GULF

 

Nov 11 - 17 , 2002

 

1.INTERNATIONAL

2. INDUSTRY

3. FINANCE

4. POLICY

5. TRADE

6. GULF

 

OIL PRICE JITTERS OVER QUOTAS

Oil prices are hovering around five month lows, following reports that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will not impose limits on overproduction.
The price of Brent crude oil has fallen by 25% since its 

September peak of $31 a barrel, because of overproduction and a weakening sense of alarm over an Iraqi strike.

Reports suggested Opec members have been taking advantage of the high prices by exceeding their production targets, or "quota busting".

But Opec members have denied that there is oversupply and said output targets were unlikely to be cut.

In August, a survey of the number of tanks leaving Opec ports by consultancy Petrologistics, showed that compliance with quotas has fallen to 63%.

That compared to 70% a year before.

At the time, the threat of an imminent attack on Iraq, meaning disrupted oil supplies from the Middle East, kept prices high, creating a so-called "war premium".

The Middle East produces a third of the world's crude oil. But analysts say the prospect of a UN resolution on Iraq, combined with fears that oil stocks are rising, is likely to push prices down further.

"The tide is turning and we're heading for much lower oil prices," said Sarah Emerson of Energy Security Analysis in Boston.

The American Petroleum Institute said that US crude oil stocks were up by 2.3m barrels to 291m barrels in the week to 1 November.

This was the fourth week in a row that stocks had increased.

Opec believes the increased stocks will be necessary in the coming winter months for the northern hemisphere, when fuel usage increases.

IRAN REFORMIST BILL APPROVED

The Iranian parliament has approved a bill which would strip a conservative-dominated council of its right to veto electoral candidates.

At the end of a debate carried live on state radio, deputies unanimously approved steps to prevent the Guardians Council using a power which has disqualified hundreds of reformers from standing for office.

However, the bill now has to be approved by the council to become law.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Tehran says the council is expected to reject the bill in which case another conservative-dominated body, the Expediency Council, will be asked to arbitrate.

If that process ends in the bill being blocked or watered down, pro-reformist President Mohammad Khatami and reformist lawmakers could protest with a mass resignation, plunging the republic into crisis.

The Guardians Council frequently exercises its power to reject people wishing to stand for election.

The reasons most often cited are failure to fully respect Islam or lack of loyalty to the constitution.

Reformists under President Khatami, who came to power in 1997, want to create a more open society but have been frustrated in their efforts to change legislation.

Analysts say they are determined to rid themselves of the conservatives' stranglehold on power.

The approval of the bill comes a day after Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, pardoned the country's leading jailed dissident, while another prominent reformist was arrested by the conservative-controlled courts.

Iran's courts have recently clamped down on dozens of liberal newspapers and jailed a number of President Khatami's supporters.

US WANTS UN VOTE ON IRAQ; FRANCE AGREES

The United States and France came to a last-minute agreement on a tough U.N. resolution giving Iraq a last chance to disarm or face war, thereby making a vote fairly certain.

Diplomats said the deal came after French President Jacques Chirac spoke to U.S. President George W. Bush on outstanding issues. Chirac's spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna, said Chirac hoped a "consensus could be reached" when the council voted.

But Russia, whose president, Vladimir Putin, also spoke to Bush, has not signaled whether it would vote in favor or abstain, although diplomats expected Moscow to vote "yes." The United States and Britain want a united U.N. Security Council vote to send a clear message to Iraq.

IMF URGES SAUDIS TO IMPOSE INCOME TAX, LIFT BARRIERS

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged cash-strapped Saudi Arabia to impose income tax, tear down investment barriers and quickly finalise a multibillion dollar gas initiative to revive its economy and find jobs for its growing citizens.

In a study conducted in collaboration with Saudi authorities, the IMF hailed the Gulf oil giant for targeting a deficit-free budget by 2005 and planning to privatise its telecommunication sector but said more measures were needed.

The study, carried out last month, noted that Saudi Arabia's economy remained heavily reliant on oil exports and it was underscored by persistent swings in its fiscal and economic situation.

The IMF's executive board admonished Riyadh not to be dissuaded by a recent improvement in oil prices from pushing ahead with vital reforms needed to fortify its economy against crude price fluctuations and ease its heavy debt burden.

UAE INVESTS $60B OVER LAST FOUR YEARS

The UAE has pumped more than $60 billion into oil, industry and other sectors over the past four years to maintain economic momentum and investments are set to pick up over the coming years amidst growing confidence in the domestic economy.

An investment breakdown published by the Ministry of Planning showed oil and gas, manufacturing, real estate, communications, and electricity and water were the most attractive sectors for public and private capital during that period.

While investments were needed by the government in the oil sector to increase production and maintain present capacity, other sectors were found attractive because of high yield, state incentives and the abundance of cheap energy and labour.

Planning Ministry figures showed overall public and private investments between 1998 and 2001 stood at Dh222.2 billion ($60.5 billion).

Investments in oil, industry, electricity and water, real estate and communications totalled Dh165.2 billion ($45 billion), accounting for nearly 75 per cent of the total.

JODCO PLANS TO ENHANCE ABU DHABI OIL RECOVERY

The Japan Oil Development Co (Jodco) has lifted 1.9 billion barrels in the last 30 years from offshore Abu Dhabi. It sells around 100 million barrels of crude oil annually, a top company official said.

Moreover, Jodco plans to enhance oil recovery in Abu Dhabi and strengthen its partnership with Adnoc.

Takashi Nonouchi, chief executive of Jodco, told Gulf News: "Jodco's annual sales volume of crude oil is now around 100 million barrels, and we have grown to achieve a prominent position in supplying crude oil to Japan and the Asian market."

Of the total crude oil lifted of some 1.9 billion barrels in the last three decades, most of it was exported to Japan.

ISRAEL-LEBANON BORDER STILL TENSE

Inside a hastily constructed watchtower, Hezbollah sentries gaze across the electrified barbed-wire fence that separates Lebanon from Israel. They note the comings and goings of Israeli patrols, and they watch for anyone getting close enough to the fence to pass messages across.

On the Israeli side, there is a heavily fortified army post with steel barriers to shield against anti-tank rockets. Israeli troops do not venture outside on foot, and the army instead relies on jeep patrols, security cameras and reconnaissance drones.

RAK CERAMICS TO INVEST DH140M IN EXPANSION

RAK Ceramics will invest Dh140 million in expansion, including Dh60 million in a 30,000 square metre per day production plant.

This will raise its capacity to 132,000 square metres of ceramic and gres porcelain tiles per day.

A further Dh60 million will be used to establish a plant in China, while another Dh20 million will be spent on a plant to produce an additional 1,000 pieces of vitreous china sanitaryware per day, from an output of 5,000 pieces.

The company has set up manufacturing and processing plants in Bangladesh and Slovakia.

LAND ROVER JORDAN FACTORY

Land Rover has confirmed plans to establish a new assembly plant in Jordan, which is expected to be commissioned by mid-2003, according to a top official with the UK automaker.

The financial outlay, estimated at $70 million, is being totally met by Land Rover's Jordanian partner Shaheen Business and Investment group while Land Rover will provide extensive managerial and technical support.

ISLAMIC FINANCE

Bahrain is home to the largest concentration of Islamic financial institutions (IFIs) and is keen to maintain the competitive edge.

In 2002 alone, monetary authorities undertook major steps to expand the frontiers of Islamic banking and to consolidate Bahrain's position as a centre for Islamic finance.

Earlier in the year, the Bahrain Monetary Agency (BMA) introduced new regulations for the local Islamic banking industry.

IRAN BANS ADVERTS FOR US PRODUCTS

All media in Iran has been banned from running adverts for products made in the USA

"Based on a government order, publicity for any US goods from now on is forbidden in all the media," a report by the country's state-owned broadcaster said.

OASIS LEASING

Oasis International Leasing (Al Waha) is expanding its asset portfolio to include infrastructure such as power generation plants and high value medical equipment, a top company official said.

Meanwhile, foreign institutional investors are likely to take up 49 per cent equity in the company, while the proposed rights issue to enlarge the company's share capital by Dh200 million will take place at an opportune time.

2003 COUNTDOWN TO GREEN FUEL STARTS

The countdown has begun to make UAE totally lead-free from the beginning of next year.

In a significant environmental and health protection measure, UAE filling stations will sell only unleaded gasoline from January 1, 2003 and in response, Abu Dhabi Oil Refining Co (Takreer) has set up systems to supply unleaded gasoline, official sources confirmed.

The UAE cabinet in July had approved the proposal for the switchover to unleaded gasoline in the country.

VISA CARD PROMOTION

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) has launched a two-month promotion scheme for its Visa and Visa Electron cardholders, which offers Dh100,000 worth of prizes during this period ending December 31.

AUTO MARKET SEES GOOD DEMAND

The local automobile market expects to wrap up another good run during the Dubai The City That Cares campaign and hopes to sell 8,000 units. The raft of promotions during the period has traditionally been a major factor in getting people to buy.

If volumes in November creep past 8,000, it will also ensure that the local auto market has maintained the gains made in October, when an estimated 9,000 units were sold.

Average monthly vehicle sales in the UAE average around 6,500 units, according to conservative estimates. Any number over 8,000 is considered exceptional.

US WARNS COMPANIES OVER ISRAEL BOYCOTT

The United States has threatened to fine US companies that take part in an Arab lead economic boycott of Israel.

"The US government is strongly opposed to restrictive trade practices or boycotts targeted at Israel," said Undersecretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Kenneth Juster.

"The Commerce Department is closely monitoring efforts that appear to be made to reinvigorate the Arab boycott of Israel and will use all of its resources to vigorously enforce US anti-boycott regulations."

UAE BANK TRUMPETS SUCCESS

Dubai-based Mashreqbank has unveiled a 25% jump in profits, and said that fears of war had not hit its performance.

Mashreqbank made a net profit of 375m dirhams (66m; $102m) in the first nine months of 2002, almost as much as in the whole of last year.

The bank attributed its strong growth in part to a move into investment banking, and the introduction of a raft of new and, for the local market, revolutionary investment products.

"I think it's fair to say we've really upset the applecart when we entered this business," said Nabeel Waheed, head of treasury and capital markets at Mashreqbank.