Gas pipelines cost reduced
A project to build two natural gas pipelines in Oman is to cost 49
percent less than the $600 million initially slated when it was announced in February, a
senior project official said.
"It will cost us 49 percent less than was estimated earlier in the
year due to a large reduction on project overheads," the official told Reuters, but
gave no more details.
Gulf Air drop in result
Regional carrier Gulf Air has recorded profits sharply down for 1999 at
400,000 Bahraini dinars ($1.1 million).
Omani airports aim high
Oman's main airports are aiming high with the Gulf's first
privatisation in the sector, as a vision of "controlled" tourism starts to take
off in the sultanate.
"By the end of this year, we hope to finalise the process of
tendering and selection" for the joint privatisation of Muscat and Salalah airports,
Ahmad Said Al-Rawahi, director general of Oman's civil aviation department, told.
BP becomes biggest foreign player
BP Amoco becomes the biggest foreign player in Algeria, overtaking US
Anadarko, following its purchase on Tuesday of US Atlantic Richfield. The British oil
giant intends to entrench itself in the North African country to fulfil a long term gas
strategy in southern Europe, BP Amoco officials in the country say.
Saudi cuts telephone charges
Saudi Arabia will cut the cost of international and local telephone
calls from May 1 by between 20 and 50 percent, as well as slashing the subscription charge
for mobile phone users, newspapers reported Wednesday. Khaled Al-Qusaibi, acting minister
for post and telecommunications and head of the Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC),
said telephone calls to other Gulf countries will be cut by 30-40 percent.
Oracle to establish digital market place
This business-to-business marketplace will enable businesses to buy and
sell both products and services on line, enabling real-time collaboration between
suppliers and customers according to a press release. Dubai Ports Authority and Jebel Ali
Free Zone will lead the digital marketplace initiative, while Oracle will provide the
marketplace software technology and hosting platform.
Iraq exported more than $23 bln in oil
Iraq has exported more than 23 billion dollars in crude oil since its
oil-for-food accord with the United Nations went into effect in December 1996, Trade
Minister Mohammed Mahdi Saleh said Sunday.
But, "Iraq lost more than 140 billion dollars in oil exports
because of the (UN) oil embargo" and the ceiling imposed on the country in the
oil-for-food program, a partial alleviation of the embargo, Saleh said, quoted by the
official INA news agency.
Hess signs $579 mln upstream deals
US oil company Amerada Hess Corp said it had clinched its first oil
exploration and enhancement deals in Algeria after signing two contracts totalling $579
million. The contracts, signed between Chairman Abdelahaq Bouhafs of state-run oil and gas
monopoly Sonatrach and Amerada Hess President Sam Laidlaw at the opening of a four-day oil
technical meeting, culminate almost two years of talks and six months of intense
Egypt signs $52 mln Arab Fund loan
Egypt signed a loan agreement with the Kuwait-based Arab Fund for
Economic and Social Development (AFESD) on Sunday for 16 million Kuwaiti dinars ($52
million), the official Kuwait news agency KUNA reported. KUNA quoted an AFESD statement as
saying the loan would help finance a project to upgrade Egypt`s railway system. It said
the 22-year loan carries a three percent annual interest rate and a five-year grace
Egypt to issue $300-400 mln in first sovereign bond
Egypt plans to issue its first sovereign bond worth $300-400 million
this year to establish a benchmark in the international market and ease domestic debt, a
finance ministry official said on Wednesday.
"The ministry has not decided yet on the type of these
international bonds," Abdel Fatah Al-Gebaly, adviser to Finance Minister Medhat
Hassanien, told Reuters.
He said the bonds would establish a benchmark in the international
market and would be used to repay some of Egypt's domestic debt, which totals 147 billion
Iran allows private banking, first time since 1979
Iran said it would allow private banking across the country for the
first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution, but would not initially let foreign banks
set up in the country.
"The private sector can establish banks in Iran," Central
Bank Governor Mohsen Nourbakhsh told reporters. Asked if the new regulations would apply
to foreigners, he said: "At present, no." The landmark decision follows a recent
move by parliament to end the state monopoly on banking. Iran nationalised all private
banks after the revolution, in which it became a republic, in an attempt to prevent the
outflow of national wealth.
The decision is part of a five-year plan by President Mohammad
Khatami's government to liberalise and streamline the state-dominated economy, widely seen
The plan, which runs from 2000 to 2005, hopes to achieve ambitious
growth targets, including an average 8.5 percent rise in private investment.
Morocco's main port paralysed by strike
A strike by some 3,000 civil servants and dockers that has paralysed
Morocco's main port of Casablanca stretched into its fifth day on Monday.
The stoppage at the port, which handles 70 percent of the country's
cargo traffic, began on Thursday after unions accused the state-run ports authority ODEP
of back-tracking on an agreement over pay hikes and other benefits.
According to the unions, about 50 vessels transporting crude oil, sugar
and cereals have been unable to unload.
Saudi hopes for $100 bln foreign investment
Saudi Arabia hopes current negotiations with foreign oil firms will
bring in around 100 billion dollars of investment, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal
"As Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz said recently, the level
of investment planned is around 100 billion US dollars," he told the official SPA
news agency after meeting with the president of Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell,
Prince Saud and Oil Minister Ali Al-Nuaimi led the Saudi side at the
talks in the oil-rich kingdom's economic capital of Jeddah on the Red Sea.
The official news agency SPA said Royal Dutch Shell was the first
foreign company to take part in the dialogue.
"These investments will have a positive impact on the national
economy, with each billion dollars invested in the oil and gas sector representing between
10,000 and 16,000 jobs created for the Saudis," said the foreign minister.
Nineteen years after nationalising its oil industry, Saudi Arabia, the
world's leading oil exporter, has invited international companies to invest once again in
its energy sector.
Out of 18 Western firms invited in late 1998 to submit investment
proposals, it has retained 10.
MobilExxon, Chevron, Texaco, Conoco, Phillips and Marathon from the
United States, and Europe's BP Amoco, Royal Dutch Shell, TotalFinaElf and
The negotiations, expected to last two weeks, are to focus on gas field
development, electricity generation and refining, while oil production is excluded from
the current phase.
Prince Saud said Saturday that his ministerial committee would deliver
a report on the outcome of the talks to the Supreme Council for Petroleum and Mineral
Affairs chaired by King Fahd for its verdict.
Oman completes upgrade of private power plant
Oman's United Power Company (UPC) has completed a 40-million rial ($104
million) project to triple power generation capacity at its private power plant, a UPC
"The project to triple the power capacity is completed and
commissioning will take place next month," UPC Vice President Said Jumayil told
Ground set for economic revolution in Iran
Iran's parliament has laid the groundwork for wide-ranging
privatisation, clearing the way for President Mohammad Khatami to end years of state
controls, an influential Iranian deputy said.
But he warned that the oil-rich state's entrenched bureaucracy could
block Khatami's five-year plan for the economy, announced last month to bring in market
Parliament recently approved much of the privatisation programme,
targeting key energy, communication, banking and transport sectors for the first time
since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Nobakht is a senior member of the parliamentary commission which
studied Khatami's economic reforms and is one of the reformist president's supporters
voted into parliament in large numbers last February.
The state controls over 80 percent of the economy. Past governments
have defended state ownership, arguing the government is best placed to ensure the
After the 1979 Islamic revolution, its leaders seized private banks,
insurance companies, major industrial units and land owned by the rich.
But the state-led policies of the past, inspired by the socialist
overtones of the revolution, have brought the economy to a virtual standstill.
The bloated state bureaucracy and huge subsidy programmes absorb much
of the revenue from oil exports.
Unemployment is rising, worsened by the scarcity of private investors
and inefficiency in the public sector.
Khatami wants to boost private investment to try to achieve annual
economic growth of six percent over the next five years, hoping to create 3.6 million jobs
for his young supporters among the electorate, now a generation away from the revolution.
US imposes sanctions
The United States imposed sanctions against North Korean and Iranian
entities involved in SCUD missile technology transfers, complicating rapprochement efforts
with those countries.
"We imposed these sanctions on North Korean and Iranian entities
for the knowing transfer of equipment and technology controlled by the missile technology
control regime," State Department spokesman James Rubin said.
Under the two-year penalties, the United States is to deny the entities
all new US contracts and new individual export licences for items controlled by the State
and Commerce departments.
The sanctions cover a category of weapons that includes complete
missile systems, major subsystems, rocket stages or guidance systems, production
facilities for MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) class missiles or technology
associated with such missiles.
Morocco trade deficit $567 mln
Morocco's trade deficit rose 51 percent to 5.91 billion dirhams ($567.4
million) in the first two months of the year, due mainly to a surge in oil imports, the
Office des Changes said in a report received. The trade gap had been 3.92 billion dirhams
in January-February 1999.
Oil imports jumped almost 200 percent to 2.15 billion dirhams during
the first two months of 2000 compared with the same period of 1999, it said.
Total imports reached 17.59 billion dirhams against 11.67 billion
dirhams in exports in the first two months of the year.
New Egypt Gulf of Suez port
The first phase of a new 750 million pound ($217 million) port north of
the city of Ain Sokhna on the Gulf of Suez will start operating in September, Akhbar al
Youm newspaper said.
The government-funded port is aimed at the private economic area
northwest of the Gulf of Suez with the aim of attracting more investment to the area and
facilitating imports and exports, the state-owned paper said. The new port, whose area is
23 sq km, is the first Egyptian port to be run by the private sector, it added.
Gulf press slam Richard's remarks
Gulf newspapers slammed French Defence Minister Alain Richard's claim
that Syria will reject any Middle East peace deal that challenges its power in Lebanon.
Richard's remarks were "flagrant interference in Lebanon's
internal affairs," the Emirati daily Al-Bayan said, accusing France of "siding
with Israel and being unable to take a neutral position." "It shows France is
not up to being a permament member of the UN Security Council,"
Emirates eyes new jumbo
Dubai-based Emirates Airline is expected to become the first customer
for the 560-seat A3XX jet that Europe's Airbus Industrie consortium is developing,
according to reports published Friday.
Saudi prince invests in Dead Sea resort
A Saudi billionaire and nephew of King Fahd has linked up with the
Jordanian investment firm Zara to build a hotel on the Jordanian shores of the Dead Sea, a
senior Zara official said.
Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud will control 60
percent of the 50-million-dollar project while the rest will be held by Zara, general
manager Saleh Rifai told.
Construction of the 300-room hotel will begin after the completion due
in four months of a technical study, he said.
Sudan grants gold, copper concession to UAE firm
The Sudanese government has granted a concession to a United Arab
Emirates company to explore for and exploit copper and gold in western Sudan, a Khartoum
newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The independent Al-Sahafa said Energy and Mining Minister Awad Ahmed
Al-Jaz signed the deal on Monday with Zein Abubakr Mohamed Al-Zeibeday, general manager of
the UAE's Wadi Al-Rowadi group.
It quoted Zeibeday as saying the group, investing for the first time in
Sudan, would begin exploring an area of about 16,000 square km (6,000 square miles) in
Hufrat Al-Nahas in Southern Darfur state, when the rainy season ends in October.