
A visiting delegation from Dubai Customs to Japan was asked recently to
weigh the pros and cons of setting up a FTZ between the two states, the director general
of Dubai Customs, Dr Obeid Saqr Busit, said.
Japan is one of the top trading partners of UAE, with a majority of the
Abu Dhabi crude being exported on a long-term basis.
Japanese cars and automobiles have a near 80 per cent share of
the-local market, besides being leaders in other consumer and white goods.
Iran taking major steps to partially privatise banks
Iran is taking major steps to partially privatise its banking system as
part of a liberal reform package proposed by President Mohammed Khatami to cure the ailing
economy, a senior banking official said.
Bahram Zarinqalam, Central Bank director on economic affairs, said the
steps included transferring up to 49 per cent of the banks, now all state-owned, to
private hands, and increasing the role of private non-banking financial institutions.
Omani banks can buy foreign shares
The Central Bank of Oman (CBO) said it will allow the country's
commercial banks to trade up to $1 million in foreign shares to encourage a wider
In a statement issued in response to a query, the central bank said the
banks must limit their foreign share dealings to five per cent of individual net worth.
Saudi Arabia plans major foray into gas
Saudi Arabia plans to shortly initiate a "massive" natural
gas exploration and development programme from its identified reservoirs, aimed at
producing at least 1.6 billion cubic feet per day (cfd) over the short-term.
Gulf poised for upsurge in drilling activity
With the upturn in oil prices; the Gulf is poised for an upsurge in
drilling activity with the UAE's National Drilling Co (NDC) too increasing drilling
operations, a top official said.
NDC increased its oil rigs from 19 to 11 this year at its main offshbre
fields, namely Zakum and Ummshaif and plans to maintain the same rig level for the coming
year too, Noureddine Hadj-Moussa, National Drilling Co head of drilling offshore, told
Gulf News on the sidelines of a conference, 1999 Middle East Drilling Technology, which
began in the Capital.
National Drilling Co is also updating its budget every year to invest
in new technology for more effective drilling operations, he sald.
Currently, Abu Dhabi has 13 offshore and 13 onshore rigs. Except for
two offshore rigs all the rest are owned and operated by National Drilling
John Colligan, president of the Society of Petroleum Engineers
International endorsed the view that the recovery of oil prices led to increased drilling
activity in this region. "There was a dip in drilling activity here. But now it is
picking up. The outlook looks good," he said.
Earlier, delivering the keynote address, Mohamad Butti Al Qubaisi,
Adnoc deputy director for exploration and production, said drilling technologies have
become a major contributor for oil and gas production.
Industry officials were unanimous that oil producers should expect and
accept the volatility of oil prices and its impact on drilling activity, but must focus on
new technology which alone will be the key to accessing hydrocarbons effectively.
Sharjah exports leap 14.77pc in first half
Sharjah's exports surged 14.77 per cent in first-half 1999, with Iraq
reasserting itself as the top export destination. Contrary to popular perception, Russia
also remained an important trade partner, although pride of place went to traditional top
Transshipment trade through the emirate also shot up 13.77 per cent,
although the effects of the global economic slowdown made themselves felt in the reexports
segment, dragging down overall non-oil trade by 4.88 per cent.
Bahrain finance sector sets brisk paced
An estimated $3.5 billion worth of foreign exchange transactions are
executed daily by banks in Bahrain. Abdulla Saif, Minister of Finance and National
Economy, attributed this to measures taken to diversify the island's economy during the
past 25 years.
Addressing the Inter-Arab Cambist Association congress, Saif said there
are more than 200 financial institutions in Bahrain.
Iraq to raise Jordan imports
Iraq has agreed to raise its imports of Jordanian pharmaceutical
products by 60 per cent to a value of $32 million beginning November this years Health
Minister Ishaq Maraqa said.
The minister who returned from a visit to Baghdad Friday said the Iraqi
government's approval of the increase reflects Baghdad's confidence in the high quality of
Morocco to get $218m French financial aid
France granted Morocco a financial package worth1,375 million French
francs ($218.2 million), nearly half of which was to swap a stake of the North African
country's debts into investments.
Officials from both sides said French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and
his Moroccan counterpart Abderrahmane El Youssoufi signed several agreements in the
ancient city of Fes at the end of their third annual joint Commission meeting.